Jimmy Goodman IATSE Meeting Statement.

Entertainment lawyer and IATSE organizer Jimmy Goodman sent out an email about this Sunday’s meetings:

We find ourselves at a crossroads.
We’ve had great attendance at the individual company meetings which we’ve held around town.  A core group of interested and enthusiastic people have signed authorization cards and indicated a willingness to carry the message back to their co-workers.  We’ve even reached majority status at one company.
On the other hand, we’ve been taken aback by the negative tone of an article in Daily Variety, and humbled by an article in the LA Times chronicling difficult if not impossible business conditions in our industry.  And, bloggers have made it clear to us that we need to update our communication techniques to reach a broader base.  We hear you, loud and clear!!
I promise.  A website is coming.  And more open access to information.
So, we hope you’ll attend our picnic this Sunday at the beach in Santa Monica.   We’ll be at the intersection of Ocean Park and Barnard Way.  Actually, we’ll be on the grass, at the picnic tables, about 100 yards north of Ocean Park.  We really hope to see a lot of you.
Please come prepared to ask some hard questions, and to tell us what is important to YOU.  Where do you want us to go?  What information are you still seeking?  How can we best communicate with you.  And, how do we reach out to your co-workers who are too shy, too busy, and not inclined to venture out to attend a “union meeting”.  We need the support of the entire community.  And we really need your input.
Tell us how you feel.  Really. And let’s get this moving into the twenty first century.
Artists, the ball is in your court.
Soldier On.

24 Responses to Jimmy Goodman IATSE Meeting Statement.

  1. n says:

    Jimmy, maybe not inviting VFX artists into the middle of a turf battle between the IA and the IBEW would be a good idea.

    • Jimmy Goodman says:

      i’d be happy to point out the differences between the IATSE and the IBEW. but we agree on one key point, you deserve better treatment, and we’re eager to do what we can to help you achieve that goal.

  2. skaplan839 says:

    Turf battle? What you see as a battle, I see as options. What you perceive as an impeding fight, I see as multiple choices for artists.

    Tell me N, where have you seen the IATSE and IBEW lock horns over this? You couldn’t have, because there is no fight.

    There are two organization vying to represent visual effects artists in a collectively bargained contract with employers. Artists can now attend meetings and decide whom they think is better suited to represent them in contract negotiations with their employers. Compare that to a year ago, and I’d say the organization effort has come quite a long way.

    Please, refrain from the FUD statements.

    Steve Kaplan
    Labor Organizer
    The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE

  3. anon says:

    I really don’t think Vancouver needs a union to be honest. What we need to do is scrap the High Tech Pro laws that vfx studios are using to cheat us out of overtime pay.

    I don’t mind the long hours and I’m smart enough to put away my own money into RRSPs for retirement and I’ve done my research to find proper health care at a reasonable price.

    I don’t want a union representing me. It’s going to drive work away from Vancouver if the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit as well. And it’s going to force me to travel away from my family to find work.

    I’m also not convinced a labour union is the best to represent visual effects artists anyway.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I think these are valid concerns.

      However, having union representation implies that it will be too costly to keep work in Vancouver. Doesn’t that also mean that changing OT laws so you get paid for it imply the same?

      I’m not sure how Canadian law works but we have misclassificiation of vfx artists as independent contractors. It’s illegal and for all the work I and others done, we can’t stop it. In fact one facility owner boasted on my blog that it was actually good for the workers.

      What I’m trying to say is that even the law isn’t enough at times. It’s leverage. The best way to get leverage is together.

  4. Rolling Red says:

    Anon 1:40pm,
    I see it differently. I have dedicated much time to learning about what local891 has to offer in Vancouver. And why? Simply because no one else steps up to the plate. There is much talk about “options” when in reality there are none. There is no independently formed vfx guild, and no other locals have come forward.

    I’ll take up what’s on the table unless someone shows me a better thing. I am tired of hypotheticals and empty bravado. Since you are smart enough as you say to take care of your RRSPs and proper healthcare, let’s see you now repeal the High Tech Provision all on your own.

    A union empowered by it’s members is precisely the organization that has the legal savvy, resources an political clout to accomplish just that. If I have a choice between you-Anon or
    Local891, hell I know where I’ll be placing my bet.

    Local891 is holding a meeting this Sunday and will be answering questions including such as on te topic of High Tech Provision and what can be done as well as why work will not suddenly leave Vancouver and more.

    I think everyone is entitled to hear the answers first hand, including you Anon.

  5. Anon 140 says:

    Another problem I have with the union is that it’s going to be based on seniority not quality of work.
    A senior with no real talent (and I know a few of those) are going to get paid the same as real talented artists for worse quality work.

    That’s going to cause resentment and it’s going to be a rip off for companies.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Do you have a source for that information or was it just something you heard?

      Could you clarify how joining a union would make companies go away while getting paid OT will not?

      • Anon 140 says:

        My dad used to work a union job (not in film, but I’d imagine the guide lines for labour laws are the same) Wages were determined based on how long you’d been working. Not how quickly or efficiently or well you were able to finish a task.
        VFX, as you know, is all about the skill level of the artist and how quickly, efficiently and well they can do a shot.
        I know a guy with 3 years more experience than me and he can’t roto or paint worth beans and didn’t know how to degrain a plate. And he’s going to get paid more than me because he’s got 3 years more experience?

        The only sources for pros and cons I can find for unions right now are for labour such as construction.

        As for the work going away, I don’t think it would if the VFX industry unionized WORLD WIDE. (Unless there’s some kind of outer space studio offering awesome effects for cheap) There are variables such as tax breaks though. I’m not sure what the tax breaks are in the UK or LA. (fill me in?)

        EX: If Vancouver unionizes before LA or before the UK, production companies know that they’re going to have to deal with real employment laws (in Vancouver there’s a loop hole in the law call High Tech Professional which waives the employers obligation to pay overtime and offer meal breaks. If you’ve got an email address I can send you pdf and government websites.) For the most part a lot of studios here don’t pay overtime until after 10 or 12 hours a day if at all. They also don’t pay double time after 12 hours.

        Now unionization would mean that we might get that money if the HTP section is scrapped. Which is great, I like OT pay and I like meal breaks.

        But the bad part is that (if it’s not unionized world wide) it’s going to add up especially for larger companies with a lot of sr. artists. And it’s either going to cost the VFX company money (thanks fixed bid). Or, the production companies aren’t going to want to pay the overtime fees and they’ll go somewhere where it’s not unionized and they can pay less. And I’ll be honest, I don’t want to work in LA and I don’t want to deal with work visas.

        Anyway… I’m on the fence about the union. I’m seeing some good and some bad things about it, but I’m just not sure if the good does outweigh the bad. I, like many others, still have a lot of research to do.

    • Skitten says:

      Senoriy rules are the some of the ugliest aspect of unions, and it would be great if the reps could make some clear, unambiguous statements about this so we can put this to rest.

    • Marcus says:

      I can only speak for TAG in that there is no such thing as seniority. It would be an odd concept for VFX and from what has been said from all sides in the past months, nothing like it is even remotely on the table. The union has no say in your salary nor what position you are hired for.

      Only the Minimums (wage as well as vacation) are dictated, which are not terribly high – so the less business-savy artists are at least saved from getting ripped off.

    • Winston Smith says:

      Go to TAG’s website.


      Review the CBA’s (Collective Bargaining Agreements).

      Please report back and post links if you find any mention of seniority requirements or wage caps/maximums.

      Don’t just rely on second hand information and rumors. If you have any questions about something, ASK QUESTIONS and DEMAND that the responder cite their sources of information so that YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE SOURCE FOR YOURSELF.

    • Vfxartist says:

      Anon wrote:

      “Another problem I have with the union is that it’s going to be based on seniority not quality of work.
      A senior with no real talent (and I know a few of those) are going to get paid the same as real talented artists for worse quality work.

      That’s going to cause resentment and it’s going to be a rip off for companies.”

      I can say from first hand experience that what you state, right now, happens in vfx shops now that aren’t unionize. I don’t know what your personal experiences with unions are. I have worked over 8 years under, 839 rep for animation, and the balace if my over two decades of experience as 1099, w2, salaried, hourly as well as working from home and invoicing. I can say from first hand experience that what you state has nothing to do with unions.

      The union, using 839’s contract as an example, has no say on who stays on or gets fired. Being part of 839 didn’t prevent me from getting fired from the animation studio I worked at. Nor did it stop the same studio from hiring younger talent to “replace” me.

      Your statement is unfounded, contains no truth relating to animation collective bargaining, and appears to be more of a destraction than anything.

  6. Rolling Red says:

    Please come to the vancouver meeting at the Shebeen at noon his Sunday. Let’s shake hands. I’d like to meet you since we are both stomping the same ground. We both agree that things aren’t in order in vfx industry in our city. The question of seniority is sadly another myth. I understand that people want to make up their own minds, as we all should, but let’s do it while having the benefit of direct information and not second party hearsay. We owe it to ourselves to be honest and promote real information based on real understanding. In Vancouver as in LA I imagine, the two camps are divided not by pro and anti union stance but by those who care and want change as opposed to those who don’t care and are alright wih thigs as they are. We are, as I see it on the same side. Let’s find the appropriate solution through dialogue and democratic action. In solidarity.

  7. majik says:

    I have been reading the posts and the comments about the current crop of stories and have waited before wading in with my two cents.

    As an artist with nearly a dozen years in the business, all as staff, I feel I can add a different perspective to the discussion.

    1. Anon, please read the BC Labour Laws, thoroughly. Section 37.8 discusses ‘high technology professionals’. You would have a very hard time in court proving that this in anyway covers visual effects artists, it’s remit is in the science and technology field, particularly in the design and research of potentially lucrative products, materials or processes. If your employer is using this to deny you OT then they are conning you and breaking the law. This leads me on to…

    2. Nobody is going to look out for yourself except you. It is up to each artist to decide what is good for them but they should be at least making an ‘informed’ decision. Education is the key. None of the information pertaining to labour laws, worker rights etc. is hidden away on some cryptic government website. It is there on the web, easily searchable and written in clear concise language. These are your rights and every employer must abide by them, no ‘if’s, ands, or buts’.

    3. Know your worth, both in relation to time and money. Sure they might pay you OT and then DT, but who really wants to work 16 hours, 6 days a week? What do you value you more, your time or money?

    4. Some blame has to go the artists themselves, I’m sorry but it’s true. It takes two to tango and if employees weren’t so eager to please and willing to be abused then we would not be in such a mess that we are in now. Sometimes you have to say no. No, yes I said it, No! If the demand is unreasonable then you have every right to say no, the laws are there to protect, we don’t live in Edwardian times.

    However too many artists cower at the high altar of vfx, feeling blessed that they even have a job, folk like that just lack self-respect. Be willing to turn down work if the conditions aren’t right, having self respect and a good sense of self-worth will stand you far better in the long-run.

    If you are not willing to be out of work then you should not be freelancing. Job security and steady pay are not a fact of life for anybody involved in the film industry, be they electricians, camera operators, carpenters, location managers, writers or even actors for that matter. I know, I came from that background. What these people do have though are portable benefits and pensions which dovetails nicely into…….

    5. The unions. They are just another workplace choice that has to be taken by the employee. Hopefully all those who decide for or against a union in their workplace are making an informed and educated choice, immune to the fear-mongering and rhetoric prevalent on BOTH sides.

    Unions may benefit most to some degree. Some employees won’t notice a difference, some will find their conditions improve, however what unions won’t be is a cure-all band-aid for the industry. Real change can only begin with the artist themselves.

    • Eric says:

      I concur. I have never had a problem negotiating my own salary and hours. I have said “NO” plenty of times and I wont take a job below a certain pay scale based on my experience and what I perceive as my worth. Too many artists have no self-worth, or at least an idea of self-worth. I have worked for 12 years as a compositor and now as a VFX supervisor and I refuse to go backwards in my career by accepting below what I worked so hard to achieve. I just wish that my fellow colleagues would feel the same way.

  8. Truth says:

    The reason that the VFX artist is suffering is because the VFX houses make no money. The reason why VFX goes off shore is because of subsidies. The VFX houses in CA open off shore offices so that they can compete. though they still do not make any money. The motion picture studios are making lots of money. The VFX houses in the UK are making money because of subsidies. Those subsidies are not here to stay. The UK shops are opening offices off shore. Those offices will also not make any money. The motion picture studios keep making a lot of money. The VFX artist keeps suffering.

    The Unions want the VFX shops to be signatures, to protect the VFX workers. The Union will offer better benefits. The better benefits will cost more money. The VFX studios don’t have the money. The motion picture studios want less expensive work. The motion picture studios take their work overseas to get the work for less. The motion picture studios make even more money. The VFX artist still suffers. The Unions fight for the rights of the workers. The workers pay Union dues. The Unions want better benefits and pay for the workers. The VFX studios continue to lose money, more EFX shops close. The motion picture studios want work for less, make more money and take their work overseas.

    The Unions get enough signatures of the VFX artists because the workers are taken advantage of. The US Unions put contracts together with the American VFX studios. The benefits cost more money. The motion picture studios want to take even more work off shore because costs in the US are rising. The motion picture studio wants even lower prices so that they can make even more money. The US VFX studios close…. the work goes to India, China etc. The US VFX artist no longer works.

    Fact or fiction.

    • Paul says:

      Truth writes: “Fact or Fiction”

      Rarely is anything in life so black or white, binary if you will. So I’ll provide a set of responses.

      A. Fact
      B. Fiction
      C. FUD

      I’m going with C.

  9. space says:

    I am still not sure where I stand on this matter, mainly because I am uninformed. I am a member of the VES and I have been working in VFX for 10 years, and have been a VFX Super for the past 7 years. I have been fortunate with my salary negotiations and job security thus far. Also, I work for a major studio.

    I was told by a colleague that creating a union would mean that we all would have to start from scratch and become “journeymen” and receive the pay scale of a “journeymen” or base scale. And then have to work our way back up to what our current salaries are now. It sounded crazy to me at the time, but I had no information to argue with him. And just the thought was enough to put fear in my stance on the matter.

    Is that even a possibility? Or would I still be able to negotiate my current rates? I would assume that pay scales would really help those starting out and would not negatively affect others. I’m sorry if these are dumb questions, but I really just have no idea and I would like to make educated decisions about the issue.

    Thanks in advance.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Thanks for the question. You should email Jim Goodman or Steve Kaplan but I think it’s pretty obvious that your colleague isn’t correct.

      There are plenty of VFX Supervisors who made the jump to union facilities like Disney and DreamWorks. If it were true they has to “start from scratch” I doubt they would have left to take the job. You can check the Animation Guild website and see that their contract and wage minimums are exactly that: minimums. Its specifically says there is nothing in the contract that can be used to prevent you from getting a better deal.

      These are not dumb questions at all. Whats funny is that facilities that are unionized use the minimums to say “sorry your union says this is how much we can pay you”. It’s a dirty trick of course but if we are all educated about the facts we would be better for it.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Good afternoon space,

      I can back up Soldier’s statement by saying that the IATSE would never force a reclassification on to a member or soon-to-be-member that would result in a lowering of pay or seniority. In fact, there is a clause in our contracts that states:

      The rates of pay now being received by any employee shall not be decreased by reason of the execution of this Agreement.

      Also of note, the IATSE would be facilitating the organization of visual effects studios. By that, I mean that we would use current contracts and the experience of countless negotiations to set minimums and contractual stipulations regarding employment. We would be involving the artists affected by the contract at every opportunity. That includes asking for acceptance of all contract stipulations before they are ratified on our part. At no time would we be negotiating for a contract stipulation that would be of detriment to the artists. And, if there was a stipulation of question, the artists would have the opportunity to vote to modify or strike it from any contract in discussions.

      Does that help?

      Steve Kaplan
      Labor Organizer
      The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE

  10. Anonymous says:

    The IATSE emails haven’t been working. Here’s a letter I intended to send to Jim Goodman that I hope can be discussed civilly here:

    Hello Mr. Goodman,

    My question for IATSE which probably is something that should be brought up if it hasn’t been brought up is how will unemployed VFX workers (quite a few these days) become a part of or benefit from IATSE representation? Will there be the stipulation that in order to become an IATSE member another member MUST vouch for you? To be completely honest I’ve found that policy to be the single most restrictive/oppressive force against hiring of qualified people in all of cinema. I’ve overheard and talked to a couple of IATSE members, for cinema, that were grips, drivers etc. that had their membership vouched for by friends or family members and they walked into a good paying IATSE supported cinema job having a high school diploma. On the other hand I know scores of people that finished four year degrees for film production that would have killed to have any kind of decent paying job in cinema vs. working at the Cheesecake factory, the Melting Pot, McDonald’s etc but they had no option to work in the industry because they couldn’t be “Grandfathered in” to the industry and they weren’t an IATSE member’s brother, cousin, aunt, nephew, niece, girlfriend, boyfriend, mistress etc.

    With VFX being an even more University education specialized trade broken down into many speciality areas and knowing how IATSE operates in other areas, regarding their membership policies it doesn’t really give me much hope for the kind of fairness and justice unions are intended to bring about.

    I think it’s important enough to even post a part of an article that was written that described the general “culture” of some unions that has existed since the beginning of unionized work and still exists.

    “Insidious discrimination has flourished in the union hiring halls. Unions in the construction industry have been granted special privileges under the labor laws to operate exclusive hiring halls and referral arrangements to supply labor on construction projects. The hiring-hall arrangements in building trades labor agreements limit employers to hiring individuals referred by the union. Unfortunately, discrimination prevents many minorities from ever becoming union members in the first place, which deprives them of training in apprenticeship programs and, ultimately, of jobs.”

    -Robert P. Hunter

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