Monday, November 09, 2009

Conventional Wisdom That's Not

Here's some CW that's come my way recently (Conventional Wisdom in bold, my snark in regular):

"The union has missed the boat organizing (non-union company, non-union industry segment; choose one)."

Yes, boats are often missed. But the thing about boats ... and non-union work ... is, if you miss one sea-going craft, there is always another ... and another ... and another. Because there is always one more boat and/or chunk of non-union work sliding into the dock.

Like for instance in 1991, we got our butts handed to us in an election at Film Roman. FR was doing Garfield at the time, and we lost the election resoundingly, by 82% to 18%.


But fast forward to 2004, when we hold another election at Film Roman. And this second time, TAG carries the day, winning by the same percentage that we lost thirteen years previously.

So the boat sailed, but hey, it returned to port. And a bunch of years later we caught a ride on it. So no, it's never too late to climb aboard. If the company is there, there's a chance to organize it ...

But you've missed the boat because it's all going away! To India! To China! To Texas!

That's not true either. Work began "going away" in 1970. TAG fought run-away production with a strike in 1979, and got a clause in the contract that protected staffing levels. We lost the clause after a ten-week strike in 1982.

At the time, we had 1500 active, dues-paying members. Seventeen years later, after more outsourcing and a lot more technological change in the animation industry, TAG has 2,450 active, dues-paying members. (So obviously some work remains in California.)

All the animation and effects work will be going away in the next ten years, off to India, China and Texas (those places again!)

Uh, no. I've been listening to the dire warnings since I entered the biz in 1976. In that time, various categories of work migrated overseas, to be replaced by newer categories of animation work. (For example, TV animation went away, some TV flash animation came back.)

Here's what happens going forward:

Work will shift overseas. And work will come here. (Electronic Arts' Playa Vista studio is sort of big ... and not in a low-cost area, like say, Shanghai or Bangladesh.))

The amount of animation will continue to grow; the talent pool will grow faster.

The congloms will send some animation and effects work to the lowest cost providers, see some of that low-rent product blow up in their faces, and decide that, because of tight schedules and quality control issues, they'll have to keep a big chunk of the work closer to home.. (Yours truly blathers at length about these things here.)

TAG doesn't stop uncompensated overtime.

This is true, but needs an explanation. Just last week an artist came in complaining about uncomped o.t. He said his crew couldn't keep up with the workload, and so worked late and on weekends. But nobody wanted to complain ... or stop working the extra hours.

I said I would be pleased to file a grievance on his behalf. He said, "No thanks."

See, it's hard for the Animation Guild to successfully press the issue of unpaid overtime unless people allow us to offer specifics in a grievance. Otherwise, we don't prevail.

But here's my promise to board artists, designers, and anybody else working under a TAG contract: I will happily come to your studio, night or day, and check up on uncompensated overtime. Just let me know. (And everyone reading this should know that falsifying a time card is, as we say in Unionland, unlawful. It's also unlawful in Non-union land)


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