The Pros

Whether you’re just getting started or being a seasoned storyboard artist, you’ve probably come across one of the artist unions. If you haven’t joined a union as yet or you’re skeptical, please read on as we dive into the pros and cons of joining an artist union.

Generally speaking, some of the more considerable union benefits become more useful later on in life. For example, if you sick, plan on retiring, or have a severe issue at your job, the union will help you.

If you are serious about joining, it’s always a good idea to ask a colleague or someone you trust within the industry what their experiences are and if they can refer you to a representative. By doing so, you’ll get real-life and individual experiences with the union. Let’s carefully examine each of the pros and cons of this.


Set Wages

One of the best aspects of joining the union is the salary minimums. When you visit one of the trusted Guilds’ websites, you’ll see entire sections dedicated to salary minimums. Studios that are not affiliated with the union tend to offer pegged salaries as where Unions always negotiate and fight for higher wages for their members.

Pension Plans

There are usually a few plans to choose from. Options range from voluntary matched 401ks’ to more traditional pensions. If you’re interested in learning more, it is advised that you contact the representative for your union to check current packages.

Keep in mind that these plans usually move when you do. When you transfer from one studio to another, your plan stays intact. Another huge benefit is the multi-employer feature that allows persons to work for different studios as their career progresses.

Health Plan

The comprehensive health plan offered by the union is one of the best that you’ll ever come across in all of Southern California. However, you’ll need to work anywhere between 4 months to 6 months until your health plan is activated.

Workplace Grievance Protections

If you’re seeking overtime wages, you can count on the union to ensure that you’re paid and protected from being deceived. These associations are well equipped and have specific grievance plans in place. This ensures that all matters are dealt with before they become messy.

Education And Training

The guilds are responsible for ensuring that regular discussions and seminars are conducted with the panel. This is done to keep everyone up-to-date with professional matters in the industry. They sometimes facilitate computer labs that members can use. When members require more training, the union looks into it and facilitates as best as they could.

Available Work Lists

When you join a union, you’ll sometimes have access to new assignments and available worklists. This is a perk that often gets new memers in the door but can also be used by more experienced artists looking to scale.

Vacation And Holiday Pay

Check with union reps about vacation, maternity, and holiday pay benefits.

Holiday Party And Awards Banquet

One of the more fun things you’ll encounter when you join the union is holiday parties and a ton of other fun events. This gives you the perfect opportunity to network and socialize with your friends while finding new opportunities.


The Cons

If you’re an employee, the only real con of the union is the dues that add up. Besides dues, you’ll also need to pay the admission fee. However, if you’re affiliated with a studio that plans to join the union, the initiation fee will be waived.

If you’re hired at a studio that is already a part of the union, then you’ll only be required to pay the one-time fee. When joining a union, you can always request a payment plan for the setup fee.

These dues are different depending on the position that you hold. By joining, you’ll also be required to be your “brother’s keeper” and ensure that they don’t jeopardize the union. For better words, this is an act of professionalism and not a con.

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The Myths

The following are some false cons that people associate with joining the union:

– One source claims that “unions dictate who you can and cannot work for and you’re not eligible to work for anyone that offers you something outside of your regular job description.” When you join the union, you’ll be able to do just about anything you desire.

– Another suggests that “unions assign jobs or force studios to hire those that they don’t like or rather want.” This is not factual in any shape or form. Members are allowed to work where they see fit until they retire or get fired.

– “Unions are only for greedy individuals who do nothing but collect money and laze in their fancy offices.” This, by far, is the silliest one we’ve heard, and it’s not true.

– “Union leaders only pretend to care.” Union leaders are some of the most caring in the entire industry, and they genuinely look out for you. They always bring to light the scams that are playing out in the industry.

– “Your colleagues and friends outside of the union wouldn’t be hired if the studio decides to join the union.” This is not true; the union hires well-suited individuals.

How To Join

If you’re interested in joining the union, you should be either a Storyboard Artist, an Illustrator, or a Matte Artist. This is a considerable requirement, especially if you’re currently in a company that is covered under a union. However, it should be noted that you are required to join within thirty days from your start date in the company.