Monday, April 11, 2011

Help Extend the Seamless Cloak

"At the Animation Guild, our goal is to extend the seamless cloak of health and pension benefits to all animation artists in the Los Angeles area."

That's a favorite sentence we add to material we create for organization drives. It invokes feelings of comfort that you get from a warm blanket or a parental embrace when describing the employer-funded protections that come with working at Guild signator facilities. It's also easier to understand compared to describing the power of collective bargaining in a few sentences.

When asking folks to sign representation cards, it helps to understand what benefits could be coming your way. I always thought the biggest challenge in getting signed cards would be from the artists who haven't experienced the benefits of membership. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was wrong.

In the Organization Process, gathering signed representation cards is essential. Its the yardstick with which we measure the level of support within a group. Once we have received enough cards, we're able to move closer to reaching an agreement with an employer. Without enough cards, we continue to work with the artists who have shown interest to reach out to the rest of the group.

In our attempts to identify and organize animation companies in Los Angeles, we've talked to plenty of TAG members working non-union jobs. Its always nice to speak to an artist who has experience with the benefits of union membership. What deflates the sails is hearing how they'd love to see the studio they're working at "go union" but they don't want to tip the canoe and are unwilling to sign and return a representation card. The reasons for this vary (fear of being identified as pro-union, the job won't last much longer, they don't want to jeopardize the small shop at which they work, etc.)

Understandable. It's tough out there and sticking your neck out isn't the wisest move. But, as Steve Hulett likes to point out, small shops are paid by bigger ones named The Disney Co,, Time Warner, Viacom and News Corp. Follow the money up stream, and you'll land at one of the Hollywood Conglomerates. So, the job you're working now is being paid by the giant you worked for before. Except now, you're without the health and pension contributions.

Signing a representation card is a quick and confidential matter. We do not share the names of those who have signed representation cards with other employees in the group, or the employer. It shows your desire to maintain the ability to have a voice in the workplace. It also helps to restore your eligibility in the Motion Picture Health and Pension plans by starting the process of bringing the employer to contract negotiations with us.

We at the Animation Guild are dedicated to extending the Seamless Cloak of health and pension benefits to all animation artists in the Los Angeles area. We need your help in doing it.


Anonymous said...

Given that a lot of artists probably think signing a rep card will land them in hot water with their boss, you should probably make a BIG DEAL of emblazoning the rep card in big, bold font that the rep card will always remain anonymous, and the name will never be shared with the employer.

I think most of the problems unions have organizing these days is one of marketing and messaging. They are definitely losing the framing and messaging war. Some very simple measures could be taken to keep the message simple, bold, and clear. I don't see that happening much. Rep card anonymity being made more clear would probably be one small start.

Steven Kaplan said...

All due respect, that message is regularly delivered and rarely heard. In my personal opinion, it has little to do with the message being delivered. I will concede to your second point though.

I will offer an addition though. The problem with organizing today comes from the fact that corporations and management have waged an effective campaign against collective action for decades. People have bought into the BS. You are right that direct and consistent messaging is the key to effective counter measures.

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