Monday, February 11, 2008

WGA Organizing Writers in Animation

An interesting comment down below regarding the WGA's organizing ... and negotiating for ... writers working in animation:

... WGA members waved the flag that "everything has to be written first." For animation, such a statement directly devalues the art created in the animation process.

If Verrone were serious about organizing animation, he would have included artists in his dialogue - would have really reached out to TAG for public dialogue. Even leading up to the negotiations ...

So that everyone knows, there have been occasions when the WGA has attempted to organize animation board artists. (Not many, but it's been tried. Without success.) ...

This afternoon I was talking to an animation writer at one of the congloms who asked me: "What does it take to get animation writers into the WGA?" Here's more or less how I answered him:

A lot.

The pie got divvied up around 1940. Animation writers and board artists went into the Screen Cartoonists Guild, live-action writers into the Screenwriters Guild. It's been pretty much the same since.

The Writers Guild has made runs at animation writers over the decades. The Guild's first notable success was with The Simpsons in 1997 when it negotiated an agreement with Fox for prime-time animation. A few agents told me at the time that the other studios hated this deal, but Fox does what it consider to be best for Fox (just like every other big company in Hollywood. And everywhere else.)

Outside of prime-time, the WGA has negotiated some other concessionary agreements with animation producers that exclude residual payments. WGA Prez Patric Verrone worked under one of these agreements on Class of 3000.

But what would it take to get animation writers out of The Animation Guild and into the WGA?

1) The IA President would have to agree that the IATSE would no longer represent writers in its traditional jurisdiction (animation.) The animation representative (me) doesn't have the authority.

2) It would then take the various companies who have collective bargaining agreements with the IATSE/Animation Guild to agree that animation writers would be excluded from those contracts.

3) After those things happened, the WGA would have to organize the non-represented writers and successfully negotiate collective bargaining agreements with those companies that included animation writers.

Since the WGA just failed to get jurisdiction of animation scribes via the AMPTP, I would say the odds against most writers in animation migrating to the WGA anytime soon are high. I'll be honest here. I'm the IA/TAG rep, so I have a dog in the hunt, but the canine is small.

There are many animation writers that don't think it's fair that they don't receive residuals. I believe that everyone should make as much money as possible, but I don't have much of an opinion on the fairness thing, because I don't believe in "fair" or "unfair." I'm a union guy. I know from long, hard experience that you only get what you have the leverage to get.

Anyone who's followed the WGA-AMPTP negotiations know this too. The scales of justice have little to do with it.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

"There are many animation writers that don't think it's fair that they don't receive residuals."

There are many animation ARTISTS that don't think it's fair that they don't receive residuals, either. Since they do most of the creating in animation, I don't see why not.

Steve Hulett said...

The IATSE negotiated for residuals in '60-'61, just like every other Hollywood union and guild.

And they got them. Only the percentages (keyed off the SAG rates) flow into the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan. Last year the money total was $371 million.

Anonymous said...

So if animation DOES get residuals, why was the IATSE out there bad-mouthing the WGA's strike? They were striking for residuals on internet re-use and have now won them... laying the groundwork for TAG to now get them, if they choose to fight for them. But instead of even verbally supporting another union striking for benefits that the directors, actors, Teamsters & IATSE would eventually be able to build upon, IATSE management held that ridiculous anti-WGA rally in Hollywood and blamed them for ruining everyone's Christmas.

What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

"The IATSE negotiated for residuals in '60-'61, just like every other Hollywood union and guild.
And they got them. Only the percentages (keyed off the SAG rates) flow into the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan. Last year the money total was $371 million."

Which is why I hope you're all grateful to me for providing you with health insurance right now while I scramble to find any kind of job and have no health insurance.
You see, the residuals from shows that I actually worked on (and should be putting money in my pocket during my time of need) are going to you in the form of benefits.
Thank you, union, for letting me financially support anonymous strangers with the fruits of my labor while I struggle to keep from going bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

do you mean the same IATSE benefits pool that the wga strike just drained from, and that will take some time to recoup? let me guess - a health rate hike is just around the corner, too.

the wga wants to play by their own tune, too. sounds like a perfect match.

Steve Hulett said...

So if animation DOES get residuals, why was the IATSE out there bad-mouthing the WGA's strike?

Because the WGA strike threw thousands of IA film employees out of work.

The IA's position was (is) this: WGA and SAG should negotiate early, because they'll get better terms than by striking.

I think my position is pretty clear. The WGA's job action set the ball up for the DGA to spike, because the AMPTP was strongly motivated to reach a deal. And everybody now keys off the DGA deal. This has happened with the WGA agreement now under consideration.

Pattern bargaining is how the town works, posturing to the contrary.

Steve Hulett said...

You see, the residuals from shows that I actually worked on (and should be putting money in my pocket during my time of need) are going to you in the form of benefits.

There's no "should." Only "is."

I'm not handing out snark here. You write non-union animation or live-action, you (most likely) get no residuals unless you negotiate residuals on your individual deal.

You write prime-time animation under a WGA contract (presently four Fox shows), you get individual residual checks. (Thanks, WGA.)

You write non prime-time animation under a WGA contract, you get pension and health but no individual residuals. (Thanks, WGA.)

You write animation under an IA contract, you get pension and health subsidized by residuals into the trust funds but no individual residual check in your pocket. (Thanks, IATSE.)

Thank you, union, for letting me financially support anonymous strangers with the fruits of my labor ....

I know it sucks at times, but that's the principle of Social Security, the Progressive Income Tax (instituted by the William Howard Taft administration) and lots of other things. Sometimes known as "the common good."

There is no perfect solution. The WGA didn't get all the proposals it had on the table. Is the WGA therefore "selling out" those who didn't get what they wanted? Nope. The Guild negotiated the best deal it believed it was capable of getting, given the realities it faced.

Shortly we'll see if a majority of WGA members agree with the leadership's negotiated deal.

hoopcooper said...

"I know it sucks at times, but that's the principle of Social Security, the Progressive Income Tax (instituted by the William Howard Taft administration) and lots of other things. Sometimes known as 'the common good.'"

I agree with Steve, there's all this artist/writer snarkiness that doesn't need to be there. The unions are structured differently because of the needs and circumstances of their heneral membership.

And as far as throwing IA workers out of jobs. As a WGA member, I'll take responsibility for 4 weeks of that. The rest of the time, when the studios weren't returning calls and just cooling their heels waiting for the DGA, that's on them.

What we learned from this strike is that in the eyes of the studios, we're all commodities, like pencils and gaffers tape. And unless you stand up, that's how you're going to get treated. As long as IA is standing up for it's members and the Writers' Guild is doing the same, we're good.

And any time they spend fighting each other is wasted and destructive.

Anonymous said...

"I know it sucks at times, but that's the principle of Social Security, the Progressive Income Tax (instituted by the William Howard Taft administration) and lots of other things. Sometimes known as "the common good.""

All of which are utter bullshit. I'm paying into this phantom 'social security' that we all know I will never see a dime of, my taxes are laughably high so that I can support people who don't work, and the residuals that I could be earning are going towards 'the common good.'
If it's Taft I have to blame for the fact that America is now pretty much a socialist republic, then so be it.
It doesn't suck 'at times'... it's robbery and it sucks ALL the time.

Anonymous said...

Boohoo

Anonymous said...

See how great unions are?

Anonymous said...

What does boohooing at a guy who is bitching about taxes have anything to do with unions? Go back to your freeper site, jackass.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't only bitching about taxes, genius, I was also bitching about our so-called residuals that go towards the 'common good'.
Show some respect... my hard work is paying for your health care right now, dipshit.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the obvious lack of 'unity' in the union.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Steve...I think the kids need a time-out. Cheers, Bob :)

Anonymous said...

From different anon -

On a side note, concerning the WGA membership vote - for what reason are they voting? Is it not just window-dressing at this point? Are we missing something? Hasn’t the WGA leadership just emerged from negotiations and blitzed the media with spin that would indicate that all the relevant parties have made the decision already? Okay - they are stating that it is ultimately up to their members. But weren't showrunners back on Monday?

While voters across the country begin to wake up to the realization that the very close Democratic primary might not be directly in their control, but in the hands of a suddenly-very-interesting class of delegate called the super-delegate (…to think that this kind of issue wasn‘t just limited to Florida in 2000...), anyone watching the WGA vote from a distance could easily surmise that this is just another case of how the smallest groups of people in the upper ranks of any organization - political, corporate, or otherwise - can and will direct, influence, and ultimately dictate the terms of the argument. They decide on what you give them the power to decide.

Why did they not put the vote to the membership first? Not being disrespectful here - just confused.

Anonymous said...

"I wasn't only bitching about taxes, genius, I was also bitching about our so-called residuals that go towards the 'common good'.
Show some respect... my hard work is paying for your health care right now, dipshit."

Guess what? I don't have to show respect to you. I work hard for my union health care as well. Like it or not, you're not the only one contributing to this union and the common good, dumb dumb. But the way you whine, it sounds like you're supporting everybody. I suppose you're fighting in Iraq as well. You're a busy guy.

Anonymous said...

-from Deadline Hollywood Daily about Sat informational meeting

"I'm told that one of the purposes of Saturday's informational meetings is for the governing boards to decide whether the membership will approve the contract or not. This, insiders say, will determine if the bigwigs call off the strike or not.

Once the governing bodies recommend the contract and call off the strike, then procedures will kick in to send out ballots to the membership on both coasts to vote on the contract."

So leadership comes out of the room with forced smiles, 'big wigs' play 'nurse' with some kind of thermometer thingy, governing bodies make a decision...

And then there's that inconvenient vote thing.

"purposes of Saturday's informational meetings is for the governing boards to decide whether the membership will approve the contract or not."

Isn't that what the actual VOTE is for? DECIDING TO CALL OFF THE STRIKE? The boards are DECIDING whether the membership WILL APPROVE calling off the strike. This really makes no sense. Sounds like they already knew the answer a while ago.

Then again, it's Deadline Hollywood, so who knows, right?

Steve Hulett said...

I'm not in the WGA, but my understanding is:

The vote today was to call of the strike.

The second vote, taking place over the next ten days, is to ratify or turn down the just-negotiated contract.

Steve Hulett said...

Uh, Steve...I think the kids need a time-out.

If it gets too nasty, I'll use the delete button.

Anonymous said...

"Like it or not, you're not the only one contributing to this union and the common good, dumb dumb. But the way you whine, it sounds like you're supporting everybody. I suppose you're fighting in Iraq as well. You're a busy guy"

I was going to attempt to clarify my argument because you're clearly not getting the point, but it's become fairly obvious that you're just not bright enough to grasp it anyway, so I give up.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, another 'writer' who thinks he's selfless and not selfish and can't get seem to get his thoughts across clearly....

Anonymous said...

...ignore that first 'get' please...at least I never claimed to be a writer

hoopcooper said...

Steve...thanks for riding herd on this discussion.

To clarify the WGA thing...

The WGA constitution demands 10 working days (two week period) before a vote to approve a new contract. That's still going to happen. And the rank and file can still vote down the deal. So could the directors with their deal which they'll vote on in June.

Everyone may agree on a deal, but the contract's not ratified until all those votes are counted.

But if everyone's PROBABLY going to vote for the deal why not go back to work?

When writers voted the Negotiating Committee the power to call a strike (stop work) we also voted them in the ability to call it off. But when they announced they were going to call off the strike (or not) based on an applaus-o-meter readng at the Shrine everyone got bent out of shape. So they called a separate quick-vote to make sure the rank and file wanted to lift the stop work order between now and when they actually ratify (or don't) the contract.

The issue was simply, if we know we're voting yes, can we go back to work now?

Okay...as you were.

Steve Hulett said...

Thank you for the clarification.

I understand where the WGA's leadership and negcomm are. They want to be as transparent as possible, as democratic as possible. Less blowback that way, even if they don't have to do it.

I think they're doing the right thing. (Like anyone cares what I think.)

Anonymous said...

why don't the HAVE to?

Steve Hulett said...

why don't they HAVE to?

My understanding: The WGA leadership has the authority to call off a strike w/out a membership vote. But writers at the meeting wanted a vote on calling off the strike, leadership concurred ,and they did a vote.

I think this was referenced above.

hoopcooper said...

exactly, Steve.

They don't HAVE to consult the membership in "calling off the strike" because it's different from actually approving the contract...which only the membership can do. The writers basically voted their NegCom that ability so they could call the strike the moment it made the most sense. Just remember calling off the strike and approving the contract are different things.

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