The Price of Working Non-Union – Health Insurance

October 31, 2012



If you worked on Hotel Transylvania or are working on Cloudy 2 at Sony Pictures Animation, you are receiving excellent health and pension coverage. If you’re a show hire working at Imageworks on the same films, and working in the same building, you’re receiving no benefits beyond a basic HMO that costs you $250+ a month. Imageworks is a unique case in the movement to extend benefits to all people working in vfx. We’re the only fx house owned by a studio (Edit: Disney owns ILM now). With the success of Cloudy and Hotel T, we are a full-fledged animation studio as well. We are in the same category as  Dreamworks, Disney, and Pixar. Almost all of our work is coming from Columbia or internally generated from SPA. Hotel T has crossed the $125 million mark domestically, making it only second to Smurfs as the most successful project we have ever made. It’s got a fighting chance at eclipsing Smurfs as well, and overseas revenue is not even in yet.

Above are some charts we put together graphing out the costs of the Sony health insurance plans, vs. the Motion Picture Industry plans that SPA works under. The price we pay is startling in comparison; even more so when compared to COBRA costs that SPA employees can avoid thanks to the extended coverage after leaving a studio that comes with MPI’s Health Plan.

The current system of poor benefits for show hires is quite simply, bullshit. There can be equal benefits, and it isn’t difficult to achieve. Working 10 feet down the hall of the North building doesn’t have to be the dividing line for decent health insurance.  Long-term Imageworks employees, project hires, and SPA employees all contributed to the success of Hotel Transylvania.  We’ll all be contributing to the success of Cloudy 2, Smurfs 2, Smurfs 3, Popeye, etc. But we earn three different tiers of benefits.

The perpetual extension/perma-lancing system that intentionally screws employees out of retirement benefits needs to come to an end. The company is hiring people for just shy of 6 months, and then “extending” them beyond  the 6 month threshold for benefits.  They do this over and over for each show the artist is picked up on.  There are artists that have been working here for years, and have been given no options for retirement benefits whatsoever. In addition they are subject to the Delta DMO, quite possibly the worst dental plan any of us have ever encountered. This is in addition to earning no vacation or sick days.

The “I’ve got mine, screw the other guy” attitude is killing this industry. Imageworks, We are the feature animation studio in Los Angeles that earns the worst benefits of all of our competitors, and has made the most successful animated film this summer. Does that make sense? Sign a Representation Card and let’s start all being treated equally.

Edit: October 31, 2012 – Re-generated charts with higher 2013 health insurance rates