Friday, May 11, 2012

Negotiations Past and Present

As you've probably deduced by now, this year's contract negotiations have been ... painful.

But that's nothing new. The first union negotiation I chaired, a bit over two decades ago, was no picnic either. I was full of piss and vinegar at the time, brimming with tall ambitions. The union put together a negotiating committee with different skill sets in it and a sizable list of proposals. The first thing that happened was ....

The then West Coast IA representative (now long departed) yelled at me for fifteen minutes in the TAG caucus room for having so many damn proposals. ("What do you think you're doing?!") But I was young then, and resilient, and I only cried myself to sleep for a couple of nights afterwards. (If memory serves. And maybe it doesn't.)

The thing I have always told members about contract negotiations is, they are a somewhat like dinner theater in Glendale: lots of words, lots of attitude, but the acting often leaves something to be desired. (And the sneering condescension too often wrapped around the words doesn't help the performances go down easy.)

This year's go-round has been similar to festivities in the past. The studios are shocked, SHOCKED, that you are making proposals to equalize pay or to boost wages that catch us up to where other labor organizations have been over the past three years, and tell you that of course those things are out of the question.

And then they roll out their proposals, which they inform you are just, fair and altogether right, each one of the numbered paragraphs accompanied by the unspoken assumption that they are as inevitable as death.

I get asked all the time: "Does the Animation Guild have leverage?" "Do we have the power to get a better deal?" I always answer that we do, because the studios need a new, ratifiable collective bargaining agreement as much or more than the Guild does. Which isn't to say it will be easy or simple to reach agreement. Since the economic meltdown of 2008, no entertainment labor union has had an "easy" contract negotiation, even though profits for our fine international conglomerates have been robust. The studios keep saying "times are tough" like a mantra, even when the only entities struggling are corporate employees, not the corporations themselves.

I don't know where we finally end up after the smoke and cannon fire fades away, but it will be a different place than where we are now. The next thing that happens before we go back to the table is, the membership gets to have its say at the special meeting on May 30th. (Please note that this is one day later than TAG's normally scheduled meeting, the better to get away from Memorial day.)

It's important that members come, find out what went down over the three days we met with the animation producers, and give their input. (The committee has ideas about where we need to go, but we need to hear member voices.)

At the end, we will get the deal we have the leverage to get. All the threats and posturing will be a memory and there will be a tentative contract on which people can vote "yes" or "no." Our overarching goal is to achieve a fair outcome that doesn't leave animators and assistants, tech directors and writers, board artists and everyone else in the Los Angeles animation community as second-class citizens.

With members' support, we'll get there.


hoopcooper said...

Hang in there, Steve! See you on the 30th.

Site Meter