Posted by Kevin on April 10, 2000 at 23:10:20:
In Reply to: What's this "Union"? posted by Steve on April 10, 2000 at 19:26:16:
It's late, so I'll just give a few random thoughts off the top of my head. I'd love it if someone form the union is reading this board and can pitch in.
Benefits: The union benifits (medical, dental, pension, and 401K) are better than most industry plans (I mean ANY industry) and better than the non-union studios offer. A VERY important aspect to the union benefits is that they follow you when you change to a different studio. I've worked for Warners, Disney, and DreamWorks, all without a single day of interruption in my benefits.
Wages: I think Jon has a point about entry level salaries, but the union does make sure if you're good enough to work production, you're going to get paid a decent wage.
Employer disputes: The union can interceed about things that are a BIG deal to a few animators but which fall far short of something to talk strike over. A recent example is that some money people at DreamWorks tried to declare everyone "on hiatus" during the several months between Prince of Egypt and El Dorado. That would have meant we were still employees (i.e., not elgible for unemployment benefits) even though we weren't on salary. And technically freelance would have been illegal. One call to the union put a stop to that little game. DreamWorks was also playing some games with some of the foreign animator's visas, and the union weighed in on the problem on their behalf. The union has also been working hard to put a stop to the significant amounts of unpaid overtime artists at the major studios were putting in. There are other examples but I'll leave it there.
Education: Right now there are tons of places to get good animation training at fairly reasonable costs. When I was trying to learn animation not so many years ago, the union classes were the only game in town, short of spending big bucks at Cal Arts. Some of the union classes need a big shot in the arm right now (what's up with NO animation class for the last year?!?), but the union classes are still the biggest bargains in town. How many nonunion studios will train somebody off the street?
They keep the nonunion studios honest: Let's face it, if the union studios didn't offer such great benefits, do you think your nonunion studio would offer anything at all? No way. If union wages weren't what they are, do you think nonunion studios would match them? The union sets the standard, and if the nonunion studios want to compete for talent, they have to offer something reasonably comparable.
I was never a big fan of unions, but if there was ever an industry that needed a union, ours is the one. Can we improve our union? Hell yes. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Now let me ask you: what is so terrible about the union? What makes you want to avoid being a part of it?
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