So, you’re a Johnny-come-lately to this whole organizin’ business, and you want to know what it’s all about? Well, you are in luck – both good and bad – for I am here for you! Good because a plethora of information awaits! Bad because, well… it’s from me.
A bit of history
So first thing you should know: we in the animation guild have, when it comes to contract negotiations – and please excuse the technical terminology – been eating shit sandwiches for some time. Consistently we’ve been behind all the other Hollywood guilds in wage increases and other benefits. Why is this?
- We’re a relatively small guild and the negotiation committee is made of regular members. They are mere mortals. Understaffed and overworked mortals.
- Frankly, not many animation guild members get involved. Hell, if you’re reading this, you’re probably part of that.
- The producers guild comes out in force with dozens of lawyers. Crafty lawyers. Shifty eyed ones. I think they may be lizardmen. They’re definitely lizardmen.
Why the negotiations sucked like an anteater at a vacuum convention
So you know how we all work in Hollywood? And Hollywood is all about projecting an image, and saving face? In that context, the AMPTP (the producer’s alliance) slapped us across the face and then splashed water in our lap. Then they made out with our girlfriend and put it all on the internet. Well, maybe not that bad. But still:
- We had a couple proposals, which I’ll detail below – but they were reasonable things, like getting holidays off, and making sure animation writers are treated the same as writers guild writers. All of them were rejected.
- We asked for annual raises of 4% for the minimum wages – which keeps in line with LA inflation. IATSE, our parent union, negotiated at least 2% for all the other unions. They effectively offered us 1.3%. BURN!
- They kept making noises about how they’d have no choice but to send work overseas. Weird lizardmen noises, I bet. I wasn’t there, but I am sure they were lizardmen noises. This was largely agreed to be an empty threat by guild folk – if they’re going to do that, they’ll do it anyway.
To be clear – we were willing to find middle ground on some of their proposals, and were making headway. Then they came out with their response to our proposals (accompanied, no doubt, by a chorus of “hssssk” sounds), and it pretty much torpedoed the negotiations. The guild’s negotiating committee walked away. And according to every single guild member who spoke that night (and oh god you couldn’t get some of them to stop speaking), the committee did the right thing.
Wait, what’s all this about proposals? Sounds indecent.
Are you coming on to me?
No, but seriously. Proposals?
Right, so! Ahem. Our proposals were basically:
- The 4% annual minimum rate increase. This doesn’t mean everyone gets a 4% raise – just that the “minimum wage” defined for any position goes up by 4% annually.
- If you’re gonna make storyboard artists do tests for a job, they have to get paid $300.00 for each script page beyond the first.
- Writers get paid the same as they would in the Writers Guild.
- Holidays should be treated as days off in the planning schedule.
- Storyboarders get paid on daily/weekly basis, instead of as a unit rate.
- All those talent development programs? Go for 2 years instead of 1.5. That way they don’t have to pay people a living wage for another 6 months! And then they can bring them in and keep them at incredibly low rates! Woo cheap labor!
- A whole fuckton of weird DreamWorks-specific rate re-classifications. Basically, instead of having job levels defined as, say, junior/mid/senior, it’s all Levels 1-5, in every job category. There’s no definition of what makes someone a 2 versus a 3 – so you can’t argue very well that you deserve to go up a level.
- Human-lizardman mating program. Well, it wasn’t in there per se. But reading between the lines, that’s totally on their serpentine agenda.
So what now? Are we… you know?
You mean the S word?
Oh god, not the S word.
No, most likely not. Here’s why a strike (gasp he said it) is unlikely:
- We’d need to get our parent union (IATSE) to give strike authorization. They don’t love doing that.
- We’d need to get all our members to okay a strike vote. This actually seems more likely than the first.
- The studios would probably freak out and cave if we were on the verge of a strike. That’s speculation, but there’s some credence to that – happened recently with the Simpsons, apparently.
Whew. So what’s next?
Well, the contract ends on July 31st, so the guild is going to re-marshall our crack negotiation team and go back to the table. Except this time a couple things will be different:
- They’re going to have one of the heads of IATSE coming along to help them negotiate. This is a man of no small talent. I think he speaks the lizardman language. Uncanny!
- The guild is going to send out a *very important survey* to the members, to see what the memberbase thinks is more or less important among the guild proposals. You should fill it out. No, seriously. I will hit you. Hard.
- When they next meet for negotiations, the goal is to have a number of guild members present in the room, as a show of numbers. The last meeting had maybe a dozen guild guys versus around 30-40 reptilian lawyers.
Wait, that’s it? Why should I care?
Okay, I get it. You’re young. You’re naive! The world is your oyster. You don’t know the outside world.
You may have heard of the visual effects industry. It never had a guild. Even a weak one. It just went and did its own thing. Which is eerily similar to our own thing.
It is currently perishing in flames, cannibalizing its young and raping its loved ones. It’s like all the worst parts of a Cormac McCarthy novel.
That could very easily be us. We’re already, in the scheme of Hollywood, greatly disrespected by the powers-that-be. And when they are looking at any way to make a cheap buck that they can, that’s a very dangerous place to be.
You’re scaring me.
It’s okay. Shh. Come here. I’ll give you a hug.
Your hair smells like strawberries.
I headbutted a fruit stand earlier.
Yeah, I know.
So I should get on the mailing list at www.animationguild.org and answer that survey when they send it out, huh.
And email firstname.lastname@example.org about showing up as a show of support to the next round of contract negotiations.
Probably save up money, because the producers will always try to pull this sort of thing, and we gotta fight back.
Yes, very good. Now do all these things or I will cut you.
Wait, what was that? What did you say?
Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. Now go back to sleep.
Okay. How did you get in my bedroom, anyway?
It’s my bedroom now.