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Posted by Charles on July 09, 1999 at 21:28:45:

In Reply to: Re: Addressing Union Problems posted by Kevin on July 09, 1999 at 10:52:03:

I'm not sure where you're coming from on this Kevin, but I'm sensing some sarcasm or hostility so I think it would be a good idea to explain a few things.

First of all, I am not a member of Local 839 or any other union. I am as independent as they come. I used to be in the Union years ago, but became quickly disillusioned with the animation industry in general. The Union was a part of that disillusionment, as was the attitudes of many of my fellow animation artists.

I realized early on in my career that the studio system was not for me. I tried to make a go of it, but it just didn't work. I'm not sure exactly what it was. It certainly wasn't my skills as a character designer, layout artist, animator, development artist, art director, what have you. I just didn't want to play this stupid game. If I was going to have a career in this business, I was going to do it my way.

I paid the price for being so far out on the frontier but when I look back at it, I see the advantage. It was a great education. The kind of lessons you could never learn anywhere but through the raw realities of life. I've gotten pretty good at living on the edge of the universe. I realize that not everyone can do or would want to do things the way I've done them. I'm the first to admit that you're better off in a studio environment, which is one of the reasons why I've initiated this effort that people like yourself are engaged upon.

I've been an outspoken critic of this entire system for more than 15 years. Back in '85 I was so militant, I was espousing something short of an armed revolution. Early this year, as the layoffs were happening, I ran into a friend of mine who remembered my words all that time ago. This person sits on the executive board of good ol' 839, telling me of the troubles in the industry and looking up at me like a helpless little puppy dog, echoing the words "we need a revolution." This person, accompanied by another 839 die hard, went on to help convince me that we are better off with an organized union and all the benefits that it offers than without one. This person is absolutely right. This is right for now, and for yesterday, and for last month, last year, last decade and the decades before.

Okay, so here I go doing my part. I put up this web site, called for the empowerment of the Union, called for a fraternal alliance of all Union and non-union animation artists, started encouraging non-union artists to sign rep cards, then organized the April 1st meeting at considerable personal expense, financial and otherwise.

By the way, did you show up? How many more of those 839 sharp shooters could have come but didn't, yet they come here to this message board. I'm not complaining about it. I'm glad to see it happening. But I'm getting tired of fighting your battles in a war that involves all of us.

I'm not into your union. I'm just trying to help out. I'm not into being represented by IATSE. If I walked into a Union meeting, I'd call for the transfer of all pension funds and benefits packages to a new, independent organization that is owned, operated and run entirely by the animation artists themselves, or affiliate with the Writers' Guild or something. I don't like the idea of having those guys negotiating a contract for me. Case in point - Sony. I also don't like the idea of being controlled by an organization that admits it has its roots in organized crime.

IATSE has always had this mentality that an animation union is the same as a truck driver's union, with absolutely all respect to truck drivers. There were many times when I wished I would have done that for a living instead. But I stayed in animation and now, I'm a future prospect for one day getting a call from these good ol' boys trying to get me to sign a contract with them and to tell you the truth Kevin, I'm kind of looking forward to locking horns with these puffed up cheeseballs whom all of you 839 guys let yourselves be controlled by.

A union is necessary. With this one, you've got a retirement plan and great medical and dental benefits. That's something to build on. There's no reason on earth to destroy this. It would be insanity. They've got the benefits, but they have no vision. They have the power of the AFL-CIO, but they have no ideas. There are many alternative ways for unions like this one to function. If it was functioning creatively, the major studios would have plenty of healthy competition for talent regardless of the employment climate.

It's your union, pal. It's your organization.

I notified these guys well in advance of what I was doing in regards to the April 1st meeting. What kind of help did I get? Assistance of anykind from 839? Of course not. Why? Because of a "no strike clause"? C'mon, man. These guys want to come off like they're the big leaders in the teepee. They talk real bad and bold in the Pegboard, but they leave it up to an independent like me to fire the cannon for them and lead the charge all by myself on the front line.

Like I said, Kevin. It's your union and its your pizza. Go back to another meeting, take your friends, eat well, have some beer, then give 'em hell. Nothing but good comes from strong, efficiently organized labor. Your union is worth saving and it's worth fighting for. It needs a new approach and IATSE isn't going to change things unless the brotherhood and the sisterhood of 839 throws down the gauntlet and puts them on notice.

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