Is It Over For Overtime?

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.

Soldier On.

9 Responses to Is It Over For Overtime?

  1. Steve Hulett says:

    Let me say this: The Democratic Party is corrupt, also incompetent. Also a little bit in thrall to Our Corporate Masters.

    The Republican Party, however, lives in the large intestine of corporate America, and doesn’t give two sh*ts about people who have to earn a paycheck or meet a monthly mortgage. You work eighty hours a week? Too fucking bad. The party’s only concern is servicing the wonderful folks who finance its congress persons’ re-elections.

    It used to amaze me that people vote in direct contradiction to their own economic self-interest, but there is a wide, libertarian streak in the souls of many of us. We don’t want government on our backs, so the people who tub thump for “smaller, less intrustive government,” (even as they pass laws to eliminate women’s reproductive protections, labor rights and overtime laws), get a lot of our ballots.

    So it goes.

    I’ve been down in the union arena a long time. I’ve seen non-union employees behave like a union by taking collective action when abuses get out of hand, but it’s tough to do if there isn’t wider support. L.A. visual effects workers, bad as they sometimes have it, still enjoy a higher wage base than vfx employees in other cities and states, because there is more unionization here. (Pixar animators make less money than their Disney counterparts for a REASON. Ed Catmull is only as benevolent as he has to be.)

    Which takes me to my last point: There is no “fair.” There is no “just.” There is only what you have the ability to get through the leverage you can exert. And always remember that you create your leverage in two ways: 1) Through your own skills, talent and work ethic, and 2) Through the work environment and political community you make with others.

  2. k says:

    I’m working at a VFX facility that pays on a net 90 with no overtime at all.

    I’m not sure I understand this. Is the ‘net 90’ refer to hours, or pay?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      It refers to the number of days they can withhold payment. I’ve found it’s usually 30. The excuse is that because the client holds the facility to a net 90, the facility needs to do the same for its employees.

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Paul says:

    “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.”

    What pays $90/hour?! And where?!

    • Paul says:

      I’m answering “k” by the way.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Have you heard of a show called reading rainbow? I’d recommend it.

    • k says:

      Thanks for the answer, VFX Soldier. Paul, I thought it might mean either $90k net income a year with unlimited OT or, god forbid, 90 hours a week (which happens at some places all too regularly). Neither really made sense, hence my question.

      I’ve been lucky enough to never work at a place that follows this practice, and I’d refuse the work if that’s what they offered (I always ask what the payroll schedule is before agreeing to the deal memo). When I get a daily rate, I also ask what the usual work hours are, and how likely significant OT beyond the usual 9-10 hours/day will be. Again, I don’t take the job if I don’t like the answer.

  4. rss says:

    Protip: You can avoid working at no-OT and net90 shops by asking them during the interview if they’re such a shop, then politely ending the interview if they are.

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