The No-Strike, No-Lockout Clause

May 25, 2012

No-Strike, No-Lockout

The Union agrees that during the existence of this agreement, unless the Producer fails to comply with an arbitration award, not to strike against, picket or boycott the Producer for any reason whatsoever, and to order its members to perform their obligations to the Producer hereunder and to use its best efforts to get the employees to perform such obligations. The Producer agrees not to engage in any lockout unless the Union fails to comply with an arbitration award.

Its come to my attention that questions have been raised regarding the purpose of the above clause in the IATSE contracts. Those who question this General Provisions clause (found in the TAG CBA on page 53, paragraph J) consider it to be the biggest liability to the union and question its purpose.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, this clause is one of the keys to the strength of the contract and reasons that a producer would have for signing one.

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Question of the Day – Initiation Fees

May 24, 2012

We asked Steve Kaplan:

So what’s the deal with initiation fees? They are waived for new members present when a vote takes place, right?

If someone is employed at a later date, do they have to pay the fee?

Isn’t it true most companies will pay the fee if asked for as a signing bonus?

Can you pay in a payment plan? If so, over how many months?;

What are the dollar costs to people?;

Would the severance pay from a union contract basically balance out this cost?


Steve says:

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Question of the Day – Why aren’t rep cards online?

April 9, 2012

We asked Steve Kaplan :

Is it acceptable to digitally sign the rep card pdf and email it to you?
Or do they need to be printed and snail mailed?

Here is what he responded:

According to NLRB regulations, we have to have physical and signed copies of the cards to present if we are to use them as proof of interest among the group.

It’s something we’ve been petitioning them to change.



Steve Kaplan
Labor Organizer
The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
(818) 845-7500

AIM: Kapanmtr
Google IM: kaplanvfx
ICQ: 83945576
Skype: steve.kaplan.tag839


Question of the Day – Leads and Supes

April 6, 2012

We asked Steve Kaplan:

How is union membership handled for leads and supervisors? Traditionally these positions are exempt from overtime, are they eligible for union membership?


The only “management” positions that wouldn’t be eligible would be those with hiring and firing abilities. In a typical vfx shop setting, that’s few to none of the leads and supes.



Steve Kaplan
Labor Organizer
The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
(818) 845-7500

AIM: Kapanmtr
Google IM: kaplanvfx
ICQ: 83945576
Skype: steve.kaplan.tag839

Question of the Day – Tax deductible fees?

April 5, 2012

We asked Steve Kaplan:

We know quarterly dues are tax deductible, but are initiation fees?


All monies payable to the union are tax deductible.  Initiation fees and dues are both tax deductible.



Steve Kaplan
Labor Organizer
The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
(818) 845-7500

AIM: Kapanmtr
Google IM: kaplanvfx
ICQ: 83945576
Skype: steve.kaplan.tag839

Myths of Organizing

April 4, 2012

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?

Imageworks Vancouver, Unions, and portability

April 2, 2012

We asked Steve Kaplan about organizing in Vancouver:

There is some kind of labor union in the Vancouver area isn’t there?
How does that affect the Imageworks people in Vancouver?

There is. IATSE Local 891. The contact is Dusty Kelly.

Office: (604) 664-8921

Artists in Vancouver interested in organizing should contact Dusty. There will have to be two contracts between Sony and the IA. One for the US and one for Canada. Local 891 will handle Canadian organization and contract negotiations.

What is the difference? Mostly national laws. There are distinct differences between Canadian and United States labor laws, health care concerns, pension contribution abilities and the like. Thus the need for two specific contracts. In both cases, the artists will still benefit from collective bargaining and the establishment of workplace conditions and standards they have a voice in creating.


Steve K

So we asked Dusty, and here is our conversation:

If Sony Imageworks Vancouver were to unionize, does that mean artists’ pensions and bank of hours would transfer over from the US?
What about Canadian union workers going back to the US?

Hi there, the answer to your question depends on a number of variables. In order to receive portable benefits through a union contract the facility that the artist is working at must be unionized, and an agreement to flow benefits in place. If the Los Angeles facility is unionized and the sister Vancouver one is not there would be no portability unless:


1)       the US artist or the Union on behalf of the artist has negotiated to work under the US union agreement while working at the sister facility in Canada


Each province of Canada retains jurisdiction over labour relations (except transportation, communications, marine, etc) unlike the US which has a national labor relations board. That means any facility in Vancouver (would have a British Columbia corporate identity to be eligible for tax credits) must be organized under British Columbia’s Labour Relations Code. The unionization of a sister facility in Los Angeles has no bearing on the facility in Vancouver from a legal stand point.


Another possibility is Sony would voluntary recognize the IATSE as the bargaining representative for the workers at the BC subsidiary, this in my opinion is a long shot. But if that occurred then benefits could be portable.


To summarize, “free flow” requires facilities be unionized under like union banner, coordinating to achieve this is crucial.  I am ready to be of assistance in this matter.

What can we do to make the coordination happen?

You need to find persons on the inside in the Vancouver facility who are on board and get them to contact me.


If LA were to agree to a union contract, but BC didn’t , is it too late at that point?

It is not too late if LA organized first, however successful concurrent campaigns would provide better leverage in negotiations.


If/when Imageworks Vancouver decided to unionize, what do they need to do to insure portability?
Would we need a clause in our CBA to allow for it?

Successful negotiations would include benefit contributions. These contributions are administered through separate trust plans with agreements for sister unions to provide portability or reciprocity, as do all the motion picture and commercial contracts in the US and Canada.

So all you YVR people, get in contact with Dusty!