Animation Guild Membership At 25 Year High

Animation Guild membership over the last 25 years

So the usual argument you hear goes something like this:

If we unionize the work will eventually all go away.

I always wondered if that was actually true. Last week The Animation Guild’s Jeff Massie posted some stats on current membership numbers. I asked if he could post stats on total membership as far back as possible.

Mr. Massie kindly compiled those stats going back 25 years and posted it in a graph on TAG’s blog. I’ve copied it and posted it above.

What it shows is that TAG membership is at a 25 year high with just under 2,700 professional members: That’s a growth of more than 200% over 25 years.

If you were to subscribe to the argument above, combined with the over 10 years of outsourcing to India/China, along with one of the biggest recessions in the last 50 years, AND the closure of ImageMovers Digital, you would have to think that TAG would cease to exist.

After all, unionization is soooo expensive and its so much easier to send the work to India. The world was supposed to be flat! NOOOOO!! The prophecy was a lie!

Well, the numbers certainly don’t lie and I argue the reason we are seeing growth is agglomeration. There is a huge talent base in California and that provides VFX and animation businesses the benefit of a very talented and reliable pool of workers to draw resources from. It’s nice to work in an group where professionals look out for one another. We should continue that trend.

Speaking of which there’s a new blogger called SpiUnion out there campaigning for unionization of Sony Pictures Imageworks. There is a post about TAG’s failed attempt to unionize back in 2003. Show your support and let your colleagues at Imageworks know.

Soldier On.

15 Responses to Animation Guild Membership At 25 Year High

  1. JTJR says:

    Those numbers mean nothing without similar numbers that count how many people describe animation as their profession.

    Animation in general has exploded so much that they even added a new Oscar category, which would have been unthinkable a couple decades ago.

    The overall amount of people in a specific guild is in no way a gauge on how many people are working in an industry or how many jobs there are.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Uh did you click the link? It breaks down exactly where those people are working. In order to be in the guild you have to be an employees under certain job classifications at a unionized facility like Dreamworks or bentobox etc:

      • I think JTJR is saying that this would be a more useful metric if it shows the percentage of total number of animators that are in the guild. If the number of guild members have doubled but the actual total number of animators in California has quadrupled then it is an effective drop.

        I haven’t spent time looking through the other pages so it might point it out somewhere else. I’m just saying that on it’s own this graph can’t show anything other than the number of members.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I get what you’re saying but I think it’s a semantics issue the animation guild suffers from: people think only animators can join.

        They cover a whole range of professionals in vfx and animation: lighters riggers mattepainters.

        I would think that the numbers of animators have grown and tag has had posts showing who is doing what. I’ll post it when I find it.

      • JTJR says:

        I see that, yes. But you are trying to somehow prove that since union membership is up, then we are not losing jobs overseas.

        Yes, it is true that in terms of absolute total number of animation jobs, there is an increase. But what’s that got to do with unions? Animation has exploded as an industry primarily because of the 3D revolution and all that comes with it. Heck, we probably have 50 million more people in this country since then.

        How can you come to a conclusion that unionization did or didn’t send a lot of jobs overseas if the industry itself has grown and changed so much over a quarter century?

        I’m not saying what the effects from unions are, only that you cannot make that claim. There are two problems here.

        1.) The industry is bigger now all over the world. So, any measurement of animators, whether in a union, not in a union, in school, or unemployed is likely to be much much higher than 25 years ago.

        2.). The number of people that belong to guilds does not indicate how many animators there are out there. It is not a good barometer for how many are gainfully employed in this profession. It just tells you how many people happen to work for union shops.

  2. JTJR says:

    By the way, I do agree with your agglomeration theory. Personally, I am strongly against any government meddling in the free market. They are using taxpayer money to artificially break up the natural agglomerations to the benefit of big studios.

  3. 839spi says:

    Thanks for the support soldier

  4. Pssst says:

    Employment Casualisation as a Modern Slavery
    European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 22, Number 4 (2011)

    Click to access EJSS_22_4_02.pdf

    we live in a world where the manufacturing base of the UK is barely 8%. There is a huge disparity in wealth; more and more employment is service/servile based within an accompanying low wage economy. Wage growth has stagnated over the decades, and this has led low-income workers to take on more and more private debt to fill the gap that an organised living wage used to fill. The TUC has recently published figures showing that levels of unpaid overtime/work have a monetary value of £38 billion per year. And like 1911, we are asked to believe that out of private greed comes public good.

    For a generation who assume that because they have grown up with the Net, that the Net is grown up – there remains a void. How can we move from the individual to the collective? We are in the grip of a system that has all but abolished the world of work as we know it, whilst restoring the worst forms of exploitation. It is as though the clock has been wound backwards with employers having complete control over time, and total power over the lives of workers in the form of a zero hours contract. They share a world resonant with the great reserve army of labour that characterised the period before 1911.

    We have left the waterfront now, only to be enclosed within the virtualised unrealities of technology and its intangible economy. How do we re-imagine this oppositional spirit in an individual networked age: that sense of creativity and ownership when so much of working life is so completely individualised, chained to an anonymous equation, a unit, a term in a contract?

    How do we re-imagine what it is to be human in terms of community, collectivism, sociability and new forms of democracy when human capital has seemingly become fettered within this digitalised world? The similarities between 1911 and 2011 are stark. It is as though in cyber time and movement we are returning to the future. In Liverpool today, the world of the waterfront and the sea has long gone, to be replaced by a far more desperate form of casual labour, with little of the collective strength that fed the city from the river. Is it even possible to talk of a spirit of resistance?

  5. […] Meanwhile staff positions are gone and many former Imageworkers have moved to union facilities like Disney and DreamWorks. Now The Animation Guild’s membership is the highest it’s been in 25 years. […]

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    […]Animation Guild Membership At 25 Year High « VFX Soldier[…]…

  7. […] March I posted that TAG membership hit a 25 year high. Now TAG’s Jeff Massie updated that number to report that TAG’s membership has hit a […]

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  9. […] latest Animation Guild membership numbers have exceeded last years all-time high with VFX artists at Nickelodeon Animation voting to join. This despite the fact there were […]

  10. […] years ago I wrote a post observing a huge milestone: Membership for the Animation Guild hit an all-time high with 2700 active members. They’ve kept track of these numbers for 25 years and this week the guild announced a new […]

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