Friday, July 8, 2011

Scott Squires comment

Scott's comment deserves its own blogpost: Scott: I disagree with you. The obstacle to union organizing is apathy. The typical worker is indifferent and unmotivated to seek change. There is an abundance of information out there; on your blog, Soldier's, Scott Ross, Joe Harkins, Dusty Kelly and Steve Kaplan. If the average worker wants information there's plenty of people they can contact and plenty of places where the information is readily available. The Local 839 website is excellent. But we need artists to stand up, and leaders to speak up. We can't do it without help. It's better to light a single candle, than to curse the darkness. Let's start lighting candles....


  1. Jimmy, I stay abreast of what is left of the conversation re. vfx organization. I was one of the artists who stood up, spoke up, risked her job and reputation - and then was turned off by IA and its "organizing" ways. I know that I am not alone. My personal experience may be different than other peoples in it's details but one aspect of our criticisms remains constant. You can badger vfx artists all you want for their apathy - let me return the insult by highlighting IA's amateurish (though I know the organization dates back to 1893) understanding of >> O.R.G.A.N.I.Z.I.N.G <<.

    Yes, amateurish and shallow. The extent to which IA is willing to "organize" is limited to informational meetings at the end of which representation cards are handed out with the expectation to file away dozens of signatures at a time. This interpretation of organizing is an insult to unions and the legacy of historic icons of labor movement as well as to IA's brighter and braver past.

    I resent the expectation that vfx artists should come informed with the understanding of the importance of unions and how they came to exist ready to put the pen to the representation card. Where is the need for organizing if that was the case? Or is it that IA wants to collect signatures and call *that* organizing?

    Perhaps it is time that IA looked *inward* into its own failings rather than blame everyone else around; and *around* at massively organized demonstrations in Greece and Spain and the Arab Spring and Wisconsin to learn and be inspired by; And *back in time* to the heyday of the labor movement.

    As I said sitting across the table from the head organizer of the IA local in my town - vfx artists won't line up to sign the rep cards unless you give them a reason to do so - and I don't mean the material benefits IA offers in exchange for membership dues. That is no different than offering an Insurance Policy: "For this value, you get those premium benefits".

    A few forward thinking individuals may understand the long term material advantages and that may be enough to for them to join, but if the expectation is for artists to "stand up", risk bullying and intimidation by their employer, as well as blacklisting - IA needs to evoke a deep emotional response, a sense of collective responsibility and passion among vfx workers. It has failed to do so and it has no one to blame for it but itself.

  2. Jimmy,

    You and the IA have got to realize the information is not there. You have to sell the union to people. You have to market it to people. You have to prove to them it's worth it to them and the industry. You have to get the message out.

    It's like a company complaining that people are not buying their product and blaming the potential customers. "Hey, we got a great product in this box. I can't explain the details but it's great. I don't understand why you're all not rushing to buy it."

    The vast majority of vfx people have never been in a union and have no idea what to expect. Their own frame of reference is likely a paragraph from a 6th grade history textbook. And what they're hearing now from a lot of people is it will be the nail in the coffin. Do you really think that people are going to jump in, sign on, and risk their lifeblood just because the union says 'don't worry about it'? People are certainly more likely to stick to their current situation rather than to risk jumping into the unknown.

    As you know there are a number of relatively young people in this business and a number of vfx companies do offer some form of benefits and offer reasonable pay. This is not an industry where most people are being woefully underpaid and having to work under terrible working conditions. That means it will take more effort to convince them you've got something better than they currently have.

    The closest you've come to providing information is your My dinner with Andre....... post which is a good starting point. As much as I and other's blog about the potential union, I can not provide the details and information. That's up to you. I'm trying to provide general information and perspective. It's up to you to provide the details and sell people on what you're selling.

    If the IA is serious then they should have a real website. If the animation guild is being used as a rough guide then that should be stated and links should be provided to all corresponding documents on the vfxunion site.

    You need to address the real issue of "will this drive vfx companies out of business?" What is the real cost to vfx companies? How does that compare to what vfx companies are paying for healthcare, etc. Assuming you're not planning to bankrupt the vfx companies (which is not the intent) then you also need to get information to the vfx companies that it will not put them out of business.

    Right now both vfx businesses and workers are concerned that this is the case and the IA has done nothing that I've seen to counter this.

    How will this be structured? You're asking people to sign up to something that's a bit nebulous since there's never been a vfx union and it's unclear what the final vision will be and how it compares to existing unions.

    Can people do multiple jobs? (a little compositing, a little roto, etc like they do now) How many hours are required to work to get health care? What happens after that time runs out? How does a shop stewart work? Who could or could not be covered by the union? Feature and television VFX artists only? Games? Developers? Support people? (coordinators, PA's, etc) There are still plenty of questions to be answered or clarified.

    If you can show the clear advantages of the union for workers AND show it won't cause the collapse of the vfx industry (and hopefully some advantage to the vfx companies) then you have a chance of taking this to the next level.


  3. There is a certain "you prove my point" to being told there's good info on the local's website but not providing a link to the info.

    Strikes as a certain half-assery many people think has been endemic to union attempts to organize. Regardless whether you think artists are apathetic or not, *you* have to sell better. Scott is dead on.

    I'm sure a real good website is coming real soon now....