UNION 101

What does an animation union do?

Workers across the animation industry are talking about forming unions in their workplaces. Many people do not know a lot about labour unions and are not used to talking about them, leading to some common questions: What does a union actually do and how do we get one? Why should the people who work at my studio join a union? What would that mean for me as an animation worker? 

To answer these questions, we must first look at our industry’s issues. What’s wrong with the Canadian animation industry today? In what ways are workers dissatisfied with their workplaces? And, most importantly, what can we do to improve it?

These seem like big questions, and it might feel like we can do very little as individuals to fight these large companies. It is easy for an employer to ignore individual workers’ concerns, or worse, to retaliate against them for talking about problems at the workplace. But things go differently when we stand up collectively and demand positive changes for everyone. A studio can’t make anything at all without its workers; we gain more leverage (and real power to make change!) when we all stand together to demand better from our employers! 

As an animation union, the Canadian Animation Guild does exactly what a labour union does in many other industries: negotiates better working conditions, wage adjustments and minimums; enforces the laws in regards to health, safety and overtime; provides pension plans and extended health benefits; and provides workers with advocates during disputes between employees and employers. The goal of a labour union is to give all workers 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 Babbitt 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 local 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 over 160,000 cultural and entertainment workers across the US and Canada: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

This document is designed to help workers educate themselves and their coworkers about the benefits of joining a union. If you have any further questions or are looking for help forming a union at your workplace, please contact an IATSE Organizer:

William Gladman – wgladman@iatse.net
Jiaming Li – jli@iatse.net

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 employees working at unionized studios:

Wage Floors

CAG sets wage scales for each position that anyone employing a member has to meet. Wage scales are only minimums, meaning artists are free to negotiate a rate above scale.

Healthcare

IATSE has a Health Plan which is available to all Canadian IATSE local unions and can be part of negotiations with employers. Members can get these healthcare benefits whether they are working at a union studio or not, or even when they are not working at all, as long as they maintain their membership of the Local union.

Retirement

CAG offers an RRSP program from the Canadian Entertainment Industry Retirement Plan that members can take part in and can continue with as they move to other union employers.

Collective Bargaining

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

IATSE established the Training Trust Fund (IATSE TTF), which provides funds for local unions to identify needs and hold trainings for members. The IATSE also covers the costs for members to enroll in LinkedIn Learning and take any of the thousands of online courses offered.

Advocacy & Support

CAG supports its members in upholding all stipulations of the union contracts - no member is alone.

Sick Days & Vacation Days

Workers who are unionized with CAG can enjoy improved vacation, sick and personal day allowances.

Dismissal Pay

If a show is cancelled and a union member is laid off, they may be entitled to Dismissal/Severance pay. This is an additional amount of money paid to the artist. The amount depends on pay rate and how long the artist was employed.

Overtime

CAG supports artists in the fight for paid overtime, ensuring that the laws that dictate overtime are enforced. All work over 40 hours a week, and over 8 hours a day is paid as overtime at time and a half, and any work over 12 hours a day is paid at double time.

The International

All CAG members have the support and solidarity of the IATSE International behind them, joining over 160,000 cultural and entertainment workers across Canada and the USA.