Anyone who knows me has heard me preach about the visual effects industry and the need for the working artists and technicians of that industry to work together to secure and protect their interests at work. Seems natural for a union representative to do so, right?
I take pride in the years I spent as a visual effects artist. The craft allowed me to be artistic in a technically beautiful way. A good friend introduced me to the industry, and those I consider my closest friends are still working in visual effects today. So, I don’t consider myself just a union rep, I’m a visual effects artist who is trying to help.
The industry hasn’t been this good to it’s working people in a long time. Wages in the United States and Canada have been mostly stagnant for about a decade. That’s a big improvement from the steep drop I experienced transitioning from the 1990s to the 2000s. Working conditions have vastly improved in the United States over the same time largely because the Departments of Labor and Justice worked together to make sure people were being paid properly (ie. employees not being classified as independent contractors AND overtime being paid appropriately), and the Affordable Care Act saw health care benefits being offered at most visual effects studios for the first time (THANKS OBAMA!)
This is why NOW is the time to create the first agreements in the industry. The first visual effects agreements will have to acknowledge the position that the visual effects studios are in. While the better treatment VFX artists have received have come with a cost, the IATSE is ready to create agreements that offer better benefits to the working vfx crew, while not immediately imposing extra costs to the vfx studio. The IATSE expanded coverage in the motion picture and television, broadcast, stagecraft and trade show fields by addressing the realities of those industries while being able to address the concerns of our membership.
The IATSE is no stranger to writing working agreements with an eye to planning for the future. Therefore, writing these agreements now only means visual effects artists are securing what they have against change without their participation. Union agreements mean those who do the work and those who provide the work agree on how the workplace is structured AND any changes that one side wants has to be agreed by the other side before they can happen. Pretty democratic, right?
If working conditions today are the best they’ve been in a while, and the need for visual effects is the highest they’ve been in history, visual effects artists everywhere have the most leverage at their disposal than ever before. Asking only to secure current conditions with the understanding that changing those conditions has to be done in bargaining would be a HUGE win.
Do you agree? Do you want to help? We’d love to hear from you.