Friday, February 3, 2012


Republican/anti-union legislators in Indiana, after enacting a Right-to-Work law, were confronted by responses that such legislation will inevitably result in lower wages and lesser benefits for all employees in that state!

Legislators acknowledged that this is exactly their intent in passing such a law. Their reasoning is that, when Indiana workers get paid LESS than their counterparts in nearby states, Indiana employers will have an advantage in their respective industries.

Sound familiar?????

The race to the bottom accelerates!!!


The Easy Part

There is an obscure paragraph in the IATSE-Studio "Basic Agreement" that should give artists encouragement. If workers on the studio payroll sign an authorization card, the studio can either recognize the union immediately, or require an NLRB election. If (or should I say when?)the IATSE wins that election, then, according to the agreement, "Upon such recognition or designation as aforesaid, this Agreement (the Producer-IATSE and MPTAAC Basic Agreement)shall immediately become effective and operative with respect to such employees".

While we fully expect the six major studios to fuss and fume and delay and obstruct these proceedings, the bottom line is that if those of you who are on studio payrolls stand up for yourselves, the end result will be a union contract. With industry health and pension benefits.

And, when studio workers are covered, can those working at the independent facilities be far behind???

Come on guys, let's get moving!!!!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Side by side

Recently, I was contacted by an artist. He's currently working in Culver City; and will receive benefits from the IATSE's health and welfare fund, and industry pension plan. He's on an animation project, I suspect. but when he works live-action (same building, same desk, same computer) he's not covered.

This facility voted on union representation once upon a time. And the vote came out against such representation. Life seldom gives us a second chance. but, this time we have that chance. and from what I hear the outcome might be different this time.

I say we go for it!!!!

What do you say???


Friday, January 20, 2012

Sub-Chapter S Corp

Recently, a TAG member expressed the concern that if Visual Effects were unionized, he would no longer be allowed to utilize his sub-chapter S Corp. Or a loan-out.

That's simply not the case.

As a studio business affairs for attorney for thirty years, I drafted hundreds of contracts for Directors, Writers, Actors, Producers, Directors of Photography, Production Designers and other IATSE represented employees which allowed those individuals to be paid, by the Studio, through their corporation.
The principal benefit is to allow the individual to set up their own pension plan and contribute tax-deductible money to it. The good news is that the money earned is not taxed until withdrawn from the pension account. The bad news is that you can't touch the money (without penalty) until you're 59 1/2. Another benefit is the ability to deduct "business expenses" more easily. That new HD tv-set, your cable bill, travel and entertainment, may be easier to deduct.
But, there's nothing in any union contract which limits your use of the corporation.

Okay, what's your next excuse for not joining???


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Workers at Cablevision in New York are in the final stages of an organizing drive to select the Communication Workers of America as their union representative. This, after workers realized that they are paid substantially less than their counterparts at other cable companies in the New York area. Management is responding with "captive audience" meetings, where workers are required to attend company meetings where anti-union propaganda is distributed.
The most powerful arguments are that, if workers vote to be represented, they will have to "obey" union bosses!!
Frankly, I've heard similar concerns here in LA about visual effects. Such concerns overlook one critical point: YOU are the union!!! You elect officers and leaders. You hire a business representative. And, maybe an attorney. The union is a democracy, with frequent elections monitored by the Dept of Labor. You call all the shots. If you think a strike is a bad idea, there won't be a strike. If you want the union to negotiate to reduce or eliminate outsourcing, you can do that.
We're hearing, through LinkedIn, that there is a slight upswell in interest. We're here to answer questions and lend our support. In whatever form that might take. We think visual effects should have their own local union with local autonomy and control. We'd provide logistical support. But, we're not the "Union Bosses" that your employer wants you to believe would control your life. Let us lend you a hand.....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Neighbor

My neighbor is a set decorator. Member of IATSE Local 44. She's pretty busy these days. She's recently completely renovated her Quincy Jones (the architect, not the musician) home, which is now worth in excess of a million dollars. She's traveling over the Christmas holidays, and starting a picture in mid-January. She has health insurance. And a pension plan. Paid holidays. You get the picture.
She knows that Sherlock Holmes was not shot in the US. And that tons of movies get shot in foreign countries. And that Canada is handing out tax subsidy money to lure production. As is Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, and New York City.
But she's doing just fine these days.
Thank you very much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

VFX Spring

Spring has arrived a little bit early in the VFX community. Scott Ross posted an article about formation of an employer trade association and it has ignited a lively discussion on Linked In. Check it out at VFX Foundation.

Two threads are proceeding simultaneously: one about formation of an employer trade association, the second about establishment of a union to seek representation of vfx artists. Perhaps, the two are intertwined, perhaps not.

I like to think that those employers that agree to provide modest benefits and fair treatment to artists will actually enjoy a recruiting advantage in hiring the cream of the crop in the artist community. And the IATSE is astute enough that we won't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Or, in this case, the ceramic (low-cost-version) egg. Medical benefits can be had for as little at $2 per hour. A cost that artists would undoubtedly be willing to absorb, if their employer needed a little nudge in the right direction.

but, so long as we eventually establish a level playing field for the vast majority of employers, we're confident unionization will not exacerbate runaway production: there will still be a demand for the highly skilled artists, and the advantage that only comes from having the effects created in close proximity to where principal photography takes place. Yup. some filmmakers actually like to have their effects done nearby!!!

one of these days, the employers will realize that modest worker benefits stabilize the workforce, encourage career development, retain high quality artists, and allow for cooperation among competing companies. one can look to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, where the major studios work together to solve industry problems and then go out and compete like cats and dogs to increase their profitability and market share.

It's a great country, isn't it????