To the TAG members at Imageworks:

Have you worked at Disney, Dreamworks, or ImageMovers in the past? That means you’re an IATSE member already. We know there are a lot of you here.

Your bank of hours for healthcare may already be empty, and your pension benefits haven’t been added to since your union stint. Every hour you work at non-union Sony is one less hour being contributed to your portable health and pension benefits.

Most of you will be here on short-term/production hire status. If you don’t get re-hired at a union company before about October, you won’t have enough time to earn the qualifying hours for 2011 (400 hours), and you will miss another year towards vesting in your pension.

Some of you are still using your health benefits with MPI and chose to waive the poor Sony benefits. Remember how you got those benefits in the first place?

We need your help. Sign the rep card. But the rep card is not enough. You are also on the front lines of educating your co-workers about the benefits you are enjoying.

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13 Responses to To the TAG members at Imageworks:

  1. Anonymous says:

    This was mentioned in the comments to the first post but the biggest problem I see is a lot of people on the current shows are only on short term contract. I haven’t heard anyone mention this at work other than the day those envelopes showed up on our desks. I’d gladly sign up if I knew more about the costs and benefits and also if I was assured I was going to stay at Sony for any length of time. One of my fears would be putting effort into this “movement,” losing my job at Sony and then it becomes union. Then if I want to go back to Sony I have to pay the $3000 initiation fee.

    This next part is more for the union management, as I’ve seen they posted some replies.

    I’ve glanced through the union websites and finding concrete information takes a lot of reading. No one wants to read the 100+ page health summary guide just to find out it’s $5 to see a doctor. I still don’t know how much money (if any) union members pay of the insurance premium. The Pensions page is great. Make more easy to read and see what’s going on pages like that.

    The other big problem I’ve seen is the wages. I know the wages in the contracts are minimums but that’s all I seem to be offered when I get offers from union companies. The median amount in the wage survey is less than I make. So it makes it really hard to want to join a union when you see such low wages offered. Even including all the benefits it’s still much lower. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with my rates, I don’t really know.

    Someone mentioned putting a meeting together with Steve or one of the other union guys. I think that sounds like a great idea.

    • 839spi says:

      We don’t feel the short-term contract thing is going to change. We also believe for that precise reason, portable benefits are important. In the situation you mention, there are a few options. First any effort you put in will have direct and positive benefits to your co-workers. It sounds like from your post that you are making comfortably above scale. That probably means you are experienced, at which point you should ask the company to pay the fee for you when you are re-hired. You should actually ask anyways whether new or experienced. In the case that you do end up having to pay the fee, you will be earning 6 months of health insurance coverage and pension benefits for 400 hours of work, which should offset the cost considerably. (it may also be tax deductible, we will check on that today)

      We can’t comment as to your exact salary or past offers from studios. The wage surveys are designed to help people make an informed guess as to how much they should be making. It sounds like you’ve done everything right, and have successfully negotiated higher rates. We’re working on a breakdown of total benefit costs to help you.

      We agree completely about the benefits not available in an at-a-glance format. We’ve been working on getting everyone that info, and will hopefully have something to show you by next week. Members do not pay the premiums, the studios contribute 5% of profits from residuals into the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Your quarterly dues go to the local. Steve, are these numbers right?

      Another vote for a meeting, great. We suggested the Culver Hotel lobby as a good meeting spot. Maybe lunch time might be better than an evening meeting?

    • skaplan839 says:

      Hello Anon,

      I feel signing a rep card is an important decision that all vfx artists should be making at each new job, for the same reason SPIUnion states. The unionization of the industry starts with the artists asking for representation at all places of business. So, I would encourage you to sign the card and then again at your next gig. I reach out to all card signers to let them know the card has been received and encourage a dialouge or meeting. Feel free to respond to me to let me know where your next gig will be.

      The SPIUnion group has been asking for a health plan breakdown for sometime now. Contract negotiations, this cold and my other tasks here at the Guild have been keeping me from putting it together. I’m committed to getting something “almost there” today and it should be up soon.

      Its natural to be offered minimums when first negotiating a personal service contract with an employer. After all, that’s the most profitable wage for them to offer you. I’ve heard that Dreamworks will always open negotiations with our wage minimums. As SPIUnion stated, that is why we take pains to publish the Wage Survey each year. Its a tool for you to use to counter the minimums and get the highest wage possible for your work. Understand that our contract is meant to establish basic standards and conditions. We purposely add this language to make sure artists are able to negotiate better wages and conditions than the contract provides:

      TAG CBA, Article 4, paragraph C (page 7-bottom)

      Nothing in this Agreement shall prevent any individual from negotiating and obtaining from the Producer better conditions and terms of employment than those herein provided

      Its not uncommon for members to reach out and ask our advice when negotiating Personal Service Agreements with employers (both union and non-union). While we can not sit and negotiate those for you, we certainly don’t mind giving advice in these matters.

      As for meeting, feel free to contact me at any time to set up something. I look forward to a time when I can meet a group of Imageworks artists as a whole.

      skaplan@animationguild.org

      • FrouFrou says:

        What happens to the rep card you sign if you are let go at the end of the project and the studio still hasn’t joined the union? Does that card stop being valid?

      • skaplan839 says:

        For purposes of organizing Imageworks, yes.

        The only other organization that would ever see the representation cards would be the National Labor Relations Board. Once the IATSE received a majority of the artists showing interest in representation, we would approach Sony and ask them to voluntarily recognize us at the appointed bargaining agent for the group. When they refuse, we would go to the NLRB and petition for a representation election. They will ask us for the cards, and Sony for a crew list, and then verify we have the necessary majority with the group to proceed.

        Thus, we need to be able to provide cards for artists currently working at the facility. If you’re about to leave, we still encourage you to sign a card, and then contact us so we can ask you when you land your next gig to sign a card for that facility as well.

      • FrouFrou says:

        Doesn’t this make organizing even harder? Many of the crew here stay for about 6 months. If they sign the card at the beginning of their gigs, would they be around long enough for their vote to count and for a studio to unionize? How long does this process take?

      • 839spi says:

        Steve would know the answers on the specifics of the voting time frame. Because the process is difficult does not mean we should not pursue it. Part of the problem, is what you said, know one really knows how long they’ll be around. Could be assigned a show at the last minute, could be layed off. Every rep card and vote are important. Sorry if that sounds a little corny.

      • skaplan839 says:

        Indeed it does. Thats why you see the IA act quickly when a crews in other disciplines decide they want the show they’re on to be union. We would need to act just as quickly, and the crew would need to be just as resolved.

        Artists working at Imageworks have to be motivated not only to sign a card, but then act in solidarity when the time comes to vote in favor of representation.

        Once an election for representation is called, it can be a few weeks before the election is held. That can work against the organization effort if new people are hired and have to be brought up to speed on the effort.

    • FrouFrou says:

      Thanks for the info. I didn’t want to sound pessimistic, but was actually looking for answers to give friends as the have asked me this and I hate to be pro-something and not be able to back every single detail.

      Here is to hoping that things are moving smoothly.

      • skaplan839 says:

        Thanks for asking. Its artists like you who seek out the answers that will make the difference.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If I move from a union studio to a non-union studio can I still contribute to the 401(k) and then get a tax deduction when I file my taxes (since the money won’t be withheld from my paycheck)?

    • 839spi says:

      Steve can verify this, but that sounds doubtful. We think contributions can only be made when you are at a union studio.

    • skaplan839 says:

      That is correct. The advantage of a union 401(k) plan is that contributions can continue with more regularity as you work at more union studios.

      Currently, if you leave Sony, your Sony 401(k) money would have to be rolled into a personal IRA account, or the next company’s 401(k) that you begin participating in.

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