Wage-Fixing in the Animation Industry: Trouble in (Cartoon) Paradise
A piece of very important animation news came out on August 24th on CartoonBrew.com, titled, “Judge Rules Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, and Other Studios Can’t Evade Wage-Fixing Lawsuit.”
What does this mean exactly? Basically, what’s been going on is that Hollywood’s biggest animation studios have been conspiring together to fix the wages of their animators. Those studios include Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Lucasfilm, and others.
Wage fixing means that multiple competing companies will meet together and make an agreement to not recruit employees from each other by offering them better pay at one studio or another. This practice is illegal.
So when did all of this even begin? Apparently it started way back in the 1980s, when Lucasfilm sold its computer animation division (which would become Pixar) to Steve Jobs. The two companies then made a secret agreement stating that they wouldn’t recruit from one another in an effort to keep the wages of their employees down.
But as the animation industry boomed over the years and more studios were founded, the conspiracy grew deeper and deeper, and new studios such as Sony and Blue Sky Studios were pulled into this secret agreement.
So why were the companies doing this? A quote from the CartoonBrew article states:
“According to the artists, a 2007 email from Pixar’s president Ed Catmull to then-Disney chairman Dick Cook, stated, “we have an agreement with Dreamworks not to actively pursue each other’s employees.”
Perhaps the studio executives remembered all too well the bidding wars for top artists that broke out in the mid-1990s when Jeffery Katzenberg founded DreamWorks Animation. The competition for talent led to higher and higher wages for the artists. The studios, ever focused on maximizing corporate profits, likely did not want that to happen again.”
So basically, these big studios have been illegally suppressing the wages of their animators for over a decade. They’re keeping the artists from seeking better jobs at other companies because every single company pays the same, and even if they didn’t, the companies have agreed to not hire from one another. So the free market is completely off limits to all these animators, they don’t have the option of getting better jobs based on talent or dedication. And that’s despicable.