It’s nothing new that studios tend to push their workers should the need arise. This happens even if the studio works under a union contract. Managers need to get their work done so they’ll do whatever is necessary. If that means taking advantage of their staffers, they’ll happily do it.
Of course, employees are not necessarily little angels either, and I’ve seen many a worker take advantage of their employer during my long career. I certainly don’t condone this behavior either. Having been on both sides of the game I’ve gained a little perspective over the years. Labor and management have an obligation to work together and both own it to each other to be fair.
Sometimes you're presented with a unique situation and the results can be surprising. Some years ago I put in a good deal of overtime at a very well known animation studio. Since everyone was working nights it was considered nothing unusual. I pitched in without giving the unpaid hours a second thought. It was a non-union shop anyway. Eventually, the movie wrapped and upon my return home I received an unexpected visit from studio management who insisted on paying me for my uncompensated overtime. Since most studios don't insist on paying you thousands of dollars if they don't have to, I couldn't help but wonder what prompted this odd decision? Clearly, somebody - somewhere was feeling the heat.
I was a young kid when I came into this business and knew little of animation’s turbulent labor history. I was only a child during the infamous forties Disney strike and had to learn about it from the old timers. Yet, I remain amazed at how well Walt Disney treated his staff in spite of being bitter about this unfortunate labor action so many years ago. I'm sure Walt Disney remained anti-union during the last years of his life. In spite of this, I’m continually surprised how well he treated his artists. I still remember his edict concerning overtime work on Sleeping Beauty. “The artists should not be overworked and it's important they spend time with their families.” The Old Maestro actually restricted the amount of overtime we could work on Sleeping Beauty because he didn't want production to negatively impact his staffers.
What?! A studio boss who cares about the well being of company employees? Honestly, a guy like that will never last in the cartoon industry. I’m sure his company has long since gone out of business.