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The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:12 pm

The union's executive board gave approval for some comments to be published on their blog concerning how members of their negotiating committee feel about the new contract the members will be voting on soon.

Two out of the three comments that have been approved come from Steve Hulett the Guild business rep and Jeff Massie who also works there. They were in favor of ratifying it so there's no surprise there. Probably the wisest thing to do at this point I'd say.

But one dissenting comment out of the three is the most interesting. It comes from a fellow by the name of Jack Thomas. It's a breath of fresh air to get something from the Guild that isn't full of the same bs. At least this fellow has some guts to make a stand.

Here's what Jack Thomas has to say. Link to the Guild's blog topic is here.

............


The contract negotiations were hard fought and I firmly believe that our side got about the best possible deal it could in that room, at that time. I know, because I was there.

Having said that, you should vote against ratification. Here is why.

To begin with, it’s a crappy deal. We got nothing we asked for. No end to abusive board tests. No new job classifications. No pay parity with live action writers. The studios wouldn’t even agree to extend production schedules to allow for holidays. All we got were the same scraps they threw to our parent union IATSE; 2% wage increases (on the minimum rates that most of us are already above) and a slightly crappier, but still intact health plan.

Why did we get a crappy deal? Two reasons. First, the National IATSE contract vote was still pending. IATSE VP Mike Miller told us they were never going to give us anything more than the national union got for fear of sinking that vote.

Second, they don’t respect us. We warned them our members were sick of abusive tests, impossible schedules and second class treatment compared to live action productions. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that their response to each issue was basically “so what?”

Why your “No” vote can get us a better contract-

The National IATSE vote is now in and they accepted their crappy deal. So the first barrier to our getting a good deal is gone. Taking down that second barrier is up to us.

Vote “No.” Send us back to the table with a mandate from a pissed-off union to do better. Our contract expires at the end of August. This time the studios will be facing an aggressive union, and a ticking clock to prevent their biggest fear, a production disruption. For once, we will have the power.

I know most members would prefer to never have to deal with the business side. But we need to lose this mentality that we “are lucky to get paid to do something we love.” You aren’t in this union because you are lucky. You are here because you are talented. Because you can do things that very few people on earth can do. You deserve respect. You deserve good working conditions. You deserve fair pay. But you have to be willing to stand up for these things. VOTE NO and send us back to the table to get them.

— Jack Thomas
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby tstevens » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:30 pm

This is why I have no desire to ever work in Hollywood.

I think the union harkens back to a day when things were very different in the nation. Unfortunately a lot of the animation artists are use to the idea of collective bargaining and many of them don't get the idea of bargaining for themselves. I admit that the Hollywood system is basically designed around the union so it is hard to avoid it. However, when we talk about artists taking control of their own futures it is hard to discuss that when so many in this industry are reliant on the decisions of the union (many artists doing so voluntarilly). I think most of the problems that I have heard people express will not be dealt with any time in the near future because the studio system is what it is - a large outdated machine. If people want to change the system they need to realize that for most things the union will only give a "one size fits all" answer aimed at the lowest common denominator. It is not designed to handle the needs of individuals.

It all comes down to how independent we want to be. If you like the idea of collective bargaining and are willing to stand on the sidelines hoping that you will magically get a good deal, then continue on with the union. If however, you prefer to do business on your own, and like to be in control of your future, get out of Hollywood and fend for yourself. Will artists do that? Probably not.

Most artists hate the idea of negotiating and doing business on their own. That means that union members will always be at the mercy of their elected leaders and the voting majority.

Again, I am glad I am not in Hollywood. At least when I make a bad deal, I have no one to blame but myself.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby SNAKEBITE » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:22 am

Fist high, Jack Thomas!
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:12 pm

That goes for me too. Kudos to Jack Thomas for actually showing some courage and integrity. Something sorely lacking at this so called union.

I think the contract will be passed as it should be. If the membership rejects it they'll be up the creek without a paddle. Maybe if they actually prepare over the next three years Jack's strong stance can be used to their advantage next time they negotiate. If they reject this contract now and as weak as this union is, they'll be broken in half.

Maybe Jack Thomas will be president of the Guild by then! Naw, he has too much strength. Better off voting for more gutless leadership. Then they can complain when the producers treat you with them with no respect.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Dolphin78 » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:47 pm

The real tricky part here is that all of us are now exposed to world competition via Internet. Clients and companies will go where they get the most for the least in so far as it is practical and convenient while at the same time the market is fragmenting more every day.

There is a classic case in the world of automobile manufacture where Ford built two identical plants to build cars in Europe. One was in Germany and the other in the UK. The Germans produced around 3 times the number of cars in the same plant because the UK plants were riddled with union strife. It's not hard to guess what the long term consequences were.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:42 pm

Union strife is one thing. A complete lack of vision and leadership is another. That's what we deal with with this union.

Take for example their business rep Steve Hulett who for the most part controls the organization. This is from a commentary he posted on the Guild's blog this past July 28.

It's entitled "A Tale of Two Job Actions". This is the kind of defeatist bs he continually spews out. here's the bulk of his entry. I'm only posting his words and not other articles he quotes from. You can read the whole thing here.

...............

Regulars here know that I prattle on about leverage every month or so. I don't believe in "fair" and "unfair." They are lovely words defining wonderful concepts, but they exist only in heaven. Here are on earth it's a wee bit different.

Old story, right? Actors on a hit show the network (and studio) believe they absolutely need get militant ... and end up getting raises.

Leverage.

We live, as the Chinese might say, in interesting times.

Unions are pretty much on the ropes. (Entertainment unions, because of their relative strength in the movie and television industry, are the exceptions that prove the rule.) Where once slightly less than half the population was repped by labor unions, it's now under 10%. And where once police officers, fire fighters and school teachers were admired, they are now resented for luxuries like retirement pensions and full medical coverage.

As we become a nation of angry $15 per hour laborers, rage is directed at workers making $25 or $30 an hour, fringe benefits included. The billionaires and multi-millionaires? They're the job creators who must be respected as their taxes are lowered, otherwise they'll take their money and move to Singapore and/or Switzerland, leaving the rest of us wage slaves in the lurch.

Salary hikes began falling behind the cost of living in the middle '70s, around the time unions were shrinking in numbers and strength. (Coincidence?) Tax rates got skewed toward the high rollers in the 1980s, and the good times have continued for the top brackets --- with a few brief setbacks -- ever since. Today, the moneyed few have convinced a large percentage of the struggling many that this is the natural order of things, and if Social Security has to be dialed back and Medicare gutted, it's the patriotic thing to do.

So learn to just ... suck it up. The Caterpillar employees' leverage went missing years ago, and there is no downside for their steely-eyed employer sticking it to them; flat wages and crappy health coverage are in all their futures.

America, 2012. It might not be "fair," but it's the way it is.


..............


Same song and dance over and over and over, year after year after year.

No leadership. No vision. No leverage. Just learn to suck it up as Mr. Hulett admonishes. Should be an easy thing for this union to do.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:58 pm

Gotta love these guys. Check it out. From an entry posted by Mr. Hulett on his... sorry... the Guild's blog this past Monday, August 6, 2012 entitled "Panda to China"...

..............

The TAG negotiation committee made concessions to DWA [DreamWorks Animation] in the recently completed negotiations because (as the company said) "We don't get some breathing room, we'll have to send work away. And we don't want to have to do that."

Article here.

..............

So what did DreamWorks do? This...

A new Chinese joint venture involving the third installment of DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda". It will be made in China as a co-production, the first for any major Hollywood animated feature film.

Gee, I guess this is what happens when an animation union has no leverage!

Here's some advice for the Guild. Quoting Mr. Hulett from my previous entry above...

Learn to just suck it up.

Maybe members of the Guild should vote for Jack Thomas in their next election.

PS. Know how many union artists DreamWorks employs? About a third of all active Guild members. Know how much they spend on gourmet food to feed those very well paid union artists free breakfast and lunch every day? I bet it's a lot of money!

Yet they still find a reason to rag on em.

How about a change of attitude. How about something like...

TAG MEMBERS: Thanks DreamWorks for everything you do for us! We know you could break our union if you wanted to. We appreciate the great relationship we have with you!

DREAMWORKS: You're welcome TAG!

TAG MEMBERS: Okay guys, let's get busy and develop a long term plan so we can have some future leverage in the next round of negotiations three years from now and beyond!

TAG MEMBERS: Okay!

MR. HULETT: Sorry, no can do. We have no leverage. That's the way it is. Can't change things. It's the law. Can't change law. Learn to just suck it up.

;)
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Dolphin78 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:30 pm

It's getting to be a very competitive world out there and Internet isn't helping it much. Lots of work moving out of Hollywood beyond animation.

The only good news in that regard is that great talent and great skill is still a rare commodity that can't be easily replaced and the esthetic skills in China and other cheap labor pools are still a half century back and often artistically backward too. That's changing too though.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:38 am

They could get everything they ever wanted and the world would be perfect according to what they define as a perfect world and these guys will still find a reason to complain.

Gratitude is not part of the Guild's lexicon. Expressions of thanks a low priority.

I was taking care of some business today in Burbank and when I arrived at the location I needed to be at, lo and behold I run into an animation artist I haven't seen in years and years. Going way back to my days at Filmation Studios in the 1980s. Talented artist, nice guy, union artist, unemployed.

As difficult and as challenging as it was, certainly among the smartest things I ever did in my career was to establish my own business in animation at a key time in my life. It hasn't been an easy road and it's still a lot of work but it sure beats knocking on studio doors looking for work now that I'm older. Everyone comes to me instead. The union's long term plan is fine I guess if you want to be a perpetual employee. It's highly advisable to develop an independent economy at some point along your vocational path if you want to have some sort of added security. This union doesn't work for you and can't give you anything other than benefits as a condition of working at their studios. Once that plays out you're up the creek without a paddle.

All things considered I would say the person who's really been able to maximize what the Guild has to offer in terms of benefits and longevity of employment is their business rep Steve Hulett. The most demoralizing, depressing and discouraging individual in their group. It's really disappointing to see great guys and talented artists such as the fellow I ran into today hurting and looking for work while his union rep gets a steady paycheck since 1989 without having to deal with anything that the community of studio artists have to deal with.

That's the union you guys want, that's the union you got.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:35 am

Once every three years members of The Animation Guild votes to ratify their new contract. According to the Guild's blog in an entry from last Friday August 31, 2012 entitled "TAG Contract Ratified" by Steve Kaplan this latest contract has been approved by the membership.

Mr. Kaplan reports "the overwhelming ratification" of the contract.

Really?

Let's take a look at the whopping voter turnout.

"Out of 2,600 active members, 592 ballots were received, 549 of them eligible. 87% of those voted in favor of ratification, 13% voted against."

Let's do the math.

If 592 ballots were received, out of 2600 active members, that means that only 22.77% of the union's membership bothered to vote on their own contract.

Look at it another way. Of the members eligible to vote, 77.23% didn't.

Nearly 4 out of 5 members of the industry's union, The Animation Guild, didn't vote for their own contract.

Inspiring.

This would be sad if not for the comedy in this somewhere. :D

At least the vast majority of Guild members who didn't vote can be sure that their new union contract will be working for them even when they don't bother to get involved in anything having to do with it.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby JDC » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:52 pm

Before I got into Animation, I was a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.. when contracts came up.. it was MANDATORY to vote. Shop Stewards gave you the information on the contract. We knew that our collective voice on the issue mattered.. it affected our future!

Sad to see such a poor turnout.

An industry worth billions upon billions isn't worth any of it, if it doesn't stand up for itself.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:18 pm

Amazing isn't it. Less than 23 out of every 100 members bothered to vote on their contract. Some union.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:09 pm

Check out the spin they put on this. Here's the official press release about the ratification vote. You'll see that they mention the percentages of who voted for and against the contract, but no mention of how many, or rather how few in the union actually voted.

From Friday, August 31, 2012...

...............

This Guild released the following press release this afternoon:

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE membership has ratified the collective bargaining agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The vote was 86.7% in favor, with 13.3% against.

The contract calls for two percent (2%) annual compounded wage increases. Health, pension and IAP benefits are to be provided under the terms of the IATSE Basic Agreement, on which agreement was reached in April. Other provisions of the new agreement include a new storyboard revisionist classification, and changes to the talent development program and the DreamWorks Animation wage minimums. The contract will be in effect from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015.

“We’re gratified with the level of support this contract received,” Business Representative Steve Hulett said. “The contract talks were not easy, and the negotiation committee wondered at times if we would ever reach a conclusion.”

The Guild walked out of talks in April, returning in June after a heavily-attended special membership meeting and guild survey of contract priorities.

The Animation Guild is a local union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE). It represents 2,600 artists, writers and technicians employed in the animation industry.
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Re: The Animation Guild - Comments on their contract

Postby Charles » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:08 am

If you do the math on the number of eligible ballots that were counted, although 22.77% of their members bothered to vote, the union's contract was ratified by only 549 votes. Out of a membership of 2600, that adds up to only 21% of those members.
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