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[TRENCHES] Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - Visitation

GethGeth LegionPerseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited June 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub
Visitation


Visitation
http://trenchescomic.com/comic/post/visitation

Starving Artists

Anonymous

I’m not in the game industry, but I’m sure you’ll find this story relevant. Working as an animator for broadcast television is a luck of the draw for what show you’re working on. Where you’re placed is the difference between drawing colorful squares and circles for toddlers or pushing the lines with some crazy new WB title. Quite frankly, you’re happy as long as at the end of the week there’s a paycheck with your name on it… and even that’s a crapshoot.

A now bankrupt company that once ‘employed’ young men and women fresh out of college (taking in almost all of my classmates that year) in downtown Halifax, realized that halfway through the contract that their show would no longer have any chance of finishing or staying within the budget.

Their solution?

Instead of pay, employees would receive royalties from the shows that would never be finished! When notified of this new “arrangement,” we immediately tried to contact the studio head, to no avail, since he never actually came to work. I know several that slaved on for months in a desperate hope of scrounging a rare paycheck as they ate away what little they had saved from their previous paychecks and student loans.

Management would receive their paychecks by walking out to the studio head’s car in the parking lot at a designated time confirmed ahead by cell phone.

Many of the employees were as bankrupt as the company, and the studio head has since started a new company in a different region employing the same strategy.

I now work for the Canadian military as an electrician.


Geth on

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    RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    Liking the L* logo.

    Not liking the terrible story. :(

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    Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    How is that legal? Did these people not have contracts?

    MhCw7nZ.gif
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    RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    How is that legal? Did these people not have contracts?

    There has been at least one Trenches story where the teller was not on any sort of contract.

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    DMSimonDMSimon Registered User new member
    Doubt Kurtz et al will see this here, but the frame credits are wrong...
    Somebody should probably tweet/pm him

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    ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    I've heard plenty of stories of employees working without paychecks as their companies spiral down the drain. I don't think I've ever heard of a story where it ends with them actually getting any of the money they're owed.

    Moral of the story: If your company reaches this point, it's already too late. GTFO and start looking for something else.

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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    The primary thing I'm learning from these stories:

    Creatives complain about being poor because they are very bad at negotiating contracts.

    What is this I don't even.
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    DiannaoChongDiannaoChong Registered User regular
    "what's a [nocallback] contract?" /sublimnal man

    steam_sig.png
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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    The primary thing I'm learning from these stories:
    Creatives complain about being poor because they are very bad at negotiating contracts.
    It certainly seems that way. But when every job has a stack of resumes applications three inches deep lined up waiting for it, sometimes it might seem better to take the job, get the experience, and use it to pad out a resume then to wait for a job that'll actually pay an inexperienced creative type who's just out of school.

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    NeuroskepticNeuroskeptic Registered User regular
    see317 wrote: »
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    The primary thing I'm learning from these stories:
    Creatives complain about being poor because they are very bad at negotiating contracts.
    It certainly seems that way. But when every job has a stack of resumes applications three inches deep lined up waiting for it, sometimes it might seem better to take the job, get the experience, and use it to pad out a resume then to wait for a job that'll actually pay an inexperienced creative type who's just out of school.
    Yeah. These are all junior creatives. Senior ones don't have any problem making money as far as I know. But when you're at the bottom of the ladder, you get crapped on.

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    Shakes999Shakes999 Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Im always amazed at how much the american workforce just lies down and takes it from the employers. Not just in these stories, but at jobs ive worked at. The day payroll is missed, the entire staff should be flooding their states respective workforce commission with missed payment complaints. At the very least figure out what your options are. The only thing worse than being jobless is working for free, and if you are working for free (ESPECIALLY if you are SUPPOSED to be getting paid)and not doing anything about it, than you deserve what you get. I know for a fact at least here in texas that if you get enough staff to lodge complaints they will launch a investigation in to said company. Sometimes 1 complaint is all you need depending on the severity and number of violations but the ball gets rolling faster if there are multiple complaints.

    Shakes999 on
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    Shakes999Shakes999 Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Scooter wrote: »
    I've heard plenty of stories of employees working without paychecks as their companies spiral down the drain. I don't think I've ever heard of a story where it ends with them actually getting any of the money they're owed.

    Moral of the story: If your company reaches this point, it's already too late. GTFO and start looking for something else.

    Also this. My, girl and i completely stuck it to one company that was stiffing us and the staff on pay, even got the newspaper and the IRS involved by the end of it (We're pretty spiteful, Dont mess with our money!!!! ) but we still never got our last 2 checks. The end result is the same but at least its possible to get SOME gratification from it.

    Shakes999 on
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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    I know several that slaved on for months in a desperate hope of scrounging a rare paycheck as they ate away what little they had saved from their previous paychecks and student loans.

    These people have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Shakes999 wrote:
    Im always amazed at how much the american workforce just lies down and takes it from the employers.

    Story takes place in Halifax. That's in Nova Scotia, which is a province of Canada. Just FYI. Maybe you meant "North American workforce?"

    Gaslight on
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    Shakes999Shakes999 Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Gaslight wrote: »
    I know several that slaved on for months in a desperate hope of scrounging a rare paycheck as they ate away what little they had saved from their previous paychecks and student loans.

    These people have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Shakes999 wrote:
    Im always amazed at how much the american workforce just lies down and takes it from the employers.

    Story takes place in Halifax. That's in Nova Scotia, which is a province of Canada. Just FYI. Maybe you meant "North American workforce?"

    Lol yeah I was talking more generally. I have no clue what the hell Canadian rights entail not to mention I totally missed that part of the story..

    Shakes999 on
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    AlienCowThatMoosAlienCowThatMoos Registered User regular
    I think the lesson is this: If your employer misses a paycheck, inform them and ask that it be ready tomorrow. If it isn't, don't do any more work until it is. You may get fired but this would be an unintuitively preferable outcome.

    SpidermanSig.jpg
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    halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    On missing paychecks - Some (younger) employees don’t know their rights, or have a misplaced loyalty/friendship associated with the company.

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    strike_the_tripstrike_the_trip Registered User regular
    DMSimon wrote: »
    Doubt Kurtz et al will see this here, but the frame credits are wrong...
    Somebody should probably tweet/pm him

    I don't know if this is a mistake. It may be that Mike and Jerry dropped out and Scott just took it over.

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    King RiptorKing Riptor Registered User regular
    I think the lesson is this: If your employer misses a paycheck, inform them and ask that it be ready tomorrow. If it isn't, don't do any more work until it is. You may get fired but this would be an unintuitively preferable outcome.

    If you get fired you have grounds for a lawsuit and get unemployment.

    Seems preferable to being a slave.

    I have a podcast now. It's about video games and anime!Find it here.
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    Lawful EvilLawful Evil Registered User regular
    DMSimon wrote: »
    Doubt Kurtz et al will see this here, but the frame credits are wrong...
    Somebody should probably tweet/pm him

    I don't know if this is a mistake. It may be that Mike and Jerry dropped out and Scott just took it over.

    It says pvponline at the bottom.

    Do not believe that the impossible exists. That is why you fail.
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    VirtuavereVirtuavere Registered User regular
    Gaslight wrote: »
    These people have nobody to blame but themselves.

    I finally registered for here for the first time in years because I found this sentiment incredibly galling.

    Blaming the victim in these kind of situations is exactly the kind of attitude that enables these practices, just as much as rolling over in that position and taking it.

    People in positions like that of the story often don't have many options, and sometimes there's more at stake than just a paycheck. You could lose references or your job, and if you're someone who's already invested a lot of time or has bills that need to be immediately paid, you might not be in a situation where stirring shit up is in your own best interests.

    While I absolutely would never tolerate this kind of behavior from an employer, I also sympathize with people who do, even if it saddens me. Some of you seem to place a lot of trust in the government or watchdog organizations, and while they ARE effective, they don't always fix everything. If you work at-will and your employer is an asshole, you may find yourself without any recourse at all.

    I completely agree that employers SHOULD be held accountable, and that employees SHOULD take matters into their own hands whenever they are screwed over, but I also absolutely hold to the belief that no employer has a RIGHT to do the things they do in these kind of stories. Saying that these victims deserve what they get is little better than saying that employers have a right to be dishonest and fuck over their employees.

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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Virtuavere wrote: »
    Gaslight wrote: »
    These people have nobody to blame but themselves.

    I finally registered for here for the first time in years because I found this sentiment incredibly galling.

    Blaming the victim in these kind of situations is exactly the kind of attitude that enables these practices, just as much as rolling over in that position and taking it.

    People in positions like that of the story often don't have many options, and sometimes there's more at stake than just a paycheck. You could lose references or your job

    Oh no, lose the job I'm not getting paid for? Lose a hypothetical reference from the shady fly-by-night company that treats me like shit? Let me wring my hands and agonize over what course of action I should take.

    and if you're someone who's already invested a lot of time or has bills that need to be immediately paid

    Oh, I've already invested so much time. The shackles of the Sunk Cost Fallacy are weighty ones indeed! And how will I pay my bills if I quit my job where I'm not getting paid? OH WHAT TO DO.

    but I also absolutely hold to the belief that no employer has a RIGHT to do the things they do in these kind of stories.

    Nobody ever said the employers had a right to do this or that their actions are acceptable. Don't put words in my mouth, you silly, silly goose.

    Saying that these victims deserve what they get is little better than saying that employers have a right to be dishonest and fuck over their employees.

    Bullshit. Nobody has a right to come up to you on the street and kick you in the ass, but what can we conclude about your intelligence if you stand there passively and let them keep kicking you? Fight back or walk away.

    The people who agreed to stay on with no pay based on the ephemeral promises of royalties from a product that wasn't ever going to be finished were fools. Pitiable, naive, victimized fools, yes. But still fools.


    Gaslight on
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    Shakes999Shakes999 Registered User regular
    edited June 2012



    With Gas light on this one. Nothing else around the peripheral matters if you are not getting paid for your services. Not your friends, not how much work youve put in or loyalty or refrences. If you are not getting paid for your work , either find another job ASAP, fight back with guns blazing , or take it like a chump. Its really very simple once you take out the "What-ifs".

    Shakes999 on
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    ApolloinApolloin Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Shakes999 wrote: »
    With Gas light on this one. Nothing else around the peripheral matters if you are not getting paid for your services. Not your friends, not how much work youve put in or loyalty or refrences. If you are not getting paid for your work , either find another job ASAP, fight back with guns blazing , or take it like a chump. Its really very simple once you take out the "What-ifs".

    When the studio I was working for went under due to Corporate mismanagement our Team Leader told us that we basically would not be getting the months pay that we were owed and that nobody would pay us going forward because there was no money for us to do so. We were basically laid off.

    He also asked us to keep the faith a little longer because he was putting together a deal to set up an independent studio to keep working on the project we had underway. For six weeks I was a Ronin Developer, bringing honour to my clan, designing from the shadows.

    Lots of people got other jobs, all of them involving leaving town, selling houses, uprooting family. The core of us stayed and our Team Leader DID sign a new deal, get control of the IP and move us to another office. I got paid for every single day I worked on faith.

    If what you're doing is more important to you than the money, then it really is NOT as simple as some of you try to make it sound. Whilst every employee absolutely deserves to be paid on full and on time, if that is your only concern then you're far better off working for a bank or organised crime than a Game Development studio. That choice is up to the individual and, sometimes, if you believe in what you're doing then you take a punt on it and trust the people you work for.

    Sadly that indy studio closed down after six months, but I walked away that second time not owed a penny in back pay and with a glowing reference letter that got me a job in another studio within six weeks. No regrets.

    Apolloin on
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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Not exactly a comparable situation. For one thing, you had a team leader who was honest and up-front with you. The person in the story worked for a company where the higher-ups were willing to resort to secretly coordinated rendezvous in the parking lot to avoid having to face the employees they were screwing over. Also, you only had to be a "ronin" for six weeks. The people in the story stayed on for months.

    The bottom line is from the day you were told you weren't getting payed, you were making a choice whether to stay or walk away. The same goes for the employees in the story. I understand a sense of loyalty and love for your work, and I'm glad things worked out for you - but if it hadn't come together and you had never gotten paid for those six weeks, it would have been because you chose to stay and work on faith. Yes, it's the company's fault for screwing up and running out of money to begin with, but once they tell you there's no money and give you a choice whether to walk or stay based on promises, what happens to you after that is your own responsibility.

    And BTW, your implicit assumption that anybody who works in a non-"creative" field has no pride, passion, or joy for their work comes off as patronizing. So does your implicit characterization of anyone who makes employment decisions based on the entirely rational grounds of providing for the financial well-being of themselves and/or their families as some sort of soulless mercenary.

    Gaslight on
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    FramlingFramling FaceHead Geebs has bad ideas.Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Gaslight wrote: »
    Virtuavere wrote: »
    but I also absolutely hold to the belief that no employer has a RIGHT to do the things they do in these kind of stories.

    Nobody ever said the employers had a right to do this or that their actions are acceptable. Don't put words in my mouth, you silly, silly goose.

    You literally said that "[those] people have nobody to blame but themselves." As in, the employers were not at all to blame. How should that be read, if not that the employers were within their rights, and/or that their actions were acceptable?

    Framling on
    you're = you are
    your = belonging to you

    their = belonging to them
    there = not here
    they're = they are
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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Framling wrote: »
    Gaslight wrote: »
    Virtuavere wrote: »
    but I also absolutely hold to the belief that no employer has a RIGHT to do the things they do in these kind of stories.

    Nobody ever said the employers had a right to do this or that their actions are acceptable. Don't put words in my mouth, you silly, silly goose.

    You literally said that "[those] people have nobody to blame but themselves." As in, the employers were not at all to blame. How should that be read, if not that the employers were within their rights, and/or that their actions were acceptable?

    Like I said above, you can blame the company for the mismanagement that led to not being able to pay in the first place, absolutely. BUT, if you stayed on for hopes and dreams and promises after they told you there would be no pay, and especially when it became obvious what kind of people you were dealing with from the studio head's behavior, that's on you. At that point, you have ample evidence to see what your prospects are of being treated fairly and ever getting compensated for your further work. If you stick around and eventually get something out of it, great. If not, the writing was on the wall, and you had the chance to get out. They really couldn't make "WE'RE STRINGING YOU ALONG TO GET AS MUCH WORK OUT OF YOU AS POSSIBLE FOR NO COMPENSATION" much clearer if they actually sent a memo. Keep in mind here is that it is notoriously easy and commoplace for entertainment companies to screw people out of royalties with trick accounting. (Link is about how as of last fall, the actor who played Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi still has not gotten any residuals from the movie because it supposedly has never gone into profit.)

    The studio are dickwads, yes. And by staying on and working for free, basically you are telling them that their behavior is acceptable. You are proving to them that these tactics work, and guaranteeing they will be used on other people. You are not only allowing yourself to be screwed, you are indirectly abetting the screwing of all the poor bastards this company or the people who run it will hire in the future. That is why I have little or no sympathy for the people who stuck with the company on faith.

    Gaslight on
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    Shakes999Shakes999 Registered User regular
    um, yeah dont really have much to add that gaslight hasn't covered other than gauge the company. Like was posted before, it CAN work out but odds are its down with the ship. I myself waited 2 weeks the last company that stiffed me, but I was also stuck out of town and had no food or gas. He was a nice guy and everyone liked him (not to mention it actually was not his fault he could not pay us) but I don't work on credit.

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    VirtuavereVirtuavere Registered User regular
    Framling wrote: »
    You literally said that "[those] people have nobody to blame but themselves." As in, the employers were not at all to blame. How should that be read, if not that the employers were within their rights, and/or that their actions were acceptable?

    This was exactly what I was trying to say. Spin it however you want, but if the victims have to take all the blame, you're not leaving any for the people who deliberately put them in that situation.
    Gaslight wrote: »
    The studio are dickwads, yes. And by staying on and working for free, basically you are telling them that their behavior is acceptable. You are proving to them that these tactics work, and guaranteeing they will be used on other people. You are not only allowing yourself to be screwed, you are indirectly abetting the screwing of all the poor bastards this company or the people who run it will hire in the future. That is why I have little or no sympathy for the people who stuck with the company on faith.

    And by blaming the victim, you send a clear signal to employers that it's okay to be an asshole and take advantage of employees because everyone should only look out for number one. If someone is stupid, naive, or gullible, it is completely fair to exploit them. If someone trusts you, it is okay to abuse that trust. It's their fault, after all. Right?

    Your attitude is seriously just as much a part of the problem, if not even more so. Victims may play a role in their own suffering, but you are shifting the spotlight away from the people who are not only directly responsible for these situations, but who do so knowingly, willfully, and without consequence.

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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    see317 wrote: »
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    The primary thing I'm learning from these stories:
    Creatives complain about being poor because they are very bad at negotiating contracts.
    It certainly seems that way. But when every job has a stack of resumes applications three inches deep lined up waiting for it, sometimes it might seem better to take the job, get the experience, and use it to pad out a resume then to wait for a job that'll actually pay an inexperienced creative type who's just out of school.
    Yeah. These are all junior creatives. Senior ones don't have any problem making money as far as I know. But when you're at the bottom of the ladder, you get crapped on.

    But you get a damn contract. All you need is a contract that says, "I get paid, you can't just stop paying me for work I've already done."

    Darkewolfe on
    What is this I don't even.
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    marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    Apolloin wrote: »
    When the studio I was working for went under due to Corporate mismanagement our Team Leader told us that we basically would not be getting the months pay that we were owed and that nobody would pay us going forward because there was no money for us to do so. We were basically laid off.

    He also asked us to keep the faith a little longer because he was putting together a deal to set up an independent studio to keep working on the project we had underway. For six weeks I was a Ronin Developer, bringing honour to my clan, designing from the shadows.
    A big difference is that it sounds like your Team Leader also was not getting paid during this period. Contrast that with the story on top, where the management stopped paying its employees, but kept paying themselves until the studio went belly-up.

    I do think Gaslight's claim that "these people have nobody to blame but themselves" is not true, but it should be pointed out that while not solely to blame for staying on (I'm sure management was trying to spin the arrangement as an advantage, and trying to hide the fact that the project and studio was bound to fail), those people were making bad decisions staying on in hopes of getting a paycheck. This is most obvious in hindsight, but it should serve as a warning to creatives who find themselves in a similar situation in the future (or perhaps even currently).

    Quitting a job for not getting paid doesn't mean you don't care about the work you're doing. These people may love the field they're in, sure, but that doesn't mean they want to do it for free, or can afford to. Hell, if they wanted to work for free for several months, they could've gone solo and created their own animated short or something, which would've probably have been more satisfying creatively and would've at least offered the chance of making money off of the finished product (or at least pad their portfolio).

    marsilies on
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