Re: This Union Situation

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Posted by Kevin on March 05, 2000 at 00:34:36:

In Reply to: This Union Situation posted by Jon on March 04, 2000 at 23:08:32:

: OK, so this Animation Expo is over and I am TOTALLY blown away with the talent running around unemployed in this town. All these sparky young artists with incredible talent, but all looking half-crazed with fear because they're up against experienced veterans who are ALSO out of work.

: People kept coming up to me and saying, "So I hear you're opening a studio here in LA." And I say, politely, "Well, no, I've just opened an OFFICE here, but our studio is back in Chicago." And half of them would respond, "You should open one here! I'd work for you!"

I was one of those you met today, Jon. It was nice to connect the person with the posts I've read here. And it was great to see the excellent work you're producing out in the hinterland (please, no slams about me brown-nosing Jon!)

: As tempted as I am to think that it's all about ME and my great studio, I know it's just that people need a job! One more studio in town means one more chance to be hired.

You're only half right here. There really is excitement about the idea of working for a small, lean studio where the boss actually knows what the hell he's doing.

: So I get to thinking, "Who knows?" Because with our current workload, we are pretty much swamped. But if we got another job in, rather than turn it away, we could, you know, maybe open up a branch studio ...

: But now I'm looking at this piece of literature I picked up at the Union Booth. It's entitled "How to Use a Rep Card."

: It's supposed to be sort of a take-off on the old World War 2 army training films.

Key phrase there: "a take-off." Tom Sito is a big history buff and is pretty liberal with what he considers playful digs at the non-union houses.

: The first panel shows a happy soldier looking at a card he has taken out of his Ammunition Box. The literature goes on to explain "This is a standard issue MPSC 839 Union Authorization Representation Card."

: It goes on, instructing you to sneak it into your place of employment ("... keep it ... until you have accepted a job at a non-union studio ..."), never show it to your boss (who is depicted as Hitler - no joke), then fill it out and sign it, persuade all your buddies to do the same.

: The happy ending is Hitler shoots himself, and the proud soldier rides triumphantly away on a tank, holding up a fist of victory.

: The victory this soldier won is a dead boss. But the truth is, Hitler didn't use real bullets and he is simply sending the work overseas now.

You're right -- read from the point of view of an artist trying to run his own small studio, I'd be agast too. I read it as a playful attempt by the union trying to remind "the sheep" that there is strength in numbers and that we don't have to take being treated like . . . sheep. But from your point of view, it is a ridiculous message. And I suspect it also puts off non-union animation employees.

: First of all, I don't think anybody should work for less than he wants to get, but getting something is better than nothing. As an employer, why would I want to deal with that kind of mentality? This is sick, my fellow animators. This is the hand that feeds you! How on earth will this militant, destructive attitude ever help turn this industry around?

If you knew most union members, militant is not a word that would come to mind! And I don't think the leadership is really militant when you get down to it, either. I wonder if it would be worth your time to actually talk to Tom Sito. I have heard he and Steve say they would love to assist in getting new studios open in town. Put them to the test. And also note, my impression is that the non-union shops that treat their employees reasonably well haven't seemed to have any problem remaining non-union, despite frequently employing union members.

: I was at the TV Animation Process Seminar. The jobs explained were (and I'm not kidding here): Executive Producer, Associate Producer, Line Producer, Timing Director, and Model Mark-ups. As far as the panel was concerned, they didn't know WHAT happened to the animation after the Color Keys were sent overseas. I guess they figure the little Asian animation fairies just wave their magic wands.

LOL! It sounds surreal.

: During the discussion, the comment was made that the best timing directors were people who have a lot of experience animating. One of the confused students said, "But if all the animation is all going overseas, doesn't that mean that pretty soon all the timing will too?" I think that guy knew more than the rest of the panel.

: This industry is going to DIE, my friends, if we are not willing to find a way to WORK ... and stop viewing our employers as "The Enemy." I'm not ready to take on this union, and when there are willing Asian studios (or Chicagoan studios), why would ANYBODY? Fair work for fair wages, my friends. Nothing unfair about it.

I think part of the answer to the seeming antagonism between union and some employers is contained in your paragraphs about the TV animation process seminar. The sad truth is that many employers in LA are short-sighted and remorseless about their business practices. They don't give a damn about the future of the medium, the artists, or even about their own product. Their contempt engenders contempt from the artists. But there is another side. For example, I know most of the people who make up Cornerstone Animation, a small shop out here run by animator Larry Whitaker. I believe virtually all of the employees are or recently were union members. If they wanted, they could have signed their rep cards and Cornerstone would be a union shop. Not only haven't they, but instead I see incredible dedication on all their parts to make this fairly daring gamble succeed. They want it to succeed for Larry AND for themselves.

Jon, if you decide to come out here, I think you'll have no problem finding plenty of talent that will treat you with every bit of the respect you show them. Yes, there are people who want the safe paycheck, but there are also lots who crave the chance to spread their wings, to work without idiots mucking up the works, to work in an environment where what one person does REALLY matters.

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