Re: This Union Situation


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Posted by Jon on March 05, 2000 at 08:19:03:

In Reply to: Re: This Union Situation posted by Kevin on March 05, 2000 at 00:34:36:

: 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!)

I hope I behaved myself.

: 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.

Well I'm sure that as president of the Union he has to toe the Union line. He doesn't want to end up like Jimmy Hoffa, does he? But I can see he might have gotten a buzz doing an homage to George Baker, Bill Mauldin, and the U.S. Signal Corps. I think he should have framed it and hung it on his wall.

: 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.

I guess all I want to say is: If employees can be abused, they most likely will be. They have to be protected against that. Unions were a great answer to the kind of rampant employee abuse that was happening around the turn of the century. A lot of what they fought for has been made into state or federal law.

But union contracts are only good if there are jobs. If the Union is serious about helping its members, it needs to start thinking about helping the industry, too.

: 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 haven't officially met Tom (brushed past him at Sisaly's once) and I'm sure he's pretty busy with Osmosis Jones right now. But he seems like a reasonable guy ... as do all the other union animators I know, many of whom used to work for me. Still, I've read that contract, and it isn't how our animators work.

Take this latest video: After wasting 12 months negotiating the contract, the client finally gave us the green light to start on production, but we would have only 3 months to completely finish it. We had never turned around 2700 feet in such a short length of time. Our management staff was shaking their heads, but I told them I thought we could do it. The alternative was no work.

We pulled all the plugs. We had interns running around like ants, helping with production. We called on all of the reliable (and willing) freelancers we could find. And our guys were putting in 50-60 hour weeks, for all that time.

Their reward: the extra money, extra paid-vacation time, and the knowledge that they had saved the studio's butt. In the end they were weary but satisfied in their accomplishment.

: 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.

I met Bill Dely from Cornerstone ... and have already gotten a fax from them about their new company. I wish them all the best. But it's interesting that they still have this "rep card" thing hanging over their heads.

I'm not denying, obviously, that the current Regime in this industry is doing it all wrong. But from their standpoint, the hot anger of the artists will only make them run to the "safety" of the Pacific Rim where the animation fairies take over.

We can't FORCE them to consider American animation anymore. We have to co-erce them ... seduce them ... wink at them and lift our skirts a bit. How do you look in heels, Kev?

: 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.

It would take some retraining to show a lot of guys how to make footage work for them. But that's how StarToons employees would have to work. It's the only way to keep the budget under control. Without a controlled budget, the studio can't last. Artists gotta realize that.


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