Where can animation families find resources and community in 2021?

Since 1952, The Animation Guild (IATSE local 839) has represented animation artists, writers and technicians. The Guild functions as a traditional labor organization — it negotiates wage minimums and improved working conditions such as employer-paid pension and health benefits, and acts as an advocate for its members. The Guild’s goal is to provide members a range of benefits and the strength of a collective voice for artists across the animation industry.

The Animation Guild further supports its members through member-run committees. The Guild’s many committees provide an opportunity for members to express their concerns, connect with Guild communities, and bring their recommendations to the Executive Board. There are a broad range of dedicated committees, like the Young Workers Committee, People of Color Committee, and the Communications Committee.

To learn more about the role and impact of these committees, we interviewed Kristin Donner. Kristin is the Chair of the Family and Membership Committee, which is dedicated to supporting caregivers within the Guild.

FAM Co-Chairs Kyle Neswald (left) and Kristin Donner (right) pictured with Santa Claus (centre) in 2019.

What is the role and purpose of the Family and Membership Committee at The Animation Guild?

The FAM Committee exists to provide a supportive community for members in every stage of life. While the committee is sometimes referred to as the “family” committee, it isn’t exclusively for parents. We feel that it’s important to acknowledge diverse forms of family and different dynamics of caregiving. Some of our members may not be parents, but they may be caring for an elderly loved one, supporting a sick partner or friend, or seeking to practice self-care. Regardless of how our members define their families, or what kinds of responsibilities they have in their personal lives, they can find support in the FAM Committee.

The FAM Committee has several subcommittees which cater to specific communities. We have a Playdate Subcommittee, which organizes family-friendly park playdates (pre-pandemic!) and socially-distanced and virtual events during COVID-19. We also have an Autism Support Subcommittee, through which neurodiverse members and parents of autistic children can connect. And there’s a Meal Train Subcommittee, which plans to organize meals for members who could use the support, like new parents for example.

The committee also advocates on behalf of caregivers within the Guild and across the industry. For example, initiating conversations about paid family leave, spotlighting the importance of flexible schedules to ensure parents can return to the workforce, and supporting legislation that supports these initiatives.

How was the Family and Membership Committee created?

The FAM Committee was born out of our last contract negotiations through The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839). For those negotiations, Kyle Neswald (now Co-Chair of the FAM Committee) and I created a proposal for paid family leave. As part of our research for the proposal, we spoke with Guild members about their experiences with bereavement, personal days, and family leave.

Through those conversations, we realized that members needed to be heard. There was no inclusive place within the Guild for members to talk about their responsibilities and pressures outside of work. This was especially the case for caregivers. Many Guild events were being held after work hours, and for members who are parents or caregivers of any sort, attending events outside of work hours can present a challenge.

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