Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Animation's Wage Cartels

... are now getting a wee bit of traction in the entertainment press. From Variety:

While a federal judge recently gave her approval to a settlement of a class-action antitrust suit over alleged “no-poaching” agreements involving Lucasfilm and Pixar, the Animation Guild is reviewing a recent report that highlighted similar hiring practices of other studios that were not named as defendants in the litigation.

Steve Kaplan, organizer for the Animation Guild, said members “are reviewing what remedies are available, if any” after PandoDaily published a series of emails and deposition transcripts suggesting that DreamWorks Animation and the Walt Disney Co. also were involved in so-called “gentlemen’s agreements” to not raid each other’s animation work forces. Such hiring practices came under the scrutiny of the Justice Department as well as a class action lawsuit, but both studios were not named as targets of an investigation or as defendants. ...

I've done this job for awhile now, and it's surprising the number of times executives have told me "We're in the employees' corner," and "We want to be fair." Or (my personal favorite) "We're all a FAMILY here."

Uh, no.

Corporations are many things, but they're definitely not Family. Because Dad, away from the company, doesn't violate law and knife his kids in the back. And Mom doesn't put her daughters up for adoption when the clan hits a rough patch.

The idea behind all the collusion was maintaining profit margins, meaning if laws need to be broken, "Okay then, we'll break the law." And in the meantime, we'll hire a massage therapist to come in and work on your tight muscles from the repetitive stresses acquired on the job. And then tell everybody how nice we're being.


Greg Manwaring said...

You're warmed up now Steve - now give it to them!!

Floyd Norman said...

"I'm shocked! Shocked to learn there's gambling in this establishment!"

Really? Is anybody surprised?

Steve Hulett said...

I get that part of it, Floyd. But what's a head scratcher for me is why anybody believes all the self-serving claptrap written by movie execs about the specialness of their way of operating.

It's been pretty much the same from the beginning. You've got to have a compelling story. You can get it by having Walt come down and cut through the crap (a method no longer available), or you can have a story team and committee do the story multiple times until it gets close.

WDP, back in the day, always paid rock-bottom salaries. But it was out in the open. You could work at the studio for close to minimum rate or you could go someplace else. You didn't have Steve Jobs and his merry band scheming to suppress wages.

Ashby said...

How much higher were the wages Sony was offering compared to those in on the fix? You might be able to figure out rough minimum damages if you can multiply the arbitrage rate by the number of employees. If wages in the industry have been kept artificially low by preventing competition, it would be helpful to put a number to the damages.

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