When it comes to discussing issues in the workplace, many artists might have heard of unionization as a solution. For those who aren’t used to talking about labour unions, this leads to some common questions: What does a union actually do? Why should my studio join one, and what would that mean for me as an animation worker?To answer these questions, we must first look at our industry’s specific issues. What is wrong with the Canadian animation industry today? In what ways are workers left unsatisfied in their workplace? And, most importantly, what can we do to improve it?At a first glance, these seem like big questions, and we may correctly recognize that we can do very little as individuals to fight these large companies. But even the largest studio is only as powerful as the profit its movies and shows can bring. And without the animation worker, nothing can be made at all. So as a collective group, we may have much more leverage over this industry than we realize!As an animation union, the Canadian Animation Guild does exactly what a labour union does for other industries: negotiate better working conditions, wage adjustments and minimums; enforce the laws in regards to health, safety and overtime; provide pension plans and extended health benefits; and provide workers with advocates during disputes between employees and employers. The goal of a labour union is to give all workers a unified, collective power that allows them to face their employer as an equal, rather than a subject.The Canadian Animation Guild was founded in 2020, after a long union drive by workers at Titmouse Vancouver, and an even longer organizing effort by all the dedicated animation workers at the Art Rabbit Appreciation Society, who spent years educating Vancouver workers about their rights, and paved the way for the stunning victory at Titmouse.CAG is also known by its local designation as IATSE Local 938. This means that, although we are an autonomous union, built from the ground up to fight for worker power in the animation industry, we are also part of a much larger union that provides the same support to several entertainment industries across the US and Canada: the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).Though we are a very new local, the Titmouse workers who organized to create the Canadian Animation Guild received significant support from experienced IATSE representatives, who helped us craft our first collective agreement with Titmouse Vancouver. These are just some of the benefits that CAG affords all employees working at unionized studios:
CAG sets wage minimums for each position, that anyone employing a member has to meet for a union job. Only the minimums are set, and most artists negotiate above their wage minimums.
After acquiring the hours needed to join the MPI Health plan, members have access to low cost healthcare, paid mostly for by their employer.
CAG offers an RRSP program from the Canadian Entertainment Industry Retirement Plan that members can take part in, and continue with as they move to other union employers.
Being a part of a labour union means you have the power to negotiate your working conditions. Every 3 years, CAG collects the wants and needs of its members and negotiates with the studios to make the best contract possible.
Education & Training
Through IATSE, CAG uses an organization called CSATF to help educate and train members. Members of the union can partake in pre-approved courses at well known institutions and receive 2/3 reimbursement for passing a course.
Upholding the Contract
CAG supports its members in upholding all stipulations of the union contracts - no member is alone.
CAG as a union is not alone. All members have the support of the full power of the International organization (IATSE) behind them.
Sick Days & Vacation Days
CAG has negotiated sick day minimums for its union members. Employees at Titmouse are entitled to 6 paid sick days a year, of which up to 2 can be used for personal leave. Employees may also be entitled to at least 2 weeks of paid vacation, in addition to any leave delineated in the Employment Standards Act.
If a show is cancelled and a union member is laid off, they may be entitled to dismissal or severance pay. This is an additional amount of money paid to the artist, with the amount depending on how long the artist was employed.
CAG supports artists in the fight for paid overtime, enforcing the laws that dictate overtime. All work over 40 hours a week, and over 8 hours a day is paid as time and a half, and any work over 12 hours a day is paid as double time.