However, it is perfectly legal to discuss salaries in the United States if you are an employee of a company. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act explicitly grants permission to workers to “engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” (It should be noted that U.S. law excludes independent contractors from this protection.) Under President Obama, laws were further strengthened through 2014’s “Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information” which stated:
“The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because such employee or applicant has inquired about, discussed, or disclosed the compensation of the employee or applicant or another employee or applicant.”
Still, many artists in the animation industry don’t compare salaries for fear that it can cause hurt feelings at a studio if one artist is known to be making more than their co-workers for doing the same job. Another possible reason for not sharing salary info is that some freelance artists charge different rates to different studios, and it can hurt an artist’s bargaining power if every studio knows your bottom rate. But ultimately, the biggest beneficiaries of pay secrecy are the studios themselves who are able to manipulate employees into earning less than they’re worth if no one knows who’s making what.
In the spirit of keeping the discussion going, below are some of the responses to the #AnimationPaidMe hashtag. Some caveats: there are at least 600,000 animation workers throughout the world, so even a few hundred responses doesn’t begin to adequately capture the salaries that are being made across the global industry. Also, bear in mind that living expenses vary in different cities and countries, so even though a salary may seem high in one city or country, the cost of living may be equally high. Finally, some of the salaries abroad are listed as monthly, whereas in the United States, we generally understand salaries to be weekly. Even with all these disclaimers, real numbers are rarely ever known to young artists entering the industry, and all of these artists should be applauded for being transparent about their earnings as it will help countless other people who are just beginning their animation career.
The numbers from the Philippines are quite low, especially considering that the country has a highly developed service studio industry that has been turning out high quality work since the 1980s. This artist explained how they made Php350 per background painting on Disney’s recent Ducktales series, which is US$7 per background:
Other numbers from the Philippines also seem on the low side:
In addition to salary info, some artists participating in the hashtag have been sharing other advice and thoughts:
(Image at top: Still from “Get A Job” directed by Brad Caslor.)