Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Union Stance

A commenter asks:

What's the official Union stance on studios like Dreamworks and Sony farming out work to smaller studios in Burbank and Texas, and overseas to cut rate studios in India etc?

Simple. We're against it. We want them to do the work under union contract, under their own roofs ...

But here's the conundrum. How do you gain the leverage to achieve that result?

One way is to dry up non-union work by organizing it. Several years ago, there were several big non-union studios that we wanted to organize. One was Klasky-Csupo. Another was Film Roman. Roman we eventually organized when it cut benefits and wages to the point of employee revolt. K-C went out of business. (Some might ask: How can this be, since Klasky-Csupo had the big cost advantage of lower pay and benefits? My answer: Stumble-footed management. That trumps everything else, every time. Happily, most of the L.A. animation industry -- not counting visual effects -- is unionized.)

Another way is voting for political candidates who will incentivize companies to keep the work here. (Blue Sky studios is in Connecticut for a reason.)

Another way is to support the unionization of non-union studios by signing representation cards and voting "yes" in National Labor Relations Board elections. (This means you have to ignore the fear tactics that management will employ, and trust me, they will employ them. But the simplest way to blot out the hysteria is remind yourself: "We're all working for multi-national conglomerates. All I want is what the employees at the directly-owned conglomerate studios get.")

The hardest nut to crack is dissuading companies from shipping work overseas. As I've said before, we had two strikes over this issue, the second one ten weeks long, and it was ugly. As of now, I believe that the best way to do cut the work outflow is elect politicians who will create trade laws that keep more of the work in the country. (Realistically, I don't think this will happen anytime soon, but you never know.)

But I'll be blunt: An official union stance means bupkus if there isn't muscle and will behind it. SAG or TAG or the WGA can have an official stance supporting the four-day workweek or a ten dollar per hour minimum wage or six weeks of paid vacation, but it they have no practical way of making these things a reality, their positions are mainly philosophical.


Anonymous said...

Uh, isn't Klasky still in business? Doing adverts, still humping the odd pilot or two? Or do they just have someone answering the phone in that building on Highland?

Steve Hulett said...


They're not in the big, glossy building near the dome? What happened with that?

handel said...

Just wondering...
Did the union put out one of these "we're against it" statements when Warner Brothers was farming out work during the "osmosis jones" production?

I'm sure you did. could you post that up somewhere, I'd sure like to see it.


Anonymous said...

I just wish the Union had more of that "leverage" thats been discussed recently.

Waiting for a politician to pass a law or something that makes it unfavorable for a Union company to send work overseas, or to smaller non-union boutiques is kind of outside the scope of what the Union is for. If such a law were passed, it would benefit all employees everywhere in that State, not just union Shops.

Nobody doubts the benefits of being in the Union....i.e. great health/retirement benefits, organized wages etc... But I just wish more could be done about this flood of farming work out to cheaper sources beyond just stating that "We're opposed to it..."

You know?

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