Produced and edited by Libby Rainey and Ian McKenna
The Simpsons, American Dad, and Family Guy production workers are unionizing with The Animation Guild. They’re the only workers behind these hit shows who aren’t unionized, and they’re denied basic benefits like health care, a 401k, and living wage as a result. We spoke with production workers from these shows. Below is a full transcript of the video.
Laura Smalec: When you have shows that are as big as “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “American Dad!,” you have situations where you know that your work will live on forever.
Ashely Brooke Cooper: It’s a cultural icon, its reach is undeniable, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sort of production.
Jason Jones: But we’re the only people who are not in a union.
Ashley: We’d like to have something more, we need desperately to have something more.
Jason: Although I do really appreciate these trinkets, I would much rather have a 401K, better health benefits, and a living wage.
[Clip from “The Simpsons”]: You can’t treat the working man this way! One day we’ll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve.
Ashley: And I think that this industry is lucrative enough to protect us, to take care of us, to recognize that we’re not just meat for the grinder.
My job on “The Simpsons” is I am the retake production manager.
[Clip of Homer from “The Simpsons”]: If I could just say a few words, I’d be a better public speaker.
Ashley: So I work with the post department implementing rewrites, and making sure things go on the television.
[Clip of Lisa from “The Simpsons”]: Hey, we were watching that!
Laura: I’ve been working on Family Guy for 15 years.
[Clip of Petter Griffin from “Family Guy”]: It’s my favorite TV family, the Griffins.
Laura: I’m a production coordinator in the animatics department.
Jason: I’m the animatic and timing production supervisor on “American Dad!”
[“American Dad!” theme song]: Good morning USA! I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be a wonderful day.
Jason: Animatics involves black-and-white preliminary versions of the cartoon.
Laura: It’s the first time we marry the picture with the audio and it kind of gives us a chance to see what works and doesn’t work in terms of comedy.
Jason: So what we do in production is basically communicate with various departments, that includes scheduling, sending out time-sensitive files.
Ashley: It’s up to us to keep everything moving smoothly.
Jason: Not being in a union, you definitely feel it.
Laura: We’re really surrounded by unions on Family Guy, we have the Writers Guild, the Editors Guild, and the rest of the TAG [The Animation Guild] union.
Jason: You’re in a situation where you’re constantly reminded that you’re not privy to overtime pay, you’re not given basically the same rights as other people around you.
Laura: The goal is just generally equality, to have everyone equal across the line because then it shows that what you do is really worth it and has value and is integral to the show.
Ashley: It’s not very out there to want a living wage, and a pension, and retirement fund or just long-term security.
Jason: And for the high level of work that we have to do and are expected to do, our wages are certainly not reflecting that.
Laura: If Family Guy for some reason does get canceled and we have to move shows, being non-union positions, we don’t have health care in between those times.
Ashley: Every time a show ends or doesn’t get picked up for another season, all of those people have to start from square one.
Jason: It’s the right thing to do to consider everyone equally with equal rights.
Laura: They are able to air these shows forever and sell them and whatnot. So [by recognizing our union,] it’s like they are showing us that we have value and that we bring value to the company.
Ashley: No one wants to stay and be told they’re second-class. Nobody wants to stick around to find out that they’re lesser-than.
[Clip of Lisa from “The Simpsons”]: We’ll march ‘til we drop, the girls and the fellas, we’ll fight ‘til the death or else fold like umbrellas.
Videography by Bret Hamilton