Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rough Draft: One Year Later

A little over a year ago, we posted about the organization effort and resulting NLRB election held at Rough Draft Studios, Inc. in Glendale. Artists working at RD at the time attempted to organize and see the entire studio under a union contract. A counter-organizing campaign was waged and both sides butted heads until the resulting NLRB election showed an overwhelming majority of artists were not interested in union representation.

The National Labor Relations Act clearly states in Section 9, Sub-Paragraph E:

(2) No election shall be conducted pursuant to this subsection in any bargaining unit or any subdivision within which, in the preceding twelve- month period, a valid election shall have been held.

That one-year period ended at the end of June, 2011.

My tenure as TAG's organizer didn't begin until shortly after this election was held. Therefore, my first-hand experience in this matter lacks significant substance. However, discussions with artists and members who shared their experiences with the matter inferred that the owners and management at RD were not neutral on unionization and could possibly have been against. These discussions even went as far as to imply that said company leaders fueled anti-union sentiment and may have influenced employees into voting against union representation.

Shocking, I know.

It was therefore with some measure of trepidation that I joined Steve H. on a brisk morning in August of this year outside the studio to hand out flyers and representation cards to artists as they walked to work. We were met with pleasant discussion as well as a few sneers from some of the non-artistic staff.

The reality of organizing at Rough Draft is mirrored across all fields and unions today. As Steve mentioned a year ago, employers aren't lining up at union offices eager to put their names to a contract that hands over a significant amounts their power and leverage inside their personal corners of American capitalism. It has always fallen upon the workers (artists) to band together and weather the onslaught of anti-union rhetoric when choosing to organize. Unions are only capable of enforcing the collective leverage of the artists if and when the artists decide to use that leverage in their favor.

The discussions we had with artists at RD pointed to a staff that is happy to have been working for the past year, and enjoying the chance to work for another. Many of the artists were happy to see their union representatives there, but felt that we would have a tough battle again in establishing a majority interest inside the studio. One discussion we had informed us of a meeting where RD Management openly stated the methods to which they would resist signing a union contract. We're convinced these cards returned to us were notes from management sharing their love of our attention.

We wish the artists at Rough Draft continued success in their endeavors. We also remind them that we are always here to answer questions or explain the benefits (both tangible and not) of union membership as well as the steps to achieve that goal.


Anonymous said...

I think now would be a good time to explain to a lot of us what a studio gains from being part of the union. We here the benefits of the employee for working at a union shop but what are the benefits to the employer. What costs are there when a studio is union? I know I have wondered this for many years and so have others. Please write an article or reply back to this post concerning this. I am not anti union but at the same time it would be nice to know what the other side gains from all of this.

Anonymous said...


Obviously, unions are for the benefit of employees. Not the employers.

But you already knew that, didn't you, troll?

Steven Kaplan said...

Gladly ..

First, understand that unions aren't meant to please the "other side". The "Other Side" has all the leverage and decision-making power in the workplace. And why not, right? Its their company.

The problem comes when in the pursuit of profit and gain, said "Other Side" bends the workforce over and does nasty law-breaking things. When Joe Artist tries to rectify that kind of situation, he's facing a struggle that a union can help with.

Joe Artist and his colleagues form a union in their workplace and ask that the IATSE represent the group in bargaining with Other Side. Now, when Joe Artist has a concern, TAG can come in and speak for Joe using the sum volume of the voices of all the artists. The health and pension benefits are nice. The strength of acting collectively is the core benefit to the artist.

How does "Other Side" benefit from this? Their employees are better provided for, have a strong and viable way to influence decisions in their workplace. Happy employees make for happy workplaces.

In our contract, the one cost that we don't budge on in negotiations is the Health and Pension contributions. As of now, they are around $7.00 per hour per employee. There are more costs inherent to our contract, but the rest are not sacrosanct and at the discretion of the negotiating parties.

Steven Kaplan said...

Now now .. even studio execs want to hear us tell the costs. So, there it is.

Let the Trolls be Trolls.

Anonymous said...

Benefit to employers : You will have the most experienced skilled artists in town lining for any openings at your studio. Your shows will be better drawn, written, animated , art directed and be done more efficiently . You will find Joe Artist happier to be a work knowing his health and pension are being provided for when he or his family needs it later. Mr Artist will also be reluctant to look for other work and leave your studio for a competitor who is not signator.

Anonymous said...

to the second poster for this discussion, not a troll and dont be an idiot. I have been with the union since 1996 but the questions I asked you really dont hear talked about and I thought this would be a great time to bring it up. As for Steve, thank you for answering and I appreciate it. Now I can go read Steves reply in a more relaxed state now I got that off my chest.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, I guess what I was looking for is what does it cost a studio to be union. I have worked at both union and non union and have enjoyed both. I do enjoy union more for the health benefits and the IAP but have enjoyed myself at non union shops as well as far as work goes. Thanks for letting us know what the studio pays for our health. Really I dont think it is all that bad in terms of costs so my next question would be why arent more shops union.

Anonymous said...

It's not about the money. It's about the power. If employees are union they have more power.

Anonymous said...

To answer the question from 4:58, I think a lot of it is ignorance. I've had conversations with non-union studio managers, and they usually have no idea how the union works, and imagine all sorts of things (such as, they imagine they'll be required to hire only union members, or that they cannot hire people short term, or that the benefits will be far more expensive than they are. They inevitably imagine there are far more rules and limitations than there are.

Anonymous said...

With health insurance and pension obligations becoming next to nearly impossible for small businesses to support while retaining a profit, I would think most shops would be more than happy to externalize those costs. Health and pension schemes are in dire straits around the US and the world, both public and private.

The MPIHHP publishes that they are in good shape, better than most. It provides a modest safety net, it is not excessive and does not bilk government coffers through political influence, lobbying, and corruption. The aim is to directly confront corporate abuse of labor, which is the proper route for any labor action.

TAG is thankfully not a public service union, that is where most of the vitriol toward unionism comes from in the US, and the source of the misinformation about private sector unionization. It is actually a boon for the right to have most union power in the US to be centered in government. That is what killed the old left and gave rise to neoliberalism. The criticism writes itself, really. The nexus of labor and government is not nearly as corrupting as the nexus of big corporations and government, but it makes the perfect punching bag for conservatives, and rightly so. When you have police and firefighters and prison guards competing to buy houses and live in the cities they work, cities where Wall Street and Silicon Valley have created financial bubbles, they of course demand to get in on the action, and government abides. So when the tide goes out and you see who is standing naked, everyone gets called out for bilking the system. Corporate control is primarily to blame, but the public sector went happily along for the ride.

Steven Kaplan said...

Anon 9/30 @4:58pm: The costs I explained are all contributions employers make to Health, Pension and CSATF (remember the education reimbursement grants we offer?). There are other costs associated in the contract. However, without having a signed contract in front of you, its impossible to say what will and will not be negotiated into the final draft.

Finally, I have to agree and give a Hat Tip to Anon 9/30 @5:17pm .. they are absolutely right. "Other Side" will fight a union in their house in order to keep the power. That's the nutshell answer. Check out the video from a confessed union buster I posted a few months back.

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