Monday, June 09, 2008

"You can't do it unless you organize"

TAG Representation Card
Click on the thumbnail for a PDF of TAG's rep card. Copy, hand out, repeat until done.

Organizing is the bread-and-butter of labor unions. They organize, they live (and often thrive). They don't, they ultimately die ... Just like companies that don't innovate and re-invent themselves.

TAG has done a lot of organizing over the years, and we're still here after fifty-six years. (The rep card we use in organizing drives is shown up on top. For full effect, follow the instructions provided.)

Organizing is often painful, but it's oh-so-necessary. Show me a 'toon studio that is "non signator", and I'll show you a studio that pays lower wages and benefits than its union counter parts. At the just-concluded District Two Convention, one of the larger committees is about organizing. Its report:

Mr. Chairman, the organizing committee met for two hours and discussed many aspects of organizing, both the challenges ... and possible solutions.

Evans Webb of Local 800 (The Art Directors Guild) pointed out that New Media, particulalry the Game Industry, has gained a larger share of the entertinament dollar. It now grosses $14.5 billion a year compared to the movie industry's $9.5 billion, and we need to work to bring game companies under union contracts.

Andrea Pelous of Local 784 said that educating new members was of high importance as her local (costumers) pushed for new contracts in the Bay Area. And Bruce Doering of the Cinematographers Guild was now hosting training seminars for members nationwide.

Robert E. Moorett of Local 705 stressed that bringing new, younger members into his unions as the old-timers aged and retired (as many are doing now) was crucial.

Edmund Wirth of Local 80 (Grips) told how Local 80 had to threaten disciplinary action against a member to get the member to assist in organizing a film shooting in Oregon.

Kevin Koch of the Animation Guild (Local 839) noted that it's important for members to be educated about union pension and health benefits, since those things provide motivatio for organizing.

The committee recommended the following actions:

1) That unions and guild continually educate members about pension, health and other union benefits.

2) That unions make it a continuing priority to reach out to members and internally organize the individuals already in membership.

3) That unions and guilds use members working as leads on non-union showas and in non-union studios to aid in organizing drives.

4) That unions and guilds offer incentives -- both positive and negative -- to members to a) provide information about non-union work in that union's jurisdiction, and b) assist in organizing that work.

5) That unions prioritize organizing efforts, since organizing is the life blood of any labor organization.

This is the committee's report, Mr. Chairman, and I respectfully move for acceptance ...

Which it was.

Kevin and I often get told, "Yeah, it'd be kinda nice if this place went union, but why should we stick our necks out?" The answer is two-fold:

First off, nobody has to stick their necks out very far. That rep card up top, when signed by a studio employee, is only seen by the Federal Guvmint (specifically, people at the National Labor Relations Board) and people here at the Animation Guild are the only other folks who see the card. Management at the studio never sees the card. And if it gets to a studio-wide vote over "going union", your ballot is secret.

Second off, the more studios that come under a union contract, the more leverage you have over wages (you're negotiating from an already-established floor of weekly salary). And benefits. And vacation.

Seems elementary to us.


Unknown said...

I presume this is only for West Coast Studios. Steve, if you can, can you point me in the right direction so i can read up and hopefully apply these principles to my East Coast trials and tribulations.

Much abliged,


Steve Hulett said...

You're in luck! We're happy to assist you anywhere in the U.S. of A.

The IATSE, our mother union, has jurisdiction in both this country and Canada.

Call me at (818) 766-7151. Or e-mail me:

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