September 2007

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An excerpt from

In the 1940s, some major Hollywood actors like James Cagney and Bette Davis formed their own production companies to negotiate a more equitable share of a film's profits. In 1953, James Stewart won the first back-end percentage deal to star in a movie: Winchester 73 .    Lew Wasserman, agent head of MCA productions and a mentor of a kid named Steven Spielberg, brokered the deal.   In 1960, after several high-profile strikes, the Screen Actor's Guild under President Ronald Reagan won residuals for its members.   The writers and directors guilds soon followed suit.   By 1969, young activists in the MPSC also wanted to make their claim for film profits.   If writers, actors, directors and even extras could get residuals for their toil, why not animators?   Don't the cartoons they drew 10, 20 years ago still make money for studios like they were brand new?   They also wanted a tough anti-runaway clause and a solution to the television season when half the membership was unemployed for four months a year.

1969 was the year everyone seemed up for a strike.   Local 839 president Lou Appett and Executive Board member Corny Cole had several meetings with SCG leaders Bill Hurtz and Bill Littlejohn to see if they could form a united front to win residuals.   The Guild leaders were polite but unresponsive.   Corny said that only later he understood the deep mistrust these men still felt toward the IATSE.    Walsh and Brewer, who led the IATSE during the Blacklist, were still in office in the 1960s.   The SCG members considered MPSC business agent Larry Kilty an opportunistic turncoat.   No matter how enlightened the activists of Local 839 seemed to be, memories of the Guild were still fresh.

Animation producers defeated the residuals drive through a skillful manipulation of the old animosity between animators, painters and cameramen. Some there at the time felt the Larry Kilty had been bribed to defeat residuals.   Because of the large numbers of the ink-and-paint artists needed on a film, they constituted more than half of the total number of the voting membership.   Because old chauvinistic glass ceilings barred women from being animators or directors, most of the ink-and-paint crews were women; some were single mothers.   Larry Kilty saw the residuals issue as an impossible distraction from his scheme for the Animation Basic local.   He and his confederates spent many evenings having informal dinners with painters.   They argued convincingly that there was no need to risk their steady employment to strike so male animators could make even more money.   The MPSC leaders, who were mostly animators, had heard about the meetings but were powerless to stop them.   Mark Kausler recalled, " Bill Hanna aided the effort by selectively laying off some ink-and-paint girls for two weeks, then calling them back for a week, then laying them off for a week again. These women losing work became demoralized and anxious for their incomes."

The suspicion between the job categories quickly broke into full flower. At the next general membership meeting, many the inkers and painters announced they would not support any move to strike for residuals.   The animators and cleanup artists would remember this feud.   When the Runaway Wars broke out in 1979, some of them saw the issue as solely the problem of inkers and painters because at that time most of the work going out of town was ink and paint.   So they withheld their support for the union's struggle. The defeated strike created heavy loss of ink-and-paint jobs to overseas, but they also caused animation and cleanup jobs to leave town.

As 1969 moved into 1970, the negotiations between Local 839 and the studios seemed at a stalemate.   Then old IATSE international president Richard Walsh visited the contract negotiation. The studios and Walsh must have realized that if a relatively small IATSE local like the animators could win residuals, then the larger mainstream IA locals like editors, cameramen, even grips and projectionists might demand it as well.   Many IA contracts with smaller businesses had Me-Too clauses in their basic contracts that would drag their profits into the residual pool along with the major studios.   It seemed to the owners a stampede to ruin would occur.    When IATSE President Walsh sat down at the table on the union side, the Local 839 militants hoped a big gun like him would help turn the tide in their favor.   Larry Kilty still had hopes for his Animation Basic scheme.

To their chagrin, the old gentleman only mouthed some vague anecdotes about how Lucky Lindy Lindbergh was also told things were impossible yet he persevered.   Then Walsh with Kilty broke the deadlock and quickly closed a deal with the producers.   The final results were way below everyone's expectations.   No residuals, no basic or animation super local, a few bumps in minimums. When MPSC members were told about the results they cried collusion and rejected the contract offer on August 7.   One rash member was quoted in the press accusing IA President Walsh of "whip-cracking."   839 President Lou Appet recommended a strike vote, but it was defeated.   IA President Walsh agreed to go back and negotiate further. But he threatened disciplinary actions on the MPSC, for example seizing the general fund and pension funds, if the union continued to be uppity. Another mild contract was quickly negotiated with some more token bumps in salary rates. But the issue of residuals never was brought up again.

By now "Guilty Kilty" was so unpopular that the defeat of the residuals drive became the last straw.   After being business agent for more than a decade, he sized up the mood and wisely decided not to run for another term.   When a new Local 839 administration led by president Harry "Bud" Hester and business agent Lou Appet looked into the local's books, they were shocked by what they saw.   They saw that Larry Kilty had padded expenses to his bills, paid an unauthorized retirement bonus to his outgoing assistant, Lona Ibsen, and awarded himself additional severance pay on his leaving office.   Executive Board member Anne Guenther recalled money collected for a charity art sale disappearing that many blamed on Kilty. The MPSC Executive Board held a special trial on May 10, 1972.   They formally expelled Larry Kilty for misappropriation of union funds.   Kilty denounced the Board as a Kangaroo Court and charged bigotry.   "Prejudice is in vogue with sitcoms now. . . . Maybe we should call this All in the Union!"   This is a strange charge since everyone involved was of Caucasian-European Ancestry.   Larry Kilty then filed his own charges with the IATSE and the NLRB against Board members Charlie Downs, Harry Hester, Anne Gunther, Lou Kearns and Lou Appet.   Both cases were thrown out, and the IA endorsed the Executive Board's judgement against Kilty.    The Labor Board explained that a business agent is an elected official who understood their time in office was limited, so the concept of severance pay was not applicable. Rejected and defeated on all sides, Larry Kilty finally left town.   He moved north to Monterey, California, and worked for a commercial studio called Aptos with fellow ex-Disneyite Bob Carlson.   Friends there said he remained bitter about what happened.   The Board members remained equally angry at him.   Larry Kilty died in 2002.

The best chance in a generation to win residuals was gone.   For the next twenty years whenever a contract needed to be negotiated the MPSC would list the residuals demand in it's bullet points but with no results.   In 1979, when the entire animation community went out on strike, old union president Ben Washam told me it was already too late, "We had our chance in 1969, we had the entire business in town. The studios could do nothing because we had all the cards.   But we didn't stick together.   We blew it."


POSTSCRIPT-   As a side result from the WGA and DGA strikes in the 1980s, some residuals are put aside for animation folks. But on agreement they are added into the IATSE Health plans rather than go to individuals.

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