Sunday, October 09, 2011

Crap Times

One more unkind marker for the era through which we now pass.

... "When they asked me to keep working even though I wasn't being paid, I did it." ...

Variety tells of visual effects freelancers in Michigan who don't get paid, but what's new?

I've encountered any number of mistreated artists over the years, artists who toiled at desks week after week with the assurance that back wages were "about to be paid." Artists who were told to be "good team players" and tough things out until payroll could be made right ... only to be stiffed when the company filed for bankruptcy.

We live, as the Chinese say, in "interesting times." And there is no 100% effective way to counteract the abuse other than to not participate in it and withhold you work when checks aren't forthcoming. While that is simple and straightforward in theory, when you have no money in the checking account and the rent money is coming due, you nurse your dwindling hopes and believe the lies. Because what other options are there?

Interesting times indeed. No wonder they reek.


Anonymous said...

Your only leverage is the unfinished work. Once the work is finished, you have none.

Anonymous said...

And the law won't help you.

This is theft, but it's not treated as theft.

The bosses should be in jail.

The system only gives power to the already powerful. Take a computer out the door with you as payment, and you'll have a criminal record. Never mind that you've got a kid to feed.

What inequity. If a boss steals from an employee, then it's civil court. If an employee steals from a boss, it's criminal court. Even for the exact same amount of money. There's no fairness or balance at all. If the rich steal from the poor, that's business. If the poor take what's theirs by their own work, that's class warfare!

It works pretty much like everything else in this country... we keep magnifying the power of the already powerful.

stevenem said...

What the Founding fathers had in common was the specific prevention of the abuse of power by any branch of government, and by extension, society. We refer to it as "checks and balances."

If they intended for private businesses to be running the country, they would have put it in the Constitution. They didn't.

Anonymous said...

I won't name names here, but if you worked at Disney Feature Animation or at ImageMovers Digital, you will recognize an interviewee in the Variety article.

Although that person was not paid in Michigan, they are still covered by MPIHP health coverage from their time at IMD, and will be until March of 2012.

Blunt point being that belonging to TAG and receiving the associated benefits is an amazingly great thing to have in these tough economic times.

Organize your workplace, and join TAG!

Dave Rand said...

As a former IMD staffer I can vouch for the continuing benefits and also for the excellent treatment we received from IMD in light of the closing. I've been on the staff of 5 closings now and the only two that were fair were Centropolis and IMD. Meteor Studios being the worse of course. IMD, the only guild shop I've been with, went beyond fair actually. There was one over the top thing I'll always remember that went beyond the job fairs they hosted and even paid us to go to or the complete refocus of HR to assisting our job search, resume prep, reel prep, and the like. During the 6 month to 1yr period we had after the announcement there was a psychiatrist present in case we felt sad or gloomy about the closing! Many shops treat people very well in light of the current working relationships most are forced to work under with the studios. The ones that decide it's cool to let the artists take the fall have been exposed regularly by Variety since the Meteor Studios debacle. David Cohen and his team are waiting to hear from you. It's our responsibility to be vocal or sit in our own crap. It our responsibility to let the good shops be known and the bad ones exposed. When Chris Winters contacted me this summer about their rip off I pointed him to David and let the guild know about it as well. Recently, there was a straggler from the Camera E Motion/Fake/Redfx group who was still unpaid from his work on a recent feature. His requests and phone calls being ignored I suggested he write note and copy David Cohen on it. The check came shortly after that. One thing we can no longer allow shop owners to consider is to screw the talent. Yes we need to walk out when we have leverage. Yes, it's difficult as Steve has pointed out It's difficult both financially and emotionally as we are intimate with our work as any successfully creative person has to be. So if you have a story, send it to the guild and to even if you send it off the record it can be very useful but David needs more people to go on the record. Don't be afraid to sign your name. The only companies that would blacklist you are the ones you would not want to work for anyway. Companies like DD and R&H that I've been with treat people very well and always pay on time. We need more of them and less of those mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Although that person was not paid in Michigan, they are still covered by MPIHP health coverage from their time at IMD, and will be until March of 2012.

That person may have emergency dental/hospital coverage under MPIPHP, but s/he does not have non-emergency coverage under MPIPHP outside of California.

I had one year of MPIPHP in 2005, and it was awesome. In early 2005 I needed an emergency root canal while visiting family in Michigan. My MPIPHP dental benefits covered $800 of this $900 procedure.

Later that year I was visiting my family in Michigan again, and I thought I would see the family doctor while still covered under my MPIPHP plan. Big mistake. My MPIPHP plan did not cover non-emergency care outside of California. I had to pay the bill in full, out-of-pocket.

Despite my mistake, I still think highly of MPIPHP benefits. I'd like to earn them again someday. However, based on my experience, MPIPHP does not offer non-emergency coverage outside of California.

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