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Negotiations Town Hall #2: What do the employers want?

Alexandra Drosu / May 10, 2021

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In our previous Town Hall “What Do We Want?,” we discussed some of the basics of negotiations and what the Guild’s goals are in each negotiations cycle.

In our second town hall, “What Do the Employers Want?,” we delved into the specifics of the negotiations process through the lens of the employers. We discussed how employers will prepare for negotiations, and some of the ways we might expect them to respond in the room.

Please note that a significant portion of the conversation centered on specific examples that cannot be shared on a public platform to avoid compromising our negotiations strategy and preparations.

The panel consisted of current Negotiations Committee members who also participated in the 2018 negotiations cycle. They spoke on their experiences in the previous round of negotiations and potential arguments the employers might present during the 2021 negotiations.

Business Representative Steve Kaplan


Candice Stephenson first joined the Negotiations Committee in 2018 to inform the negotiations process by sharing her experiences as a member of the then-Executive Board. As a TV CG artist, she believes it’s crucial for different studios and crafts to have their voices represented during negotiations. She uses her experiences working with the committee on the Master CBA to inform her work on other studios’ agreements.

Paula Spence is the Executive Board Recording Secretary and a highly active member of the Guild. She first got involved in negotiations in 2012 when the Negotiations Committee called on Guild members for additional support. Paula joined them in a show of solidarity to strengthen their arguments, and has passionately participated in negotiations ever since.

Brandon Jarratt is an Executive Board member and shop steward. He became interested in the negotiations process while thinking about the future of media distribution (particularly via streaming media) and the implications of Sideletter N. He describes negotiations as a process that was simultaneously a check on his expectations, but also one that gave him a sense of optimism for what could be achieved.

Kristin Donner joined negotiations in 2018 after seeing family leave was one of the proposed topics. She helped spearhead a grassroots campaign speaking on behalf of Guild families, and used this information to craft proposals benefiting families and caregivers. In response to growing interest in making the Guild and industry more accommodating for families, she formed the Family and Membership Committee, which she currently chairs.

How do we negotiate with different employers?
Every cycle, we create and/or renegotiate new Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) . We negotiate a few different CBAs:

  • The Master Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which the majority of Guild-signed employers agree to. A full list of the employers signed to this agreement can be found on page 46 of the 2018 Master CBA under the title “Exhibit A.
  • Additional independent CBAs, which are negotiated separately, include:  TSL (Walt Disney Animation Studios), Sony Pictures Animation (SPA), Nickelodeon, WAG Pictures, Netflix and several independent production companies.
  • Each CBA outlines specific terms for the signatory studios. Studios that sign independent agreements might have different terms from studios that sign the Master CBA. 

While much of this Town Hall focuses specifically on the Master CBA, the broad strokes of the negotiations process are the same for independent CBAs.

Who is in the room during negotiations?
The Animation Guild’s side of the room consists of:

  • Business Representative Steve Kaplan, acting by constitutional mandate as our spokesperson
  • IATSE Vice President Mike Miller, on behalf of IATSE
  • The Guild’s Attorney 
  • Members of the Negotiations Committee 

The employers’ side of the room consists of:

  • AMPTP President Carol Lombardini, acting as spokesperson on behalf of the employers
  • The AMPTP, acting as the bargaining unit for most major motion picture studios
  • Representatives sent on behalf of individual studios
  • Typically the employers are represented by corporate attorneys, and not studio personnel (such as Line Producers). They might or might not be familiar with the ins and outs of the animation industry.

What happens in the negotiation room?

  • The Guild is welcomed by the AMPTP with opening remarks.
  • Each side will present their proposals and supporting arguments.
  • After these presentations, each side will separate to a caucus room to privately discuss the proposals.
  • The two sides reconvene in the negotiations room where each side will share their thoughts on and rebuttals to specific proposals. 
  • From here, the process of presenting arguments continues until an agreement is reached.

What do employers prioritize in negotiations?

Employers and their representatives are primarily interested in creating contracts that support the business interests of the studios. Examples of past considerations on their side include:

  • Economic concerns that impact business
  • Examining the necessity of certain proposals – why do you need this specific request?
  • Not favoring any specific bargaining unit 

What does the guild prioritize during negotiations?

The Guild is primarily concerned with the needs of its membership. Examples of past considerations on our side include:

  • Economic concerns that impact membership
  • Ensuring workplaces are safe and provide for the needs of members
  • Creating parity between our CBA and the CBAs of other bargaining units

What is the process for reaching an agreement in the room?
Reaching an agreement is about creating a CBA that will sufficiently provide for the needs of the membership. Both the employers and the Negotiations Committee must agree to the terms of the contract before it can be sent to membership for ratification. Each party will have different priorities, and each party may at times make concessions in order to create an agreement both parties can work under. Separately and privately, the employers and the Negotiations Committee will caucus amongst members to decide what terms they will agree to before returning as a united front to the negotiation room.

  • The employers’ side, by their own design, makes decisions unanimously, which means that every single member representing the employers must agree to the terms. This can take several hours as they negotiate amongst themselves in private caucus.
  • The Negotiations Committee makes decisions by majority. When there is an issue where not all members agree, the committee will hold a vote to determine its stance.

When an agreement that is acceptable to both parties is reached, the contract is then sent to members. Members can then read the terms of the proposed CBA, and can vote in favor of or against ratifying the agreement

To create the strongest possible proposals and the best representation of our membership, the Negotiations Committee needs your help! Don’t forget to participate in the upcoming negotiations survey, and spread the world to fellow members!


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