Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Never Ending Story

In the recent by and by, a production person says to me:

"I get artists stopping me in the hall, pissing and moaning about the workload and unpaid overtime. They don't want to go to the animation guild because they think it's 'useless ...'"

The artists are right, the guild is useless. Because TAG is only as effective as its members allow it to be. And if the members don't want to tell the guild representative to institute a grievance for unpaid overtime, the rep can't stop them.

And I can't blame them for keeping their heads down, for not wanting to rock the canoe when the economy is in a death spiral. For being, you know, cautious.

But I can't make things right without an aggrieved person to shine a light on a contract violation. When I go cubicle to cubicle, asking artists if there are problems, if they have issues, and get smiles and testimony that things are peachy, I have to conclude (legally) that everything is exactly as they say.

Even if I know what they say is bullshit.

So what's the solution? Well, here's my short wish list:

1) Communicate problems. Talk to peers. Talk to the Animation Guild. (The Guild policy is to not file grievances without member consent, so it never hurts to brainstorm ideas to try and solve the dilemna.)

2) Work to build a culture where nobody works overtime without management okay. (Which involves that pesky communication idea again.)

3) Fill out time cards accurately. Eight hours, ten hours, whatever. See what develops.

The idea here is that without pushback from employees ever, working conditions deteriorate. If artists work ten extra hours for free in order to hit the tight schedule, management gets a false impression of the actual amount of labor it takes to do the work. Which causes it to raise the bar some more.

So. What are some legal type solutions?

* File a grievance through the Animation Guild.

* File a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.

Despite the fear that taking action means losing a job, there's often some tipping point where it becomes the best thing to do. Because at some point artists need to stop cutting their own throats. Otherwise the workplace gets awful bloody.


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