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Artist RightsBusiness

Nickelodeon’s CG Artists Have Voted To Go Union

Late-breaking labor news out of Los Angeles:

Burbank, CA, July 12 — Newly organized CG artists have ratified a contract negotiated between the Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE and Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Ratification was overwhelming, with 90.1% of the bargaining unit’s 70 employees voting “Yes.”

The Guild has had a contract with Nickelodeon covering traditional animation artists since 2004. Talks extending union contract protection to Nick’s CG artists extended from March to July of this year, between management and a committee of seventeen employees along with Guild representatives. The primary issue was bridging from Nickelodeon’s corporate insurance to the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, to insure uninterrupted health coverage for covered employees.

Steve Hulett, the Animation Guild’s Business Representative Steve Hulett issued this statement:

“Five years ago, the Animation Guild went to work organizing Nick’s CG department. We had a number of setbacks, but last year, thanks to Guild organizer Steve Kaplan, communication with employees accelerated and support for the Guild increased dramatically. Early in February, Nickelodeon agreed to a neutral card count and negotiations for a contract started soon thereafter.

“Talks went on for months. TAG had a large negotiating committee of unit employees, most in their early to mid-twenties, and they were focused and tenacious through several long days of work. I doubt we could have reached agreement without them.

“Nick negotiators Bill Cole and Kevin Ellman were tough but flexible, and had a lot to do with the parties reaching agreement.”

Final negotiations over the Memorandum of Agreement wrapped on July 10, with ratification by unit employees taking place at the studio’s Burbank facility on Friday afternoon.

  • Bobby Clayton

    Happy to see this finally go through.

  • Coyote12

    To put it in perspective this is only after canceling several shows and slimming down to 1/4 the size they were 1 year ago and they are still sending 80% of the work to overseas companies in an effort to get that free money subsidy they love so much.

    • Scott550

      It ain’t free. Just ask the citizens of St. Port Lucie, FL.

      • James Fox

        or Detroit – unions devastated Detroit’s economy BAD!

        • Scott550

          Unions didn’t devastate Detroit’s economy. Bad management with lazy design, decades behind the times, and backwards looking marketing did. All with GIANT nationwide taxpayer subsidies.

  • Cory

    Great… now what about the rest of us not in Cali…lol.

  • steepertree

    Good for them!

  • coolzone

    you got those health benefits now and some 401k, but don’t expect to be protected from unrealistic schedules, unpaid overtime, blacklisting, shitty rates and even more problems that plague artists on a regular basis that the union does nothing about! So glad you CG artists can join the club of an ineffective union. What does this mean for TAG? well maybe they might get $3000 a head for the initiation fee not to mention some more annual dues they can add to the pot. Let’s all go to the meeting the end of this month july 28th and eat pizza and rejoice. Wonder what’s going on at bento box with those crazy schedules and making storyboard artists cut animatics, or on that breadwinners show. Wait a second, that’s not in the job description. doesn’t that violate union rules. I thought the editors were supposed to do editing, not board artists. Who cares though. The important thing is we have more members now. That should make up for all those union employees laid off at dreamworks who now only pay some minuscule honorable discharge fee.

    • Steve Hulett

      Initiation fees waived, Mr. Cool. Guild gets no initiation money from the Nick CG employees.

      Bento Box has no editors guild contract, therefore editors don’t do the editing.

      Artists who refuse to do free overtime get paid for their work. It was this way when I started as business representative, it’s this way now. I have never refused to file a grievance over wages. Point of fact: the guild collected $118,000 in unpaid wages six months ago, also enforced o.t. provisions two weeks ago. (Come to the July 28 meeting for exciting details.)

      Union rules don’t require board artists to only board, just that they are paid for their work at their classification rate. (Animatics work should be compensated.)

      Looking forward to answering all your questions at next General Membership meeting.

    • Pro-Union

      It’s true that people are working too hard and not being paid what they should. It’s also true that artists are competitive, and many work overtime because they want to stay employed or surpass their coworkers. Other artists are lazy hacks and take credit for others work. That really is the nature of the business and probably will never change, as Steve said. But, artists have to draw a line when they know they’re cutting in to their own salary by working for free. That’s the only way we’ll get fair wages; when the studios acknowledge that the demands are impossible. The people at the top of the production might have to share a little more of their high salaries to make things work. The best time for our business rep to do the rounds is in the evening and on weekends. The biggest advantage of the union is that we have a retirement plan.

  • James Fox

    and the ratings plummet more for Nick, Hollywood and California at large is heavily unionized and look at what happened

    – outsourcing productions to China and New Zealand (You know it’s bad when Kung Fu Panda 3 and Iron Man 3 are being produced IN CHINA!)
    – remaking old franchises
    – the entire state flooding in red ink
    – non-union animators that graduated college can’t get any work

    • Steve Hulett

      A few points:

      – California has balanced its budget.
      – Nick’s CG unit has 70 employees.
      – 35% of the crew will get pay raises; nobody’s wages go down.
      – Employees’ health care premiums will go down.

      • Gus Larkhun

        California does not have a balanced budget.
        I’m sidestepping the anger I have at you stating such a fallacy in here, and embracing how pleased I will be in a few short years when everyone who reads this realizes how full of it you are.

        The state of California currently owes the federal government $10 billion(on top of another $17 billion in unfunded liabilities). Every single unemployment check being written in CA right now is being paid with borrowed money. On top of the billions owed on bond payments.

        The balanced budget that Jerry Brown passed kicked the can down the road. All of that debt while also having the highest income taxes in the nation, the highest gas taxes, the most regulations on businesses and the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

        Attention fellow animation people:
        I’m going to give it to you straight before you decide to move to LA to make a go in the animation industry – you can easily pull in a six figure salary in this city… and it will be the equivalent of $40,000 anywhere else in the nation. You will make over six figures and you won’t be able to have a family without struggling and you won’t be able to afford a house anywhere in the city limits. Your electric bills will be the highest you have ever seen and your water bills are going to go up 15% in the next three years. And the schools are not only subpar, but riddled with sex offendors(practically once a week another event hits the news). The middle class in Los Angeles starts at the $400,000 annual salary mark. So ask about that from any prospective employer. Or ask about living in Altadena…

        • Jaaso

          Since you’re ‘giving it straight’ what’s your opinion on the false Texas miracle and it’s financial crisis? It’s fine that you hate California but please stop outright lying.

          Phrases like highest income taxes(false it’s Oregon, California is #6),

          highest gas taxes(false it’s New York),

          most regulations on business, lol you say that like it’s a bad thing, Hello Wallstreet banking crisis! How would you even quantify ‘highest regulated’ anyways? Do highly subsidized states count like Mississippi or Idaho?

          Go post on Fox news or whatever hole you crawled out of and let the artists talk.

          • Gerry

            So, what’s YOUR opinion of Utah’s economy then?

            Whether it’s 1st or 6th highest in income taxes CA’s still among the HIGHEST. Furthermore, many groups consistently rank California as among the most hostile environments in the nation to do business in. As a result lots and lots of CA companies have found other, more welcoming states to relocate to. I don’t think you have any idea what an unnecessary burden over-regulation can be on a small business in a State that’s already so expensive to live in. If you could get past your Occupy Wall Street hysteria long enough to realize that not all business is evil you might realize that this doesn’t have to be such an expensive place to call home.

            But I guess if you’re happy getting gouged then, by all means, go on. Shame on anybody else for weighing in when an ‘almighty artist’ is talking, widely regarded as society’s most respected authorities on matters financial and economic… pfft.

        • Animator606432

          If moving California is not the right choice for a young animator, what is he/she supposed to do? I’m still in college, but as soon as I got out I was planning on moving to California because there is literally no work for an artist where i’m am currently living. There is only one school that even offers a degree in animation muchless any work in the field. So it’s either move to CA or change my career, and I’m much to passionate about animation to do that.

    • Scott550

      LOS ANGELES — After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.

  • Ant G

    It’s interesting as technology improves, decreasing the level of skills required to do a passable animation, the number of union membership increases. I often hear that the animation industry was one of the few places where it’s not necessarily who you know; your portfolio almost guarantees you a job.

    But now, your portfolio can and will be just as good as someone else’s– especially in a industry that mimics itself so much; following tradition of old dead animators (or the latest contemporary trend) dominates originality. You’re just as good as someone else who lives in an area that’s less expensive to live worldwide, therefore not asking for the same salary that you are. So we’ve gotten to a point where we have to clinch to unions, and the struggling studios and the big studios respond with outsourcing; turns out they are trying to survive and profit to secure themselves just as much as we are. It’s a complicating issue, one I think that a way to solve it would be to push originality so no one is doing the same thing, so it doesn’t come down to who can do it the cheapest.

  • cgcg

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • Elana Pritchard

    The U.S. government should initiate steep tax penalties for outsourcing to discourage it.

    It’s the ease the corporations can outsource with that’s the problem, not the unions.

    • Good try….

      Tax Penalties would be a great incentive to keep work here in the US. Too bad the Union or the state of California will do anything about it.

  • coolzone

    Gee. According to the article it said one of the difficult things was bridging Nick’s corporate insurance, assuming that Nick was offering those employees a form of benefits. And other big studios also have their own form of health benefits. Maybe not as good at MPIPHP but benefits nonetheless.

    I guess we have different ideas of the union, because health benefits are fine and all, but a union should do more than just manage health benefits for it’s members. Steve ignored the problems of BLACKLISTING addressed last meeting. blacking listing that happens when artists don’t do free over time and don’t hit unrealistic deadlines. We all the know the game. In fact people admitted at the meeting that blacklisting in does fact happen. So the grievance system is broken, because while you can file a grievance that doesn’t mean it you will not have serious negative consequences. Whistleblowers never get off easy. We can look at the large scale snowden/nsa issue with that. I wonder if these new union CG artists are going to protected from their union when Nick continues to penny pinch and tighten up schedules. Just remember union advice my new union comrades “don’t do free overtime!” and remember the repercussions:lose your job if you don’t get your work done, you non-teamplayer and slacker.

    And the recent wage scale was just published. Another thing that has stayed the SAME as it was when Steve started. Wages. Nothing adjusted for inflation. So what is the union’s answer? It is the same as it was 20 years ago, nothing is going to change. SAME as it ever was. What’s the point of unionizing facets of the industry when the bigger problem is the union itself has less and less to offer to its members. Oh, i forgot. It’s worth it’s salt for that MPIPHP

    • Unionyes

      There is no company union where health insurance continues after you’re laid off or quit. By contrast, the union health plan banks hours so that health coverage can continue for up to 18 months of unenployment. And it has a pension plan. I said it before & I’ll say it again-it’s worth it for the health & pension plan alone.

    • Steve Hulett

      “Steve ignored the problems of BLACKLISTING addressed last meeting. blacking listing that happens when artists don’t do free over time and don’t hit unrealistic deadlines. ”

      Ah, if you only knew what your were talking about.

      You’ve got little idea what’s going on at many of the studios, Coolzone. Thirty-two artists grieved a studio late last year for unpaid wages, GOT the unpaid wages and they are all still working.

      How can that happen?

      But come out from behind you alias and give me a call. I will fill you in and what’s going on. Might open your eyes a bit. I’m reachable at [email protected] or by phone.

  • MaskedManAICN

    Good for them :)

  • Matt Norcross

    Ugh. Labor unions are the laziest and most corrupt organizations in the country.

    • Jaaso

      Where’s your evidence? Do you think Unions are worst than our banking industry?