One of the concerns I hear from visual effects artists contemplating organizing at their studio is the disloyalty they feel for even entertaining the idea of forming a union. While it may seem backwards, that tells me the person expressing the idea may actually be a strong organizer.
As the entertainment industry is increasing the number of projects being made, most of the visual effects studios are at capacity and struggling to grow to meet the seemingly insatiable demand of production. As has been mentioned, working conditions are at an all-time high and during unionization conversations, once the initial objections to unionization are dispensed with, the perceived conversation-killer is laid out:
“I just feel that the studio treats us so well, I wouldn’t want to upset them/change anything by being pro-union.”
Most people believe that the visual effects union *has* to be an antagonist to a visual effects studio. After all, the union represents the company’s employees and therefore the union’s goal has to be the aimed at making everything better for the employees. That *has* to sit at odds with the company’s interests, right?
Does it, really?
The formation of the visual effects union will begin with agreements at visual effects studios representing many working visual effects professionals. Those artists and technicians WILL BE the union! They will be the ones that help to bargain the agreement with the studios, and then vote it into existence. Those agreements will be written with the longevity of the industry in mind, and the ability to create and maintain good working conditions for the professionals who work under its terms. A select few of them will stand to become the representatives of their group, and help to maintain and grow those agreements. Those agreements will create a business partnership between the union and the studio that demands mutual respect.
If the very people who will be bargaining the agreement are the ones that feel the visual effects studios treat people well, why would they then want to create an antagonistic relationship with the studios where they once worked, by bargaining an agreement that imposes untoward conditions that would end up harming the colleagues they once worked with and now are responsible for representing?
The organizing drive for visual effects has to have activists that are *both* pro-union and pro-studio. These women and men will speak to existing workplace issues, while understanding the precarious nature of the business and hardships that the visual effects studios endure. This will set proper expectation to visual effects artists interested in learning about the effort, as well as with the studios when the time comes for discussion about the shape and implementation of a union agreement. Being both pro-union and pro-studio may seem a difficult task, but it is crucial to the process of forming and growing the visual effects union.
That’s not to suggest that the visual effects union and its visual effects studio partners will not be on opposite sides of an argument now and again. On the contrary, that is likely to happen on a few occasions. Understanding that goal for both sides is to create and maintain agreements that allow the business and it’s unionized employees to flourish will be the reason those disagreements end respectfully.
The visual effects union and it’s visual effects studio partners have to have that kind of relationship. To achieve it, the visual effects artists and technicians working to establish that union have to be both pro-union and pro-studio.