Saturday, November 13, 2004

Electronic Arts - Overworked artists

I'm sure most of you have heard about the recent EA hubbub. A spouse of an employee wrote a letter on a blog site about the working conditions that the significant other was enduring. It is a pretty long and well written entry. Filled with passion. Definitely worth ten minutes of your time.

Unfortunately these horrible hours are all too common place in the animation industry. Anytime people are pressured or forced to work more than 40 hours a week, they need to be paid overtime. None of this comptime bullcrap that is such a common practice.

The young-fresh-out-of-school kids have no problem working 80 hours a week doing something they love. However, later in life when they get a family, it becomes more difficult and they realize they can no longer put in those hours. So, they are replaced by a fresh crop of youngins. Those of you working these insane hours without getting adequate compensation are not only doing a disservice to yourself- but for the entire profession. You won't be a young kid forever and you are only screwing yourselves down the line. Stand up.

This problem is compounded when you have producers and managers that have no idea what they are doing and set unrealistic goals. They forget that these skilled individuals are people and expect that they should insane hours for little or no extra compensation. Many times these producers are the first ones to leave and rarely show up on the weekends.

To all of you at EA. Sign rep cards and join the union. I'm not sure if the animation guild extends into games (it probably does), but something needs to be done. You shouldn't put yourselves through this. I'm not exactly fond of unions, but this is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Somehow I don't think all of this bitching will do any good. EA (and companies with similar philosophies) will continue to treat employees the way they do until someone forces them to do otherwise. Whether that is by a lawsuit or the government stepping in. There will always be a fresh crop of eager kids willing to work slave-like uncompensated hours, so I have the sinking suspicion that nothing will change.


Anonymous said...

For those of you who are interested I started a discussion on overtime pay for animators not too long ago at

FYI, the appropriate US Department of Labor law is right here at It says that animators are supposed to get paid overtime.

A common trick they play on naive animators is to tell them that California law doesn't require overtime pay for them. If they tell you that, they're playing you for a fool and a sucker. Federal law ALWAYS overrides state law. It doesn't matter what California or any other state says, Federal law supercedes any of them.

Another common trick is that they tell you that you're "salaried" so you don't get overtime. That's them trying to pull another fast one on you. This Federal law applies to EVERYONE, especially salaried employees.

Managers and Human Resource people know about these laws and they are aware that they're breaking them. They're just betting that YOU do not and will let yourself be screwed over because you're eager, young, and ignorant.

Anonymous said...

...uh, I think you need to go back and read that Dept of Labor page again,...

"It would not normally be met by a peron who is employed as a copyist, or as an ``animator'' of
motion-picture cartoons, or as a retoucher of photographs since it is not believed that such work is properly described as creative in character."

Anonymous said...

No rereading necessary. The page is explaining who meets the criteria necessary to NOT get paid overtime. Animators don't meet that criteria. Therefore (happily for us) animators do get paid overtime.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected, sir!,...
Fantastic!...that's great news...

Read a lot pages from the link you provided,..
Wonder what category "technical directors" fall into,
..because we both program and do animation-related
activities, especially characterTDs...

Anonymous said...

No worries. Good news is good for everybody! :-)

Now, the Technical Director problem you mention is where all of this gets a little fuzzy. Legal definitions and labor disputes are full of questions of just how much your job requires you to do your own thinking and how much is simply doing what your boss directs, arguments as to what percentage of your day you spend doing programming, and fights over how many hours a week you actually spend performing this or that function... it comes down to infinitesimal shades of legal gray. At that point, it probably is better to consult the local office of the Department of Labor or call an attorney that specializes in labor law.

Anonymous said...

...a follow-up to the original story thread,


Anonymous said...

If the EA artists had the intelligence to vote for union representation they would then get their overtime pay and fair working hours as a matter of course.

If enough of them signed the union cards the studio would have to comply. I don't think that the artists reallized that they held all the cards. EA would not be able to replace them so easily; they cannot just threaten to up and relocate to another country the way some theatrical and television animation studios have done in the past when artists tried to unionize. (and surprise! at least one major cartoon studio could have unionized at that time, but they chose to believe management's stories about relocation--but that's another story.)

The lawsuit route is an irrevocable one. There is no room for negotiation. (A union agreement is binding on the artists AND management and is far less confrontational.) And are they still working the 72 hour weeks while filing this (ultimately fruitless) lawsuit? Unless the artists put their styli down after an 8 hour day and go home, there is no reason for the studio to listen to them.
New labor laws are even now taking away their right to overtime pay--UNLESS they are in the union.
Any reasonably-educated person can see that a union would have solved all their problems.

This is truly pathetic.