Monday, July 05, 2010

A Quick Education About Union Grievances

A couple clicks down, somebody makes a statement I hear from time to time. I was going to answer it in comments, but I've opted to do a tutorial here ...

Commenter: ... It's common that Animation Artists are working 10-14 hour days without overtime at union shops because the union has no balls.

Me: Since you apparently live in dark ignorance (whoever you are), allow me to throw light on this subject ...

Over the years, I've had various union artists complain to me about working overtime without pay. To each one I've said:

"I will file a grievance today. Just say the word."

Almost all have said no.

And unfortunately, here's the way it works: TAG can initiate a grievance for unpaid overtime without an artist's cooperation, but TAG can't win it.

Here's why.

When I get into the arbitration hearing, I will be alone. And the arbitrator (the judge and jury) will say to me "Where's the grievant?"

And I will have to answer "He refused to come."

And the arbitrator will say "This isn't good. We need his testimony."

And my response will be "I know we do. But he's not here to give it. He didn't want the company to know who he was, so he won't be testifying."

To which the arbitrator will respond: "Okay then. I guess we're done. Being as how there's no evidence regarding the unpaid o.t., I find for the company."

So we clear now? Without the testimony -- or equivalent evidence -- regarding the uncompensated overtime, it's a tough grievance to win.


Anonymous said...

Really unfortunate situation actually.

Steve Hulett said...

You're telling me.

Anonymous said...

Is there no way to have the grievant, (or group of grievants), sign a sealed affidavit?

Anonymous said...

What about strong arm tactics? Steve come in and raise some hell?

Floyd Norman said...

Really? Jump into a shark tank with a butter knife?

Steve Hulett said...

I've no problem going into the tank with either a butcher or butter knife.

The conundrum is: the studio wants to know who's doing the non-compensated o.t.. Yes, there is the fear that individuals will have a black mark in their file folder followed by dismissal, but that's the fear, not necessarily the reality.

Of course, fear is enough to motivate people into not sticking their heads up over the parapet.

Over the years, I've done a lot of agitation about this. SOMetimes it' effective and sometimes not. But I'm always ready to file grievances, if asked.

Anonymous said...

Again, is there no way to have the grievant, (or group of grievants), sign a sealed affidavit?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too would like to learn more about whether sealed affidavits are possible.

Drawing the Line said...

What is it about us animation folk that makes us so wimpy, collectively ? This culture of fear has permeated our industry.

What would happen if we were all really looking out for one another as a UNION of professionals , so we ALL refused to do it ? (i.e . unpaid overtime) . That would be the new reality the studios would have to deal with. They couldn't count on paying for 8 hours of labor , but knowing that they will actually be getting 10 - 14 hours (wink-wink).

It would require that no one backs down under pressure (and those who do will have to be ostracized by the community. We're not playing games here , this is playing for keeps) .

Why is there no collective will to stick together like this to improve all of our lives ? We can't "strike" , but we do have the power to all say NO with one voice. Do an honest days work, give 100% of our attention to our work 8 hours a day , and at 5:00 or 6:00 get up and go home. Every one of us. (unless paid overtime is authorized) What else should we do ? Does anyone want the present conditions in the industry to continue or get worse ?

People are so cowed by fear that they've forgotten what the point of having a guild or union is in the first place. It's not just about having better health care benefits, kids. (and after spending 15 years in the industry doing 60 - 70 hour weeks you won't have any health left to care for . You'll be burnt out and unemployable because a younger crop will have come up behind you who are willing to do the 60 hour weeks for lower pay and they will be faster than you and have more energy than you. )

Is there no one who will draw the line ? (did anyone even read Sito's book ?)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too would like to learn more about whether sealed affidavits are possible.

Uh, what happens if this is done, and the arbitrator decides for the employees named in the sealed affidavit? The company has to cut the checks to somebody. Ultimately, you either stand up like an adult professional, or get stepped on like a piece of trash.

Anonymous said...


Isn't the idea of sealed affidavits, is to provide cover to those whistleblowers, bold enough to make a "first move" against their employer?

Even when an employee's name is disclosed when "cutting a check" as described in the previous post; the Employer will be on the record, and might be cautious in any future dealings with those particular parties and/or colleagues.

Ideally, it would be great if all the artists stood collectively and "drew a line" with their employer. But, until then, isn't this an effective tool for those with a legitimate grievance?

Steve Hulett said...

Again, is there no way to have the grievant, (or group of grievants), sign a sealed affidavit?


And I think the question was answered up above. If TAG were to win a grievance with a "sealed affidavit," and the grievance was won, the company would find out who the grievants were when it was cutting the award checks.

Am I missing something?

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