Union members foucus on runaway production issues

The cartoonists staged a colorful rally Thursday outside KCET to protest Public Broadcasting System’s funding of animated programs in Canada.

“PBS is taking food off my table,” read one sign with a drawing of the Cookie Monster of PBS’s “Sesame Street” while a Homer Simpson sign proclaimed, “I only watch American TV.” More conventional signs said, “PBS! Don’t give our jobs away.”

The event, organized by Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839, drew about 200 members and supporters in the latest effort by below-the-line players to bring attention to the runaway production issue. KCET was targeted because of its affiliation with PBS, which has partnered with Canada-based Cinar and Nelvana while receiving federal support.

PBS contends U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund those deals but union officials say they will continue to protest because the network’s policy symbolizes the larger issue of local workers losing out on work to less expensive foreign locations. “Animation is more popular than ever before, yet we’ve seen a 40% erosion in local employment during the past two years,” said Tom Sito, Local 839 president.

Steve Hulett, the local’s business agent, said the number of union jobs has fallen from 2,700 to about 1,900 since 1998, largely due to use of foreign animators.

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