Picketing In Front of PBS! Just Blame It On Canada?
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Tom Sito, president of Local 893.

So What’s It All About?
When asked about Disney leaving Vancouver, Sito says, "It’s very sad. It’s sad for the folks there that it’s creating unemployment." [Editor’s Note: However, we have heard that the market in Vancouver is still strong despite of Disney’s retreat.] The union chief went on to say, "It’s not a nativist issue. Some of the rhetoric you hear is American jobs for American people. It’s not really that."

So what really is the issue? Many of the studios that are sending work outside of Hollywood are based in Southern California. The wages for artists in Los Angeles are the highest in the world. Talents from all over the globe migrate to the area to work in the highest concentration of film companies on the planet. Sito explains that on the projects he has been working on, most recently Osmosis Jones for Warner Bros., there are many international artists bringing their talent to the production. In fact, several of the animators come from Canada. The issue comes down to keeping jobs in Hollywood for the people whom live and have families here. From the world’s best to the fresh out of school, artists come to Los Angeles to find work in the industry. Whether they come from Paris, France or Emmaus, Pennsylvania, they are all competing for jobs in California, where the major production companies are located. "As much as it is an issue of work going to Canada, it’s an issue of work going to Texas or Ohio or New York."

Antan Manoogian, president of ASIFA-Hollywood.
Protesters packed the sidewalk they day of the picket.

Sito even admits that the multinational businesses’ ever growing standard of sending work outside the U.S. is just a sign of the times. However sad, he says it is inevitable. In the glory of being the highest paid workers in the world, Hollywood animators cannot compete with the low wage rates of overseas competitors. Nonetheless, Sito states that all Local 893 wants is "to compete on a fair basis."

According to union representatives, several of the Los Angeles-based animation houses were not even asked or allowed to place bids on the work that PBS sent to Canada. How can a distributor know what the best deal will be if they don’t even include U.S. studios in the early stages of project bidding? American businesses sending work overseas is an issue that makes people upset, but when a U.S. publicly funded broadcasting station sends tax money to Canada that makes people angry. PBS has been quoted in the news as saying that no tax dollars are going to Canada. But where is the money coming from? Subscriber donations? Therefore, the money is still coming from people living in the United States. Moreover, many of the people participating in the demonstration are donators to PBS. When their money is being used to send jobs away from Hollywood, they feel betrayed. This situation is what led to the picket in front of Los Angeles PBS affiliate KCET. At the time of this article, PBS was not available for comment on the subject.

The issue isn’t about whining artists taking their problems out on Canada. The topic lies in the simple fact that the Cartoonists’ Union Local 893 wants to keep jobs in their community. Just like autoworkers in Michigan and steelworkers in Pennsylvania, animators wanted to keep cartoons in Hollywood.

A scrapbook from the picket.

Rick DeMott is the Associate Editor of Animation World Magazine. Previously, he served as Media Coordinator for Hollywood-based Acme Filmworks. He holds a BA in Film/Video from Penn State University with a Minor in Comparative Literature.

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