The pandemic has shown that TAG members are not only talented, but they are nimble and can transition to working effectively from home. This ability to quickly adapt to a new situation has helped sustain the animation industry when much of live-action entertainment has halted. Of course, the new situation has changed the landscape of working in this industry and by doing so more and more members have questions about the viability of continuing to work from home. Here, we endeavor to answer some of your most commonly asked questions. As always, if you have any questions or would like to follow up on a specific issue email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to continue working from home. Are there any provisions under the CBA for working from home?
The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not stipulate whether an employee must work in the office or from home, and many Guild members have already negotiated more flexible schedules that allow them to work at home. On the other hand, the Agreement does not require an employer to permit employees to work at home if she or he so desires. The Animation Guild supports flexible schedules to address a myriad of employment needs. Studies show that flexible schedules lead to greater employee satisfaction, higher productivity levels, less turnover, reduced absenteeism and increased work-life balance.
Aren’t the terms working remotely or from home the same?
No. Working remotely has connotations of a temporary time that an employee is working out of the office. An example is when your employer sends you to a conference or vendor studio for a finite period of time. Working from home means working from a dedicated office at home. The expectation is to work a full day and have the equipment and software you need to do your job effectively. Working from home should provide you with an opportunity for more flexibility in your schedule while still meeting productivity expectations.
Cost of living in Los Angeles is high and I am considering moving outside the state so I can afford to buy a house and working from home. Will I lose my TAG benefits?
Article 3 of our Master Agreement states that if someone is hired in LA County to work in LA County, or hired in LA County to work outside of LA County, the terms and conditions will apply. The article has been interpreted to mean that anyone working for a studio signed to our agreement will be covered by the agreement and will have to join the Local. MPI’s Trust Agreement is written a bit differently, but says essentially the same thing.
However, under the MPI Trust Agreement, the term “Employee” is defined to exclude those employees who do not meet the following criteria:
(A) the employee’s principal employment with the Employer satisfies both of the following requirements: (i) the employee is in the labor pool in the Los Angeles area, and (ii) the employee is hired (1) by the Employer in the Los Angeles area to perform services in the Los Angeles area in the Industry, or (2) by the Employer in the Los Angeles area to perform temporary services outside the Los Angeles area in connection with motion picture (including theatrical, television, music video and commercial) productions.
Following the current language in the MPI Trust Agreement, MPI has determined that anyone not living in LA County (excluding those on temporary assignment elsewhere) cannot be defined as a part of the “Los Angeles labor pool.” Therefore, for employees residing permanently outside of the Los Angles area and working permanently from outside the Los Angeles area, this is a serious issue. The only way to assure that your MPI benefits will be maintained is to work under the terms of the agreement. Once one establishes residence outside of Los Angeles County on a permanent basis, there is no guarantee that the studios will continue your benefits under the terms of the agreement.
It says that someone can live outside of the state to perform temporary services. What does temporary mean?
It means that any work performed outside Los Angeles County is expected to be temporary and that the member participating in MPI would be returning to Los Angeles. This could be substantiated by the member maintaining a local address in Los Angeles.
Is there anything we can do to maintain our TAG benefits so we can live outside of Los Angeles?
The restrictions on working in the County were written at a time before working remotely and far from the studio had become a genuine reality. It is now necessary for us to expand the “scope” language in bargaining. This will require Animation Guild members to come together in solidarity during the next negotiations in 2021 and make this a priority.
I’m worried! My studio has already started hiring non-union artists to work remotely from other parts of the country and the world? What can we do to stop this from happening?
In order to restrict the studio’s ability to hire outside a geographic area, we would have to write that language into our agreement and demand that the employers accept it during negotiations. However, as technology and the cost of living in Los Angeles have created this situation, and as we believe all of the animation industry deserves to be represented by our Union, it would make more sense to expand our agreement to cover all of the industry across the country, and then continue our efforts to cover that work under a union agreement.