Here, you’ll find responses to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Joining The Animation Guild
Simply put, we are a union of artists, writers and technicians making animated films, TV shows, and content. We’ve been around since 1952, helping animation workers get decent wages and better working conditions by using the strength of collective bargaining.
Your employer has a collective bargaining agreement with The Animation Guild that requires employees working under the Guild’s jurisdiction to join the Union after 30 days’ employment. Working on a union project means your job comes with protections like wage minimums, paid overtime, high-quality healthcare, two pensions, and the collective power of more than 6,000 animation workers to improve employment conditions.
Get hired by a Union employer. Once you are working for a signatory studio (an employer who has signed a Union agreement), you will join the Guild and start benefiting from being a part of a Union. The Animation Guild will receive notification of your employment and send you a membership packet (it might take 3 to 4 weeks to arrive), and we will guide you through the membership initiation process. If you’ve been working at a Guild signatory facility for more than 30 days and you haven’t heard from us, email our Member Operations Manager, Leah Semiken at email@example.com.
Is your employer not a part of the union? We can help organize production artists, writers and technicians who have expressed an interest in being part of The Animation Guild. Visit https://animationguild.org/start-a-union/ to learn more.
Usually employers are proud to say that they are a “Union studio” or that the job they are posting is a “Union job.” If you don’t see such an indication, you should feel comfortable asking the studio representative. You can also check the Studio List on our website, which lists most of the employers signed to our Collective Bargaining Agreement.
When you join The Animation Guild and work under its jurisdiction, you have the protection of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that spells out working conditions, wage minimums, and much more. Individually, workers don’t have much leverage over their employer to improve working conditions or increase benefits; however, together they wield much more power.
Some good things that Unions, like The Animation Guild, negotiate for their members include high-quality employer paid health care plans, pension plans (we have two!), wage minimums, free or reduced-cost skills training and more. Learn more about Benefits here. Our Union even has an optional 401(k) plan to help our members save more for their retirement years. And, when an employer fails to live up to their end of the bargain, the Union can represent the interests of its members by using the grievance process.
There is a one-time initiation fee that is charged when you first join the Guild. The fee is two weeks’ scale wage in the job category in which you’re first hired (that is, not your actual rate of pay, which might be higher). This fee is included in your balance when you are set up as a new member. To estimate your initiation fee, check out the scale wage of your job category, or contact the Guild office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our parent union, the IATSE, charges a one-time processing fee of $100. This fee is included in your balance when you are set up as a new member, so please don’t send it separately! We will pay the registration fee from your initiation fee. Lastly, all Active members will be charged quarterly dues (every three months), which are due on or before January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.
We understand that paying off your entire initiation fee in one lump sum can be challenging. The Guild office is more than happy to arrange a no-interest payment plan that works with your budget. A recommended plan should have been included with your membership packet. If you would like to discuss a different plan, please email our Finance Operations Manager, Kristal Landa at email@example.com.
After you’ve completed your initial financial obligation, you are entitled to full membership with The Animation Guild. In your membership packet, you will receive the official membership application form supplied by the IATSE to our Local. Please fill it out right away and send it in, even if you are not finished paying your initial financial obligation. The Guild must submit your application to the IATSE General Office once that obligation has been met. Once the IATSE approves and stamps your membership application, you will be invited to be sworn in at the bi-monthly General Membership Meeting.
The Animation Guild Local 839 and its parent Union, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), negotiate contracts called Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). CBAs govern minimum wages, hours, working conditions, and benefits for TAG and IATSE members who are employed at signatory studios and production companies.
You can find TAG’s current collective bargaining agreements here.
If you haven’t received a new membership package, reach out to the office at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
According to The Animation Guild’s Constitution and By-Laws, dues are based upon the minimum weekly journeyman rate of the classification in which the member is or was most recently employed as of the first day of the quarter in which such dues are due and payable. Dues for each fiscal quarter shall be payable in advance at the TAG office on or before the 10th day of the quarter. Members must keep up to date as to the status of their account. The fiscal quarters shall begin January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1. Find your journeyman rate here.
You can pay your dues in-person at the Guild office, send your check via mail, or submit a payment online. Dues payments are accepted via cash, check, or money order at the Guild office during regular business hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We currently do not accept credit card payments at the office, but can accept payments via credit cards or bank account transfers through the online payment system: https://animationguild.org/dues/
Usually studios don’t give us your personal email address when sending information about new hires, and until we have input your personal email address, you will not be able to register for an account. Some studios do not provide the last four digits of your social security number (SSN), so you may have a temporary number assigned. Email email@example.com to provide us with your email address and last four digits of your SSN, and we will let you know if you need to use the temporary assigned number to register for the account. You don’t need to remember it, since it’s only used to get you into the system for the first time. After that you will log in using your email address and the password you choose in the registration process.
Health Care Benefits
If you have never participated in the MPI Health Plans, or have not participated in a while, it takes about six months for your health benefits to begin. Your participation is not dependent on your Union application or the status of your Union account. For your initial participation, you need to accrue 600 hours during a qualifying period; once you’ve accrued the allotted hours there is a two-month processing period before your benefits are active. During that time, you should receive the MPIPHP enrollment packet, which needs to be filled out and submitted. Click here to learn more about MPI eligibility, including a chart of the qualifying periods. Contact MPI to check your eligibility and qualifying hours.
First, check with your studio’s HR department to find out if you receive any health credits or reimbursements for health insurance while you await your qualifying period. You can even try to negotiate this as part of your deal memo. This benefit varies from studio to studio. While waiting for your MPI Health Plan to kick in, you can opt into Covered California coverage, or contact the Entertainment Health Insurance Solutions (EHIS), a joint program of MPTF and The Actors Fund, that offers California residents in the entertainment and performing arts community personalized counseling and health care enrollment.
Before you have qualified for health care benefits, TAG members can create an MPI account to track your hours so you know when your benefits start. Here’s how to create your account:
- Your employer will submit your hours to MPI. This puts your name into the MPI system.
- After approximately 2-3 weeks of work, you can call MPI to see if you’re in their system.
- Once you’ve confirmed you are in their system, print the change of address form, fill it out, and mail it to MPI.
- Once the form is received, it will take 2-3 days for MPI to upload your information.
- Once your information is uploaded, you can go to the MPI website, create an account by clicking “Participant Login” at the top of the page, and track your hours.
MPI also offers a mobile app (MPI Mobile APP) to easily keep track of your benefits.
If you’re still unable to find the information you need, you can reach out to an MPI representative at 855-275-4674 or by using one of the other methods on their contact page.
Any questions regarding the MPI Health Plans should be directed to MPI staff. Visit their website at www.mpiphp.org or call 855-ASK-4MPI.
The best way to get started is to go to the 401(k) Quickstart page on The Animation Guild website. Follow the instructions there and complete and return the 401(k) form. The fastest way to submit a completed form is to scan and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For changes to paycheck deferrals, or restarting contributions if you have switched seasons, switched shows, or switched employers, please use the Enrollment/Change form available on our website. For more information, click here.
For every hour worked at a TAG contracted studio, the employer makes contributions to the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan in the name of each member. Those contributions are mandated in our contract and bring participation in two pension plans: The Defined Benefit Plan (DB) and the Individual Account Plan (IAP). Members will never see a payroll deduction for these plans, and inclusion is automatic. For more information about the plans, or to check on your eligibility and benefits, visit the MPIPHP website.
Family Leave provides you with stability when you need it most, in some cases offering paid time off as well as ensuring your job will still be waiting for you when you return. In the animation industry, you may have access to family leave from four different sources: 1) Your employer’s individual family leave policies; 2) The Animation Guild Master Agreement; 3) State law, and; 4) Federal law. Click here to learn more about Family Leave and your rights.
The Collective Bargaining Agreements require union employers to fund job-related training programs for eligible industry employees. The Contract Services Administration Trust Fund (CSATF) that oversees these programs is controlled by Contract Services. If you have questions about the training programs and free workshops, please email email@example.com.
The TAG Community
You can join the TAG members-only email list here. Emails will keep you informed about benefit updates, Union elections, meetings, and other important information. If you want to opt in to receive only certain emails go here.
This Week at TAG
Published twice a month, This Week at TAG keeps members informed in a timely manner about meetings, events, member benefits, and more. This Week at TAG is sent to all members by email.
The Pegboard is the longest continuously published union newsletter in Hollywood. It’s published monthly and contains information about Union business, committees, member activities, events, and more. You can choose to receive it in print or online here. Current and past issue can be found on The Pegboard web page. Learn more about the history of The Pegboard.
Keyframe is The Animation Guild’s quarterly magazine. Overseen by Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Drosu and Managing Editor Kim Fay, Keyframe celebrates the membership of The Animation Guild and the craft of animation. Launched in 2018, Keyframe aims to inform and entertain the animation community. It also educates with articles like How to Market Yourself Online and Intellectual Property. Keyframe is available free to all TAG members in print and online. You can choose which way you would like to read it here.
Have an idea for a story or article? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Not an Active member, but would like to receive Keyframe in print? Paid annual subscriptions (US only) are available in the online store.
TAG has several member-run craft, community, advocacy, and organizational committees. Participating in a committee is a great way to make connections and help strengthen the Guild.
You can learn more about the specific committees here, as well as how to join a committee and even how to start one. You can also find out more about how committees work and the purpose they serve from committee members and leaders at Keyframe magazine.
The Animation Guild Tactical Action Group
Known as TAG-TAG, the Guild’s Tactical Action Group is made up of trained, volunteer, member mobilizers who are committed to growing TAG’s engagement in Guild negotiations, elections, and organizing efforts. If you’re interested in learning more, contact email@example.com. You can also read personal experiences from TAG-TAG members at Keyframe.
The Animation Guild offers numerous opportunities to get involved, both within the Guild and out in our community. We always need volunteers, and it’s a great way to meet other members, make connections, and build an even stronger Union. Whether you’re available once a week or once a year, there are opportunity to suit your schedule. Fill out our volunteer form to get started.
Also, check out the Get Involved PDF that outlines many other ways to participate in and support your Union.
Getting a Job
Wage transparency is an important part of improving conditions and wages for all animation workers. We have two resources for you to review. First of all, you can take a look at wage minimums that the Union has negotiated in our Collective Bargaining Agreement here. Remember, these are minimums, and you can always negotiate a higher rate for your position. We also conduct a yearly wage survey to get a pulse on industry wage averages. Check out those rates here.
Definitely! When you receive a job offer from a studio that is a Union signatory, you can always negotiate for a better salary beyond the minimum Union wage for that position. Consider the Union minimums as your starting point. An employer will not be surprised if you make a counter-offer. Learn more tips on how to negotiate your deal memo here.
While You're Working
If you’re experiencing an issue in the workplace, you can fill out a Member Contract Questions Form to speak to a Guild representative.
This form is for workplace issues and contract questions only. If you have questions about benefits, please visit our FAQs, MPI Health Plans, Pension, and 401(k) web pages. For all other questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a member of the Union, you are entitled to Weingarten Rights. This means that you as an employee are protected from being questioned alone without Union representation present. Before you meet with your employer, learn how to exercise this right here. Additional information about Weingarten Rights can be found here.
A workplace issue can be any problem you are having with your employer or on the job and can generally be handled with the assistance of a Union representative.
Filing a grievance, on the other hand, is a formal process outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If your employer violates a term of one of the Guild’s CBAs, a grievance may be filed. The grievance procedure is how the Guild challenges the way your studio or production company has misinterpreted the agreement and gets them to correct their mistake. Grievances are filed by the Guild’s Business Representative and legal counsel on your behalf.
To discuss an issue with one of TAG’s Union representatives, you can begin by filling out the Member Contract Questions Form so the Guild can determine the nature of your concern. This form is for workplace issues and contract questions only.
Job Ending / Not Currently Working
While the Union cannot secure you a new job, we can offer a variety of resources to help you during your job search. Please check out our page on actions you can take while looking for work.
For Guild members working under the Animation Guild Master Collective Bargaining Agreement, you are eligible for dismissal pay 110 days after you have been laid off. The rate of dismissal pay is determined by how long you worked for your employer. Learn more about Dismissal Pay and how to qualify here. Guild members working under other negotiated bargaining agreements may have differing eligibility requirements.
You can request to have your account put on Honorable Withdrawal, which is like taking a leave of absence from the Guild for an indefinite period of time. You don’t pay any dues while on Honorable Withdrawal, and you can be reinstated at any time for a minimal fee. If you have at least five years in the industry in Union jobs, you would be vested in both parts of the pension plan, the Defined Benefit Plan and the Individual Account Plan, so nothing would be lost. If you have less than five years, there could be a loss of the Defined Benefit Plan if you don’t go back to work within two years. There is nothing you need to do with the 401(k) plan. The money does not need to be rolled out; you just can’t contribute more funds until you are working again at a Union employer. Please note that if you choose to go on Honorable Withdrawal it can affect your eligibility to run for TAG office if you are interested in doing so.
Returning to Work
Email the Guild office at email@example.com to let us know that you would like your Union membership reinstated. You will then be sent a reinstatement billing notice listing the fees that will be charged to reinstate your account.
Remote Work Outside of LA County
The scope of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is written so that only people who are hired in Los Angeles County are covered by the contract terms, creating what some people call a “geofence.” As a general practice, the CBA was also applied to people living in adjacent counties as long as they physically worked in LA County. However, the pandemic impacted the way we work as an industry and made remote work an option for many animation workers. When faced with an opportunity to move out of state and work remotely, animation workers were told that it was outside the scope of the agreement, and they would no longer be considered Union employees.
Addressing this issue in the 2022 contract negotiations was not a mandatory subject of bargaining, and as such the employers originally said they did not want to discuss the matter during negotiations. However, the Negotiations Committee stood firm in order to create a pathway to Union-covered remote work outside of LA County. Under the new unpublished sideletter, we confirmed that anyone who is hired in Los Angeles can work outside of the county and state if the employer agrees to allow remote work.
During the negotiations, we were able to get the employers to confirm that anyone who is hired in Los Angeles can work outside of the county and state, if the employer agrees to allow remote work. Why is this important? Previously, the Motion Picture Industry Health Plans were cited as the reason employers could not classify someone out of LA County as a Union employee, and that the plans would not cover workers outside of LA County. This barrier does not exist, and members can use their individual leverage to negotiate with the employer for Union coverage out of state. Furthermore, the employers agreed that people who have been working remotely outside the state can continue to do so and be covered by the agreement under specific circumstances.
No, nothing in our agreement prevents a signatory employer from classifying you as a Union employee. TAG members can work remotely outside of LA County and retain their TAG membership and benefits. Studios may choose not to classify remote workers as TAG members, but this is based on their internal policy and not any rules from TAG or language in the agreement. If you would like to retain your TAG membership when working remotely, you could consider making this a condition of your employment with the studio. Keep in mind, TAG members can use their individual leverage to negotiate Union coverage out of state. If you feel you don’t have the individual leverage to negotiate such an agreement, you can reach out to TAG organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org to help collect the leverage of all remote non-Union workers.
The language in the CBA says that you must be “hired in Los Angeles County” in order for the agreement to apply to your work. It will be up to the discretion of the studio to determine whether or not you need to be physically present in LA County to sign your personal services contract, so make sure to discuss this matter with your employer. So be prepared to travel if this becomes a necessary factor to secure your Union coverage.
You should select the PPO option. The PPO includes healthcare providers nationwide. The HMO plans’ coverage is limited to Southern California.
Unfortunately, if the signatory studio refuses to classify you as a Union employee, you have no grievance rights under the terms of the TAG/AMPTP contract in LA. The most sustainable way to ensure that you and other remote animation workers have a voice on the job, like your LA co-workers, is to organize as remote workers at a TAG signatory studio. Right now, the Guild is organizing permanent remote animation artists and production workers outside of LA County in order to expand the scope of the Animation Guild agreement. If you are working remotely outside LA County and would like to support this effort, email a TAG organizer at email@example.com.
Once you move out of state, there are no guarantees that the next studio will allow you to work as a Union employee. But keep in mind you can use your leverage to negotiate continued Union coverage. Plus, your designation on the previous project is proof that you can work out-of-state and still be covered under the Union, and strengthens your argument to continue to be classified as a Union-covered employee. Also, you may need to travel back to Los Angeles in order to sign your contract in LA County before returning to your permanent residence. This will be up to the studio’s discretion.
Firstly, the TAG Negotiations Committee fought hard to create a pathway towards working remotely outside of LA and adjacent counties when it was not a mandatory subject of bargaining, which means that legally the employers did not have to discuss the issue during negotiations. You can read the complete unpublished sideletter here. This move was a first step toward establishing Union-covered work across the United States. TAG leadership has also devoted significant time and resources to organizing efforts outside of LA County and California in order to ensure all animation workers can one day be protected by a collective bargaining agreement. If you are interested in helping out with organizing efforts email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember we are all TAG members. The stronger and more engaged we are as a membership (remote and local), the more power we can take into negotiations. We need to support all of our kin, near and far, so we can all grow stronger.
No, but the employers do! That’s why they have fought so hard to keep the scope of the agreement focused on LA County.
If the studio classifies you as a Union-covered employee, your pension contributions will continue as usual. If you are not working under the terms of our agreement, you will not have contributions made to MPI, which means you will not be contributing to your MPI pension accounts.
The easiest way to keep us updated on any residence changes is to fill out the online address form. If you have trouble accessing the form, contact us at email@example.com. Submitting your information on the form will update the Guild’s records, and your 401(k) account, if you are a TAG 401(k) plan participant. It will not update MPI, which is the next important step. The MPI change of address form is shared on our form page, and is also available on the MPI website.
Once you have completed your financial obligation to the Union and your membership application has been approved, you are a full member of The Animation Guild, and you will receive a paper membership card. You will receive a new membership card every year.
If you have subscribed to the Guild mailing list and would like to change y our opt-in preferences, simply open a recent email from the Guild and scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “update subscription preferences.” To update your publication preferences for The Pegboard newsletter or Keyframe Magazine, visit https://animationguild.org/about-the-guild/publication-preferences/.
If you don’t see the answer to your question on this page, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.