oops. that's an old classic film. i meant, of course, my dinner with Joe Harkins.
first of all let me note that the people-watching on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills was pretty cool. Said hello to Frank McCourt (still the owner of the Dodgers, for the time being) as he walked by. Lots of Ferraris, Lamborghini's and Tesla's driving by too. But, I digress.
Joe had sent me some questions and I promised him I'd post my answers. Here goes:
1. What's taking so long? It's been a year already!"
Well, I started on November 1, 2010. We had meetings at bars, pizza parlors and on the beach. I baked chocolate chip cookies. We had over 400 union authorization cards signed. But the signers wanted us to build a website; we still don't have that site up and running and dedicated to the visual effects campaign. I know i've promised that it's on the way, but that's really not good enough. We have to do better. I started this blog a month ago. It's a start. But, it's just a start. We need to communicate more effectively. And, while we've been invited to participate in Daily Variety chats, we've declined to do so. The press has not been very generous or kind with us in the past, and we're a little bit spooked. But, I believe we have to get over that and get out and talk to the people. We'll just have to take our chances with the fourth estate!
When we hit 400 cards, we hit a brick wall. Attendance at meetings flattened. The silent majority went........well, silent. We simply haven't heard from, or connected with the vast majority of the industry. And, for this to happen, we have to have a majority of workers at each and every company step out of the shadows, sign a card, vote for us, and let their employer know they support a union. Any union!! We'll continue to reach out. It's what we do.
2. What would "scale" be??
When we negotiate with an employer, we get a wage survey of every worker. Initially, we would expect minimum rates to go up very little. That's not what this is about. Eventually, we'll find one or two employers paying substantially less than everyone else, and we'll push them to increase their minimum rates. Finally, we'll put into place standardized rates to protect workers from predators. Overscale will continue as an industry-wide practice. More important, paying on a 1099, as an "independent contractor", will be prohibited.
3. What local would we join?
Whatever one you want to!!! Local 839/Animation Guild. If you like. Local600/Camera, if you prefere. Local 700/Editors, if you consider yourself an editor. Local 800/Production Designers/Art Directors. Especially if you work in previz. Or, if you prefer, we will establish a special visual effects local.
4. Health benefits?
If you work for a Major Studio, we expect to cover you in the "industry plan". contributions are currently about $5 per hour. The employee does not make a monthly payment, but this is under attack and we are aware that this is unusual, even in the motion picture industry. If you work at a facility, or staff workers get medical insurance, we will match or improve your current coverage at little or no increase in cost to your employer.
We'll get the most benefits we can squeeze without bankrupting the industry.
5. Would we proceed one company at a time, or on an industry-wide basis?
Answer: the law allows companies to insist on negotiating one at a time. We expect they will insist on this, unless and until they determine that they would be stronger working together.
6. Union dues?
These run from $400 to $800 per year. If we set up a separate local, that local would determine its own dues based on what they need to hire professional staff and administrative costs.
7. Would we unionized India or China?
8. If we unionize an LA facility, would the contract cover out-of-state or foreign affiliated companies?
That's a start. Send me more questions: please.....
I'm looking forward to my dinner with Scott Ross.