IATSE VFX Organizing Effort One Year Later

This week one year ago the IATSE formerly announced an effort to organize VFX artists.

Long story short I believe The Animation Guild should have led the effort to organize VFX artists. They already represent a very large number of VFX artists and were better equipped to handle the process: Organizer Steve Kaplan was a former VFX artist, TAG has had a long running blog and website with all the information you need about joining.

I was asked for a comment which I wrote a while ago for Jeff Heusser. Here it is in it’s entirety:

Without a doubt the last year in organizing vfx workers has been disappointing. We are still seeing colleagues being misclassified as independent contractors and not being paid overtime appropriately.

Even those employed at the good facilities are hampered by the inability to obtain portable health and retirement benefits in a production environment where artists are expected to jump project to project, facility to facility.

These problems affect all kinds of workers in the industry. I met a veteran technical director who has a phd in computer science. The facility he works for does not offer health insurance coverage and because of his pre-existing condition, he is unable to get private health insurance.

Some of the attendees to the union meetings held by Jim Goodman were Oscar winners. In other words, no one is immune to these problems and it’s incredible that such a professional industry is hampered by what I would consider a 3rd world problem.

So one year ago the IATSE leadership responded to the vfx community’s needs with an organization effort. However they refused to conduct interviews to answer questions.

Not even an official website was approved to communicate what they could offer. IA Organizer Jim Goodman was limited to conducting group meetings over the year but with no way to spread word about what they officially were offering, the organization effort quickly fell dormant.

To Jim Goodman’s credit, he has started his own blog to speak about what the IA can offer but is it too late?

Perhaps, but while I can agree that the choice not to speak to the media is absurd as exemplified by a recent online townhall meeting conducted by Variety’s David S Cohen, I still strongly believe in the substance that they offer:

collective bargaining for portable health and retirement benefits and enforcement of labor law.

While I applaud the VES’s effort to advocate for these rights, their charter explicity prevents them from collective bargaining and therefore any ability to enforce any agreement on behalf of vfx professionals.

I know many question what the IA can offer but if you remember, Variety’s online townhall was conducted with VFX artist Joe Harkins on the panel. He was vehemently against unionization and even started a blog to advise fellow artists against organization.

While the IA leadership did not allow organizer Jim Goodman to attend the townhall, he was allowed to meet with Joe Harkins a few weeks later and now Mr. Harkins is an advocate for the unionization effort.

When the IA openly communicates with us, everyone wins. However, the IA leaderships’ failure to communicate with us has only led many to become suspicious:

Was the reason for their attempt to organize vfx to stifle the effort by the IBEW? Are they unsure whether they can offer benefits to us? Or is this all a misunderstanding and the IA is waiting to complete current on going negotiations with the studios?

This can all be answered by just communicating to us with a simple and official website or meeting with FXGuide’s Jeff Heusser.

Soldier On.

8 Responses to IATSE VFX Organizing Effort One Year Later

  1. rfk says:

    > Long story short I believe The Animation Guild should have led the effort to organize VFX artists.

    Hear hear.

    If you are a VFX artist that would like to be represented by them, fill out this card and mail it in.

    Click to access RepresentationCard.pdf

  2. +1 on TAG, Steve is doing a great Job and its wad to see the shackles that IATSE put on TAG. Makes you wonder why.

    I think we either need something big to happen, like a movie missing its delivery date, for IATSE to make a move. Its doubtful the new website that is commissioned and being build (According to Jimmy) will be a game changer. The VES course is great but I still feel their Charter is a shield. why could you not change its ruling principles do include organizing vfx artists? It looks like they care the most. IATSE put TAG on a leash and VES hides behind its own rule book. Joe Harkins VFX Foundation was reduced from labor organization to artist council and leaves a big open gap for the main leader to step in and declare its presence.

    Maybe we do need to create anew entity? Maybe we do need TAG to overstep their boundaries and go rogue just so something happens. Steve has the drive, the confidence, the heart and, as far as Im concerned, the trust of the artist to make this happen.


  3. mike says:

    No, it’s not too late… the time factor is absurd… but in the past year, as in the past decade, the movement to unionize has been primarily rhetoric. Every union effort has begun through strikes and picketing, which is how this effort will succeed. When pro-union vfx workers are willing to do that, we’ll have a union.


  4. The IATSE fully supports TAG (local 839) and has no “shackles” on Steve Kaplan’s organizing efforts. Steve and I meet frequently sharing information and strategy. When VFX artists want union representation, TAG, Cinematographers, Editors, Art Directors; and the other West Coast Studio Locals will fight like hell to protect workers. And whatever local artists choose to join (or even start a brand-new one) the IATSE will support and accommodate that choice. All we want is a unified group to stand together.
    Jimmy Goodman

  5. I dont want to this to sound accusing but has IATSE HQ not told TAG that they will do the organising? TAG had the artists the rep cards, disney, dreamworks yet somehow is not allowed to go through with their efforts?

  6. rfk says:

    TAG can act provided that they have the cards.

    • they have been told by IATSE International HQ to not act on their own even though they had reached more through TAG than IATSE did so far. its a powerstruggle that does not benefit artists!

  7. meh says:

    The Last Hurdle for Corporate Capitalism: Deunionizing America

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