The other day I get an email from a VFX artist that goes something like this:
I’m working at a VFX facility that pays on a net 90 with no overtime at all. I worked at another facility that also doesn’t pay overtime and forces me to go through an Employer of Record called Yurcor that takes a % of my income.
How is any of this legal??
I then get an email from another VFX artist concerned about some legislation proposed in congress that could be used to end overtime:
A bill recently introduced in Congress would greatly expand the exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act for IT employees, ending overtime benefits for many more types of workers, including network, database and security specialists.
I’m not a lawyer but TAG organizer Steve Kaplan has had a great overview of the illegal use of EORs. He is helping organize a class action lawsuit.
As far as the overtime law is concerned, I doubt the outcome really matters for VFX artists in California. Why? Because the law was already passed in California 4 years ago:
Earlier this month, Steve Hulett blogged about AB 10, the bill passed by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger that strips overtime protection from high-tech workers, including many non-union CG artists and technicians.
But does it matter? As Steve Hulett correctly (and sarcastically) points out:
The above applies, of course, only to those who have been saved from the corruption and tyranny of paying union dues and working under the iron fist of a big, bad labor organization and its oppressive contract.
In other words, the government and corporations can pass whatever the hell they want, the union will create a contract that mandates overtime. So why didn’t the big non-union VFX facilities stop paying OT when this bill was past?
My analysis is that VFX artists working at Sony, R+H, and Digital Domain indirectly benefit from TAG’s representation of a large number of VFX artists at Disney and Dreamworks. The minute those non-union facilities refuse to pay OT or pull the EOR bullshit rep cards would be signed overnight.
That’s sort of why I cynically support these pieces of legislation. It would only serve as a catalyst for uniting VFX workers. Those smaller Californian facilities that continue the practice of no OT, EORs, and withholding payment for no less than 90 days are playing a very risky game.
However, if victims of these crimes refuse to stand up because of fear then this practice will grow and continue. I can understand the fear but this is why I continue to advocate for a union. They can be the convenient “bad guys” in this. They can use the collective leverage of the VFX workers to prevent the bad practices and encourage employers to make the right choice.
While were busy debating whether Andy Serkis should win an oscar, laws like these will continue to fly right under our radar.