An Open Letter to Genndy Tartakovsky

June 25, 2012

Dear Genndy,

We had fun at the Hawaiian Luau the other night, thank you for taking the time to sign our posters.

You’ve had a long and successful career working in animation.¬† For a good chunk of those years you’ve worked under a union contract. By now you are hopefully getting close to crossing the 15 year vesting period, and you will be enjoying health benefits for the rest of your life after age 65. If you hang in there for 20 years, you can retire at 62. Although we hope you’ll keep making films instead of just retiring someday.
We would like to talk about some very serious issues in the animation industry today. Perhaps you are unaware of the working situations for artists at Sony Pictures Digital Productions.

There is a 3-tiered benefit system that your crew works under:

Sony Pictures Animation – union under TAG 839: portable health and pension benefits, sick days, vacation days. Benefit portability between studios.

Sony Pictures Imageworks  Р6+ months employment: 401k, sick days, PPO insurance, vacation time. No benefit portability.

Sony Pictures Imageworks – less than 6 month deals (based on offer length, not actual time worked on the show, or time at the facility): HMO, no benefits otherwise. No benefit portability

Now that some of your departments are winding down, many people are finding themselves in a precarious situation regarding their health insurance for themselves and their families. The “Fabulous Fridays” are anything but . People are forced to look for work, while saddled with outrageously high cobra costs, or forced to drop health insurance altogether. The ebb and flow of crewing is not the issue, the portability of benefits is.

We work to make your ideas come to life. When audiences buy blu rays and dvds of Hotel Transylvania next year, 5% of that money will go into the Motion Picture Television Fund to provide for pension and health benefits for retirees. 38 people in SPA will receive health and pension benefits courtesy of the work of 250+ other crew members.

We all work towards a common goal, but most will receive an unfair portion of the reward.

We try to educate , but our voice is limited. Your voice has far more reach in the animation community. As a former animator , will you stand with us to improve the working conditions of your crew?

Do you support all your crew members receiving the same benefits that SPA and yourself have enjoyed?

Thank You,
The Artists of SpiUnion

Checking Out of Hotel Transylvania

June 6, 2012

So if you’re working on Hotel Transylvania, you will be losing your job soon. We’ve heard about all the big things being bid on, none of that is going to materialize in the next 6 weeks. You need to prepare for the familiar dance vfx workers do at the end of shows:

File for unemployment

Make a mad rush to see doctors and dentists before your healthcare expires on your last day (Keep in mind we are lucky compared to many others in vfx, we actually get the option of healthcare)

Since most people can’t actually afford COBRA, cross your fingers and hope you or your loved ones don’t get sick.

Don’t bother trying to get health insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. (pregnancy counts as a pre-existing condition)

If/When you do get a job somewhere else, you’ll get to change doctors again and start all over explaining any long term health problems to a new doctor who accepts whatever insurance plan you’ll be on.

We encourage you to call the SPE Benefits Connection Service Center at 1 (866) 941-4SPE and ask them for your exact COBRA costs. These are the numbers we got from calling:

Sony Kaiser HMO – $725 + $45 Dental + $9 VSP per month

no children/single:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1100 per month

no children/married:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1300 per month

1+ child/married:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1600 per month

Looking forward to going through this again for Cloudy 2?

If Imageworks were union like Sony Pictures Animation, you would have 6 months of health coverage when you got layed off, plus you could draw from your bank of hours to extend that coverage for up to another year at no cost to you.

How many of us get perpetually hired for short gigs here and never cross the magic threshold of 6 months for a retirement account? Under a union you would also have had contributions made to your pension for retirement, instead of the $0 you got in the 401k you can’t participate in.

But wait, you’re staff, you don’t have to worry about layoffs right? You really think you’ll be working here forever? Really?

These are the benefits SPA already gets, funded from the residuals of the movies you made for them.


Update 6/18/2012: