It’s been a pretty busy news cycle this month. Middle East dictators dropping like flies and union employees protesting in droves in Wisconsin.
I’m compelled to write how in each event a line in the sand was crossed to the point where people finally just said “enough.”
For the Middle East it was a young street vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire after years of harassment and humiliation from police.
For the citizens of Wisconsin, it was after the governor ordered collective bargaining rights stripped even after the unions agreed to the huge concessions he asked for. This is in spite of the fact that the most expensive unions, the ones that represent police and firefighters, were exempt from such orders after being the only labor groups to support the governor’s election campaign.
Where’s Our Line In The Sand?
My nerves get rattled over drastic events in the VFX industry. Each time I wonder: Is this going to be enough? Was it going to be Stranhan’s article? Was it going to be the numerous facility closures? Or would it be specific events? Would it be the firing of a woman at LucasFilm because of her pregnancy? What about the collusion between Pixar and ILM?
In the end nothing. The slog just continued.
Look, the truth is I know when VFX workers will have had enough: When the freight train is seconds away from hitting them.
It’s human nature. We procrastinate and put problems off until they grow so large that it’s unavoidable to deal with. I’m not at all comparing the plight of Middle East citizens to our plight but it wasn’t like things turned on them overnight. It was a slow progression of decades and decades of concessions being made.
Oh you’re okay with being misclassified as an independent contractor and paying our company’s share of payroll taxes? Perfect, then you would probably enjoy paying for payroll services too with an MBO!
Oh you’re okay with working unpaid OT? Perfect, we’ll standardize that.
Oh you don’t put money into that 401k we match? Perfect, we’ll get rid of it.
Oh you don’t need health insurance? Perfect, we’ll make sure to remember that when you start asking for it when you have a family.
The Line In The Sand Is Being Crossed All The Time
Scott Squires is back to blogging again and his post on unionization is a good one:
You think you’re paid well but try paying $12-24,000 after taxes to just cover health insurance? What happens if the unexpected happens? You’re hosed. A percentage of those people who had their home foreclosed or living on the street? Bankruptcy due to illness and medical.
Here’s a 3 time oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor who writes a bit about the huge costs of health insurance. You’d think he’s so rich and successful that he can afford to buy his own right? You’d be surprised to hear that he’s not alone.
I’ve heard and seen other former oscar nominees and winners who have been in attendance at some of the IATSE meetings. You think you’ve got a better plan than these artists? These are people who made it to the top. Even they need health insurance for their families. By the way, even CEOs are having trouble getting health insurance on their own!
TAG Business Rep Steve Hulett has a post on what is becoming the failure of US experiment in retirement privatization. He points out what the union has been able to do to help VFX artists who have been a members for around 20 years:
* Our TAG vet is getting $1500 per month in MPIPHP monthly pension.
* Our TAG vet has stashed $100K in the 401(k) Plan and has $95K in the IAP (MPIPHP’s Individual Account Plan.)
So What’s The Line In The Sand For You?
What would it finally take for you to do something? Not just complain, but actually do something to fix this problem. So many of us are used to solving problems on our own and feel paralyzed by the obvious solution: Relying on each other.
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?