Word Balloon Academy: Labour Organizing with Vanessa Kelly

As a part of the Word Balloon Academy program, TCAF presents an interview Vanessa Kelly from the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society (ABAS), a Vancouver-based labour organizing group that has exhibited at the comic arts festival, VanCAF. Please note this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You can learn more about ABAS at their official website and from this article by Our Times which goes into more detail about specific working conditions for animators and their relations with employers.
The groups mentioned by Vanessa include IATSE, the Animation Guild, and ACTRA. Listeners may also be interested in GWU, an organizing group in the gaming industry who you might have seen at the Hand Eye Society Ball, an event hosted by TCAF’s partner, Hand Eye Society.
One of the challenges in talking about labour organizing is that workers can take on the significant risk of retaliation from employers. Because of this, organizers are often not at liberty to disclose certain details about campaigning, especially ongoing campaigns. This makes knowledge more difficult to share. While there are online resources that document and analyze past campaigns, learning about organizing is greatly benefited from contacting groups experienced in labour rights like ABAS.

Vanessa and other organizers contacted regarding this program also noted that labour organizing can improve working conditions outside of a collective agreement between unionized workers and their employer. In addition to ABAS’ campaign to have employers recognize overtime pay of non-unionized animation workers, workers can achieve other goals such as pooling funds to purchase healthcare or creating a public payment schedule like the one organized by CARFAC. These types of goals are especially beneficial to freelance workers who usually do not have a central employer, or even a small group of central employers, to organize around.

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