Members of The Animation Guild have voted to ratify a new three-year deal with the studios and streamers that establishes new job tiers for animation writers and solidifies an approach to remote work.
Eighty-seven percent of members who participated in the process voted to ratify the agreement, the Guild announced on Tuesday, while 13 percent voted against the deal. Member turnout tripled compared to the last agreement’s ratification vote (The Hollywood Reporter has asked for what percentage of membership overall turned out to vote). Prior to the ratification vote, the Guild stressed the importance of significant turnout for the vote, telling members that this engagement shows employers “how invested we are in the bargaining process and contract” and that low turnout “diminish[es] our power as a unified organization.” Guild members voted both digitally and over the phone between June 20 and July 1.
“This ratification vote shows that the membership has acknowledged the incredible work of our negotiations subcommittees and dedicated themselves to continuing the work. While we achieved significant gains, we were not able to reach all the priorities we set out to achieve and that our members deserve,” TAG business representative Steve Kaplan said in a statement. “The Local has dedicated itself to member engagement and open discussions about how to achieve those goals, and the membership has responded by ratifying this agreement and agreeing to support efforts to build our strength as a Union and community to give us greater leverage in the future.”
Changes in the new agreement tackle a broad range of issues. On the wage front, like their counterparts covered under the IATSE Basic Agreement, Animation Guild members will receive 3 percent minimum wage increases annually over the course of the contract, with the pay bumps retroactive to Aug. 1. Freelance unit rates for timers will increase by 5 percent in the first year and nearly 5 percent in the second and third years, while color designers’ minimum rates will be increased by 4 to 12 percent, depending on their role, beyond the Guild’s overall minimum wage bump. The contract slots animation writers, who waged a long and vocal campaign during negotiations to improve their pay, in a new job classification that offers different job tiers allowing for career progression; “Level 1,” “Level 2” and “supervising” animation writers received pay bumps, while a new classification of more junior, “associate” animation writers is lower-paid.
Additionally, the Guild secured new wage minimums for high-budget “new media” (often, streaming) series that were previously negotiable; the new rates are “equal to the current rate less 15%,” according to the Guild.
Remote work was an important issue in this round of negotiations, and the Guild made some progress towards securing more ability for their members to work outside of the office. According to the Guild, the new agreement allows members hired in Los Angeles to work outside L.A. County or California if they receive permission from their employer. Moreover, the agreement ensures the formation of a “Labor-Management Cooperative Committee” that will meet at least twice a year to talk over labor issues that are not issues of collective bargaining, such as remote work.
In terms of benefits, like other union counterparts TAG secured Martin Luther King. Jr. Day as a holiday. The contract also adds MPI hours for on-call employees, offering them 60 hours a week from 56 hours, and changes the deal’s parental leave policy to include instances when members are caring for sick family members or are recovering from their own medical issues.
Under the agreement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and streamers in collective bargaining with unions, consented to send a notice to employers stating best practices on placing TAG members with years of industry experience in appropriate wage classifications. The deal also forms an “abuse review committee” to ensure employers give TAG members sufficient time to complete “skills evaluations” used for hiring and promotion decisions and to ensure that employers respond to members when their decisions informed by these evaluations are made.
In return, the union agreed to “withdraw the pending grievances against Fox Animation Television, Inc.” and relinquish “all known and unknown claims regarding the use of the classification of Color Designer” prior to the agreement’s ratification. Moreover, TAG has stated that it did not gain everything it was hoping for in proposals for timers and color designers.