Myths of Organizing

There are many good points and discussions to be had during a union organization drive.  However, one of the things to avoid are the arguments based out of fear and misinformation. Below are some false statements that seem to persist over the years, let’s address those now:

“You have to pay the initiation fee everytime you rejoin a studio”

False. The initiation fee is payed once upon joining, and is good for your lifetime. The fee is typically waived if you are employed at a studio when it first signs a union contract. Artists are encouraged to ask the company to pay the initiation fee as a signing bonus when starting work at a union company for the first time. If you fall outside of these options, the union has payment plans available to spread the cost over several months.

“You aren’t allowed to work for non union studios”

False. You can work anywhere you want to. If you get laid off from a union company, you are free to work wherever you please. The advantage is that you keep your benefits for months afterward. You can work on a quick 5 week commercial somewhere else while maintaining your health benefits with no interruption in coverage. Note that the hours you work non-union will not be counted towards your union health or pension benefits.

“You can’t switch job categories”

False. This seems to persist from live-action sets where someone heard a story about moving a prop, and they got fined from a union. You are free to work in whatever CG discipline you like.

“The union defines your maximum salary”

False. The union defines your MINIMUM salary, not the maximum. You are encouraged to negotiate higher rates into your own personal contract. The minimums are very useful if you are a new artist starting your career. If you are currently making less than these rates, sign a rep card now!

“It’s too expensive”

TAG Union dues are $420 a year, payed quarterly. So about $105 every 3 months. And they are tax deductible. Consider what your current Health Care withholdings at SPI are.  Union dues are far less than you are paying for health insurance under any SPI plan. And you get to contribute to a 401k plan, AND have contributions made to a pension that will pay you monthly when you retire.

We also posed some common responses we’ve overheard to Steve Kaplan. Here are his responses:

“If the company goes union, all of our salaries will be lowered.”

A direct quote from page 7 of the TAG Contract addresses this concern:

The rates of pay now being received by any employee shall not be decreased by reason of the execution of this Agreement

Most agreements between the IA Locals and employers will carry this language to prevent the employer from automatically resetting wages to contractually agreed minimums once the contract goes into effect.

“If the company goes union, all of our jobs will be shipped to Vancouver.”

If the company could, the company would. Its as simple as that. There are several hundred artists in SPI:CC because the company needs the talent that the Culver City office provides. Vancouver costs the company more than unionization does. SPI opened it because the production studios demand it.

“Imageworks can not compete with higher rate union labor in global vfx market.”

Imageworks is one of few facilities able to achieve the level of vfx needed for the “tent-pole” features that hit theaters today. Assuming an artist can tell me what the current going rate for Imageworks work is (per project, per sequence, per shot .. it doesn’t matter), plus what the current cost of Imageworks health care is, then factor in the cost savings unionization would provide (as our health care is bound to cost less because we offer it to more people), then I’ll discuss the costs between a unionized Imageworks artist and a non-union Imageworks artist.

Then, I’ll point out that SPI:Van is likely to remain as long as the British Columbia province continues to convince its people to give their tax money away. Once you factor that money back into the equation, I’ll ask that person to explain how a unionized Imageworks isn’t more cost effective.

The cost argument is horrendously fallacious. It assumes the arguer has details no artist at SPI would be privy to.

Which myths have you heard that we can clear up?


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