Monday, June 16, 2008

Sit Down, Shut Up? Honestly... when it comes to my unions, I'm used to it.

So, yeah. There's this:

Writers take a stand over 'Sit Down'
Dispute highlights ongoing tension between unions

On Thursday, the writers for Sony Pictures TV's upcoming animated Fox series "Sit Down, Shut Up" walked off the show in pursuit of WGA representation.

The writers, who are members of the WGA, claimed that they were misled by Sony TV that they would be covered by the Writers Guild, while the studio had made arrangements with another union, IATSE.

The labor dispute highlights the ongoing tension between the two unions over jurisdiction in primetime animated series. The writers on all other animated Fox series, produced by 20th Century Fox TV, are represented by the WGA. (20th TV also co-produces "Sit Down," but Sony TV, which developed the comedy with studio-based writer Mitchell Hurwitz, is the lead production entity.)

Sony TV produces "Sit Down" through its animation division, Adelaide Prods.

Under IATSE, writers not only won't get new-media revenues and other terms the WGA negotiated with the studios during the strike, they also won't get paid residuals, a crucial safety net for scribes between jobs.


There's a bunch of other blah blah blah stuff in there - but it really boils down to this. The writers on this show are getting a taste of how little animation writers make under the IATSE contract. Or, to be fair, how little they make "in success." I'm sure their episodic rate was the same - it's the residuals and the back end that's lower than they're used to.

And by lower, I mean NONEXISTENT.

I'm torn here: Of course, I'm pulling for the writers, because in the end, all they're asking for is money "in success." But then, there's ambivalence, because I am not so foolish as to think it will affect anyone but these individual writers. Good for them, doesn't mean anything for the rest of us.

The WGA had a moment where they could have stood their ground for animation writers, and animation writing was one of the first things they folded on during the strike. No surprise, really. Animation writers (of my level, not of the Simpsons/Family Guy/King Of The Hill level) simply are not a large enough part of the WGA, and they weren't going to strike over us.

I get it.

Meanwhile, the same math works on IATSE. Non-writing union members call the shots. We're a small percentile (Steve? Got a number?) within the union that does represent us.

One doesn't want us. And one doesn't hear us. But they're both fighting loudly over us.

Thanks for the invite, guys, but I know you're only doing this to make the girl you love jealous. Call me when prom is over.

15 comments:

Marty said...

Here's the true irony. Sony already set up a WGA signatory animation company -- Appleton Productions (guess they like the letter "A") -- when the writers on Dilbert insisted on a WGA contract. And the sky didn't fall or anything. So it's not like they CAN'T do it.

Anonymous said...

UNIONS ARE OLD MAFIA BASED INSTITUTIONS, AND THEY ARE DESTROYING OUR CAREERS!!! AND, THIS INDUSTRY!!! WE AS TALENT, NEED TO PROTECT OUR REAL RIGHTS...THE ONE TO CREATE HOWEVER, FOR WHOMEVER WE WANT,,AT OUR OWN PRICE -DEAL. IT REQUIRES LEGAL CONTRACTS THAT REAL GOVERNMENT LAWS PROTECT. NOT UNIONS, WHO MAKE THESE DEALS FOR US, AT OUR EXPENSE SINCE THE 1930'S

Anonymous said...

ALL UNION CONTROLLED MONOPOLIES MUST GO!!! THINK FOR YOUR SELF!!! PROTECT YOUR REAL RIGHTS!!! THE RIGHT TO CONTROL YOUR CAREER TOTALLY!!!

Anonymous said...

You can unlock the Caps by pushing that middle button on the left.

Bitter Animator said...

Think for yourself? Do the studios/corporations/whatever think for themselves as individual people when doing deals? No, because that would make no sense. It's strength in numbers.

The individual versus giant worldwide corporation puts one side at a slight disadvantage (I'll let you guess which side).

So your divide and conquer attitude only reveals the writers themselves to be your enemy.

And, you know, that's not all that surprising because most writers probably give you a hard time about the Caps and the amount of exclamation marks you use and then call you an idiot.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say something impassioned, but that first guy used all the exclamation marks. It doesn't matter. These guys will end up getting their wga deal while the rest of us scramble for freelance to get hours so we don't have to pay 700$ for a doctor's visit.

PS: Any news from Steve Worth?

Kevin Koch said...

Meanwhile, the same math works on IATSE. Non-writing union members call the shots. We're a small percentile (Steve? Got a number?) within the union that does represent us.

I see why you're a writer, given these math skills. ;)

Four of 16 Animation Guild executive board members are writers or former writers. That's double the number of board artists, and double the number of animators on the board.

In the last 4 TAG CBA negotiations, there have always been 2-3 writers on the negotiating committee, and a couple of cycles ago virtually the entire committee was writers. No other TAG job classification has been so well represented on negotiating committees.

As far as overall TAG membership, about 8% are writers (it fluctuates of course). I've seen writers take this to imply that TAG is therefore 92% artists/animators. But as anyone who has bothered to learn what an entire crew on an animated production does will know, TAG membership is a pie chart made up of relatively thin slices.

TAG is a patchwork quilt of job titles, all with one thing in common -- making animation. Some are more technical than artistic, and many are creative without being artists. Quite a few can claim significant creative contributions to the final product.

Matt Wayne said...

As an 839 board member and a writer, let me add that I suspect the writers would rather be WGA, just because we would have a better pension plan, and very likely more money for the same work, and the sizable chunk of us who also write live action wouldn't be paying into two health funds and two pension funds.

And certainly our president wouldn't joke about stupid writers and their terrible math skills. I mean, being a physics major is impressive, but it's no reason to get shirty. I know that at least one writer has a masters degree in physics, and any number are lawyers, engineers and plain-old-folks who have access to calculators.

One 20-year veteran of both unions springs to mind whose math skills are so amazing that he can take his pension statements from the two unions, compare them side-by-side and complain about the thousands of dollars he's losing every month by having worked through 839.

Anonymous said...

One 20-year veteran of both unions springs to mind whose math skills are so amazing that he can take his pension statements from the two unions, compare them side-by-side and complain about the thousands of dollars he's losing every month by having worked through 839.

Guess what? I'm not going to defend the IA Pension. It was god-awful when I started, and it's been improved -- three decades on -- to mediocre.

But here's the question for the twenty-year vet:

If the WGA pension was/is superior, then why the hell were you working under an IA contract? Are you nuts?

(Here's my guess at the answer: It was the job he could get. Just like a WGA agreement that still excludes animation was the deal the Writers Guild could get.)

Steve said...

The issue here, is equity.

If animation writers were making WGA basic cable monies and WGA basic cable back end, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

We could be part of a guild, a union, a league or a superteam. I doubt we'd care.

There is no logical argument as to why those monies paid for services delivered should be different, other than the fact that they can be.

And the only reason they can be is because the union that negotiates animation contracts has other priorities than animation writers.

And why? Because we're 8% of the guild, and an even smaller percentage of IATSE.

Hmf. Maybe it is math based after all.

Steve said...

You're right. That writer took the job, and has to live with the money, residuals, and pension. They know it going into it. You get the deal you negotiate.

Still.

It's a little like the SAG/AFTRA thing. Two unions fighting to represent the workers for the same job - it only takes one union to be willing to take less money, pay less pension, serve out smaller residuals - and suddenly everybody's making a lot less.

It makes it even worse when you know you're doing the same job as someone else, and getting paid INFINITELY LESS.

Look at it this way:

If another Union came into animation - calling itself The 'Toon Squad - and could reasonably convince a studio they could produce Cartoons for less than TAG - guess who they'd want to be in business with? And if you wanted to work for them, guess who you'd have to work for?

Sure, SOME animators would still be TAG, and they'd be making more than you, and getting more dumped into their pension. But you? You'd be Toon Squad, and you'd like it.

Or you wouldn't. And it wouldn't matter.

That's where the resentment comes from.

Kevin Koch said...

Matt, it was a joke. I never called writers stupid. Please, this thin-skinned stuff doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

>>when you know you're doing the same job as someone else, and getting paid INFINITELY LESS.

then do more than just that one job. do several. there are plenty of positions on crews, animation or otherwise.

i have yet to meet a single successful person in entertainment that strives to only create under a single creative discipline. if you want more contributions to IATSE benefits, odds are that taking some art classes will help that a great deal. if you want more contributions under DGA, make personal inroads toward learning to direct. editing your thing, take some classes at the editors guild? but arguing that what you do creatively all must fall under the banner of a single guild is myopic, and quite frankly, career death in this town. yes, its not a neat and tidy retirement package, but we're not making cars here. and thank god.

writers act, actors write, animators write, directors produce, producers (unfortunately) direct.

sounds like you've already managed to pick up cards in several guilds already, so you've managed to develop talent in several areas. bully for you. keep going. if IATSE creative expansion with a pencil isn't in the cards for you, so be it. but there are very few jobs to be able to draw creatively and get paid. take advantage.

-serial interdisciplinarian

Steve Hulett said...

There is no logical argument as to why those monies paid for services delivered should be different, other than the fact that they can be.

Say what? Steve, you've already answered the argument yourself.

There's a completely logical argument: the work is organized under different contracts, at different rates and different terms and conditions. And sometimes work is performed under no contracts at all.

When Verrone works under a concessionary contract as on Class of 3000, is there a "logical argument" for this?

Abso-freaking-lutely. He works under the contract the Guild he heads up can get. He chooses to work under that contract. I've never heard him whine about it. I'm certainly not going to criticize him for doing it, because it's none of my business what terms he gets for his work.

For years and years, the WGAw disdained organizing animation writers. They had it in their master agreement that they weren't going to rep animation. They negotiated and agreed to that contract, and they now live with it. Still.

Here's the reality: The Animation Guild/IATSE would have a contract exactly like the Writers Guild contract if it had the leverage to get it. In 2000, we proposed WGA-style residuals and negotiated for nine months to get them, and failed, just as, six months ago, the WGA attempted to get a few words regarding animation jurisdiction removed from their contract and -- even with a 110 day strike -- failed.

Now, why is that? Were their hearts in the wrong place? (No). Were they calloused and indifferent? (Again no). Were they mere cats' paws for evil Corporate America? (A third time no).

They didn't have the leverage ... the oomph ... the muscle ... to get better.

How's that for a logical argument?

Steve Hulett said...

It's a little like the SAG/AFTRA thing. Two unions fighting to represent the workers for the same job - it only takes one union to be willing to take less money, pay less pension, serve out smaller residuals - and suddenly everybody's making a lot less.

Somewhat like the SAG/AFTRA thing. But let's look at SAG/AFTRA, since you bring it up.

Twice in the last ten years, AFTRA has tried to merge with SAG.

Twice.

And each time, SAG said NO. The Screen Actors Guild didn't want to sully itself. And "Actors First" or whatever it's called, and the various SAG dinosaurs, Heston among them, campaigned vigorously to kill the merger.

And they succeeded.

And now SAG is being rammed up its collective ass for its idiotic short-sightedness. Instead of having AFTRA inside the tent pissing out ("one union"), its outside the tent pissing in, allied with DGA and the horrid IATSE.

The IA and WGA are different. But in the case of SAG's current problem, they pretty much have only themselves to blame. Bad decisions often have bad consequences (see "Iraq, invasion of")