Monday, April 27, 2009

Freelancers Union

Animation Nation will be hosting an informational meeting in Burbank tomorrow night. The main topic: setting up an organization for freelance artists, writers, and graphics designers.

People have asked me about the idea, and I think it's a fine one. And I encourage people to go and find out what AN has to say about the deal.

I've also been asked, "Is something like this, like, a union?" My answer is "no, not really" ... but Kevin explains it well, so let me turn the floor over to him:

...[T]he Freelancers Union in New York isn't a union in the same way TAG is a union.

A trade union (like the Animation Guild) functions to collectively bargain for a group of employees. There are a few key words in there -- 'collectively' and 'employees' in particular. If the goal is to get some kind of benefits for people who are NOT employees (i.e., independent contractors, people working on their own projects, students), then a trade union isn't part of the equation.

By statute, those groups cannot join or form a trade union. So I don't think you're talking about forming a 'second union', but instead a completely different kind of organization that would be useful in obtaining decent health benefits and perhaps more retirement benefits than one can achieve as an individual. What you're proposing isn't an alternative to TAG, but an alternative to independent contractors being completely on their own ...

Let me chime in here about the term "freelancer."

The way many people use the term today they mean "freelancer"/subcontractor. You can recognize one of these folks by the kind of check stubs they receive and the compensation forms they get at the end of the year. The checks have no taxes taken out; the form is a 1099.

But some artists and writers sling the term "freelancer" around when what they mean is: "Employee working out of studio on a daily, weekly, or unit rate basis."

In this case, the "freelancer" is paid with taxes deducted from his pay check -- income taxes, payroll taxes, the whole nine yards. And they get W-2 at the end of the year, not the 1099 document.

As you can see, "freelancer"/employee is a different category from subcontractor. And as Kevin says, he or she can be part of a union or guild, while the subcontractor cannot.

In any event, if you fall into the subcontractor category, or just want to know about the "Freelancer Union" concept, hop over to Burbank tomorrow night and partake.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is "animation natiion" and what kind of qualifications/credibility do they have in regards to putting something like this together? The site I found is terribly designed and really difficult to navigate. Some guy named Chuck Zimbellous seems to help put it together. In my 25 years in the business, I've never heard of him.

Anonymous said...

Freelancers union has been around for a while and they have been a good organization for animators in NYC to get healthcare through. I used them and they were very reliable.

Anonymous said...

Animation Nation used to be a meeting place for quite few professionals, but times have changed and it's VERY rare when a REAL professional does more than lurk there.
Most pros have been chased off by Charles' weird politics, anti -gay slurs and prosletizing (not to mention his toadies).
He also runs an animation 'school' and has used questionable business practices (including using students to do subcontract work for him).
He was barely ever in the industry and now is completely an unknown.

i can't imagine what group of freelancers they intend on helping to find benefits for since most of Animation Nation posters aren't working in the industry.
I suspect this is Charles just trying to be relevant...

Anonymous said...

..(including using students to do subcontract work for him).
<< I should say alledgedly

Anonymous said...

If you didn't work at Filmation in 1984, you probably missed Charles Zembillas.

I think the idea of a freelancers union, where group insurance and other benefits can be amoritized, is an excellent idea, and I hope it works out.

I just doubt that Charles is the guy to pull it off. He has a long history of alienating just about everyone he's ever met. Combine very thin skin, an anger management problem, and a tendency to imagine enemies everywhere, and you begin to see the problem.

Not bashing the guy, just noting what I've observed many, many times over the years at his forum. He had the primary online industry watering hole, and let it all implode due entirely to his own insufferable attitude. So--I hope he is the catalyst to get this freelancers union started, and then I hope it is run by a board of level-headed administrators.

Anonymous said...

I used to check in at Animation Nation regularly. Finally had my fill of all that is mentioned above and more a year ago, and stopped going to the site.

Anonymous said...

I'd say it's awfully magnanimous of Steve and Kevin to help out considering how Charles has ridiculed the union and their efforts.

Anonymous said...

>>Not bashing the guy,<<

haha. No, not at all.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about that animation nation site is that the owner seems to post more than anyone else. It seems like more of a "school" thing than anything.

Cartoon Brew and the TAG are where people go for their animation information.

Anonymous said...

haha. No, not at all.Well, look...the criticisms I and others have written, Charles has brought upon himself. They are there in black-and-white, from things he himself posted. The fact that so many people have all come to a similar conclusion suggests that it's not the rest of the world that's wrong.

Sam Gompers said...

Oh, man, how quickly we forget!I'm lucky not to have had to make my living as a freelancer for a few years now, but if I did I sure wouldn't place my trust in a "union" that gives awards to self-confessed ripoff artists.

But that's about what I'd expect from a clown like Zembillas.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most here. AN used to be somewhat professional, now it's dominated by Charles and some angry dude who goes by "Snakebite."

I quit reading it.

Anonymous said...

Read it almost every day for a while until a couple of years ago(4? 5?). "Charles" who I'd never heard of outside of his site, became virtually paranoid and increasingly outright abusive in his posts, usually towards specific people he'd imagined had dissed him but also many times simply at the industry in general for not attending his self-proclaimed walk out days and other infractions. He seemed incredibly thin skinned and tirelessly self-promoting, which is fair enough as it was his site, but that gets boring. I left off reading it and have mostly forgotten it exists, but once in a blue moon when I do look it seems to be down to the same 3 people.

Anonymous said...

AN is made up of an odd little group.

If I recall right Charles was only fractionally in the animation industry many years ago (no one I know had heard of him before AN and now very few know him after)and has alienated most of those in charge with his own bloated sense of self worth (hence his reason for railing against them and calling them monkeys) and never understood that those are the people (for good or ill) who do most of the hiring and make most of the decisions and instead decided to make a living off of those who dreamed of entering the industry he despises and feels has ripped him off.
Snakebite seems a decent enough sort for a wigger, but has never been in the animation industry and has only worked in comics as a colorist and went on to being a tat artist trainee (though there might be more to him than that, but it has never been revealed).
And then there's Charles' crazy second personality Greg B who rants and screams and says all the crazy ass stuff Charles wishes he could say aloud himself.

The rest that post there are students (mostly from Chuckie's school) and fanboys and wannabes. Occasionally a pro will post, but usually it's for reasons of self-promoition or to wash in the adulation of the fan boys and can quickly get bullied by the three above if they fail to tow the Animation Nation line.

Whenever I hear the name come up now it's usually as a punchline to a joke.
My guess is this is a way for Charles to try and lower his own insurance premiums by getting others to join him in a group plan of some sort.

Anonymous said...

That guy chuck seems to be the main poster on that site. I'd not been there before, but it seems like a bunch of fanboys. While I can share their enthusiasm about animation and film, the quality of discussion borders on infantile.

And after reading the recent posts there, it seems chuck's sense of self importance has turned into severe paranoia.

Steve Hulett said...

I'd say it's awfully magnanimous of Steve and Kevin to help out considering how Charles has ridiculed the union and their efforts. ...

Turn the other cheek, that's our motto ...

Anonymous said...

...and a good one, too. They could learn a thing or two from you's guys.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm curious...if they're starting a new union for animators (freelance or otherwise) don't those in the union have to be working to make it work...or is Charles just going to collect dues and tell them he'll get them a group medical plan that they can pay for themselves?

Maybe someone should keep an eye on him and make sure he's not pulling a ponzy scheme on these wannabes

Anonymous said...

I doubt he's intentionally trying to rip anyone off. I'm quite sure his intentions are good. I just suspect he is woefully underprepared for how such an organization would work in any practical sense.

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