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Do furries need to organize?

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Squash the Boss - Unite Your Workplace; International Workers of the World A furry fan drew an inflated skunk embroidered with the emblem for the Industrial Workers of the World union squishing a hamster in a top hat with the caption of “squash the boss”. Such a piece is not anything too unusual. The oddity that caught the eye of the Daily Dot was that the union itself posted the piece to their Facebook page.

Soon thereafter, the IWW's Twitter account joined in. Though, for some reason, they quietly back out later, as the original Tweet referenced in the Daily Dot article appears to be deleted. (Its text remains in the article despite this – a feature of the standard embedding code for other sites. Tweeters, be wary of this.)

But has furry reached a point where we need to squash the boss and organize? Or are unions barking up the wrong tree? The answer, like the fandom, may be complex.

The furry fandom work environment

Outside of the fandom, supporting a union or not is certainly up to the workers if they feel that they need to support organizations whose goal is to prevent over exploitation of employees. Within the fandom it is hard to argue how a union, as currently designed, could help. Those creating content are typically self-employed. There are exceptions to this rule, as a handful of people have started to come together to make businesses, such as Bad Dragon, Corgi Events, or ArtworkTee. Insert FurCast noting that their sponsor Twin Tails Creations wasn't listed.

Anyway, my point is, in most cases the bosses of the furry businesses, for better or for worse, are individual clients. Those who work in such a position can point out the blessing and the curse it is to work in such a way. The blessing is that you can choose to take on clients when you are ready and that some can be a delight to work with. Of course, time waits for no business, so that will force you to take on new clients if it’s your only source of income. Especially burdensome is that you may get an impatient or monstrous client that will make you want to scream to the Twitterspace.

In these kinds of work environments, a union as they are currently designed may not be at its strongest element to assist. Most unions typically are best for forming a coalition to counteract the networking that large corporations can use against their employees to exploit their labor. In furry, this is usually not the case. Sure you can have a crappy boss, but those crappy bosses are not the same person for more than a few months at a time. Instead it can be multiple nightmare clients that can appear sporadically during your career.

The best way these unpleasant individuals are avoided at the current moment is via an organization called “Artists Beware”, which is a social network dedicated to sharing stories of nightmare clients so that artists are aware of problematic bosses before they take on their jobs. In a way this is a union of artists who work together to help other artists ensure they are not taking on problematic clients. [It also works the other way, for problematic artists.]

Unions and Fandom

Organizations are not one size fits all. While some unions try hard to represent as many worker types as possible, it can become unwieldy to represent people in industries that they do not fully comprehend. And furry, sometimes by design, can be a bit perplexing.

When unions try to expand into these unexplored territories, which they might be tempted to do to get more dues, they run the risk of becoming over extended and losing the edge they need to work in the sphere that they are familiar with. While the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) showed interest in representing furry workers because of that one piece of fan art, the fandom’s work is hardly industrial. So, it may not be in IWW’s best interest to follow through and try and take on furry members. The exception being if a furry happens to work in the industry of industry as their main source of income.

If any union may be a better fit for the furry entrepreneur, it would be an organization such as the Freelancers Union. Of course, before joining any organization, particularly ones you are going to be paying a membership for, you should do your research on your needs. Which is my way of saying thattheir insurance isn't the best reviewed product out there. It should also be noted that the Freelancer’s Union, just like the individuals they represent, don’t really fall under the traditional orthodoxy that unions usually do. Because their clients usually don’t all work for the same corporations, their utility of collective bargaining doesn’t exist as it does with traditional unions.

For furry - guilds maybe more effective than unions

Even in the furry fandom itself, there are many spheres and it would be difficult to create a one size fits all organization for the needs of artists, musicians, podcasters, crafters, performers, writers, and all the various other talents.

If furries are to organize in any meaningful way, it may be best to grow our community first by making more guilds rather than unions at this time. Like the aforementioned Artists Beware organization, however broader in that sense. For instance, Artists Beware could be a service provided by an artist’s guild. The guild would provide services to the furry artist to improve their craft as well as provide guides on running freelance artist businesses. Things such as working in the spaces of dealer’s dens, artist alleys, how to improve one’s communication between clients and themselves, and other such items.

Writers in the fandom already have such a guild which provides free services and information useful to authors in the fandom called the Furry Writers Guild. One service they provide is having a list of anthologies and places looking to publish work (both paying and non-paying). Any writer can join the forum for free, but to become a member proper the individual in question must have proven their ability to get published.

I myself became a member in 2015 after having two of my short stories published in anthologies. While I have not made much use of the services since then, it was through those services that I was able to give myself a goal and know where to submit my stories to. It is good to know they are there for those that desire to make use of them.

Artists and crafters, likewise, would be well served to have such an organizations to assist those in need. For example, as non-furries look toward us to make animal costumes, a Fursuit Crafters Guild can be used as a bulletin board for those who make fursuits or puppets to find clients outside the fandom. By presenting an organization such as this, it may move potential consumers in our directions instead of toward sites such as DH-Gate.

More than just for the creators

Going back to the Writers Guild, a situation does highlight the limits of creator based guilds as far as community growth goes. The Cóyotl Awards are a specialized award where Writers Guild members can vote on their favorite books of the year. This, however, assumes that those who write in the furry fandom read the works produced by the fandom as well, and would have the expertise to be able to judge the works against one another.

While one may assume that those who write furry content also read them as a hobby, that may not be the case. This can limit the ability for those who love to read and not write to feel involved as well. It is important to remember that while the fandom is creative, we do need to support those that consume the works we create as well. Especially if they are engaged consumers.

This is not to say the Writers Guild doesn’t understand this. They have a section dedicated to resources for readers. The question is how many readers are missing out on this because they saw the organization name and didn’t think they would find anything useful for them there?

The best way to drop this invisible wall would be to make a more official Furry Readers Guild or some similarly named organization. This would help inspire readers to engage with one another. Specialized membership of this guild could be obtained by writing a critical review of furry books that are published by a qualified site such as Flayrah, Dogpatch Press, or Furry Book Review. In this way it will make it so that the organization gives encouragement to engaged membership rather than just people who like to read but are more passive about their interest. However, those who desire to be more passive would still benefit by having a group of more engaged curators to recommend stories. Furry Book Review is probably the closest site to this that we have now.

Most importantly, the discussions in these consumer-sided guilds can lead to a more active Ursa Major Awards. At this point specialization through guild communities could lead to a much more engaged fandom, and thus bring more interest in those circles coming together to engage with the community’s annual award. A Reader’s Guild can more readily suggest good stories. A Furry Gamer’s Guild could choose the best anthro games of the year to promote.

Only once all the pieces of the fandom get better at helping others get the most out of their corner of the community - and help everyone enjoy the content the ever-growing Internet contains - will we be ready to build the bonds needed to even consider forming other effective styles of unions.

Currently we may be spread too thin and in many different places to form an effective labor union that would be of impact, given the variety of labor laws in different places in the world. Guilds, however, can encourage people to find their calling anywhere.

When it comes to unions - be an engaged client

Outside the fandom, if you want to try and support a labor union, it is advised that you do research on those you want to support. The best of them can help protect workers and ensure that their voices are heard. They can be a representative without the need for a lawyer. The worst of them can be in it for the dues and barely engage with the worker beside taking a portion of their paycheck. Lowering wages with their subscription that merely have Groupon-like “benefits”. Oh, 20% off vitamins at a union store? Must be my lucky day!

The Flaws of Unions

Look not just upon an institution's words and cartoon propaganda, but look to their actions as well. Otherwise the organization that you thought would help ensure more security from exploitation will actually become a source of a duality of oppression with your employer and union taking you from both sides. And given the furry fandom’s nature, you know that kind of spit-roast is going to get drawn.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

The squash the boss picture is pretty messed up, eh.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

So this guy's new to the fandom, then.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

As far as political cartoons goes, it sort of shapes the worker as an aggressor. Usually if something is 'bloated' and taking up too much space, that would be the boss. Usually feasting and gorging. So it does kind of come off as odd to me to have the creature representing the worker being the over-burdensome character.

I mean, "boss" could spin this cartoon to say that while trying to make the organization revenue, it is the over-bloated unions that are preventing the acquiring of revenue that can sustain their particular workforce.

If I were to make a cartoon like this. The boss in the top hat would be the bloated on, with the smaller character, representing the worker, holding a pin and pushing it into the inflated mogul.

Obviously the squash the boss slogan wouldn't work. And it is a fun slogan.

Except for the boss, unless he likes getting squashed.

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

If I were to make a cartoon like this. The boss in the top hat would be the bloated on, with the smaller character, representing the worker, holding a pin and pushing it into the inflated mogul.

And it still works as porn, too!

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

And it still works as porn, too!

So does 99.9 percent of every anthro and non-anthro adult art then, including all the icons on this page from the date I post this reply.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

By a startling coincidence, 99.9% was also the percentage of how serious my post was!

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

It doesn't represent the worker. It represents the "one big union".

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Well, to fight the evil capitalists, you need to PULL SOME WEIGHT.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CdVTCDdEwI

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

Those that create content within the fandom are typically self-employed. There are a few exceptions to this rule as there are a handful of organizations that have started to come together to make businesses, such as Bad Dragon, Corgi LLC, or ArtworkTee.

Nailed it. Artists/creators CAN have power as a union, look at Hollywood, but that's with a pie to divide worth billions, with industrial production and revenue coming in from outside customers and investors.

Fandom is more like a "stone soup" with each member bringing their own contribution to share directly. Very little "capital," investment or industrial production. It's cottage industry at best, apart from the few exceptions you named. Most importantly, people who put a lot into the "stone soup" are already giving more than they take for generosity. Expecting more from them seems unworkable and a false concept of how things work, or even sets up a nasty kind of fan-entitlement. And there is a LOT of fan-entitlement, Furscience has some data showing it compared to other fandoms.

Most things that make fandom activity possible depend on outside capital. Like the tourism industry (furries don't own hotels), faux-fur factories, or big tech/social media. I think furry fan activity typically doesn't have property at all if it isn't art and copyrighted stuff. Their businesses barely do more than enough business to financially support one manager. The only other few exceptions so far might be things like indie games that have done well.

Cons aren't giving a product to customers and taking a profit, even "for profit" structured cons are most likely not-for-profit in real practice. So when someone put out an idea of unionizing DJ's to get badges comped by cons, it sounds like shifting crumbs around. If there is an oversupply of DJ's and many want to volunteer without taking compensation, it's nice to comp them but probably not doing better or worse for the fandom or others who make cons possible.

This situation also means little incentive to solve problems about security, nepotism etc or care about certain standards... like why all those Telegram porn chats won't be checking who is in them or what are the shady motives of people running them (hello Furry Valley.)

If furries are to organize in any meaningful way, it may be best to grow our community first by making more guilds rather than unions at this time.

Yes but one issue is how it's ineffective to have a tiny club for just an in-group if it could be seen as a competitor to creators themselves. A need for scale (like for stuff like negotiating deals for health insurance or any service that can make it worthwhile to join) can become a chicken-or-egg problem.

Artists Beware offers an important and demanded service but falls into that problem, it can't do enough to really be essential to use or cover things well enough, it's patchwork at best. It means scammers have room to keep going or come back under new names. It can keep the process of dealing between commissioners and artists inefficient (look at fursuit commissions, how much effort you have to make to get one, and how much trust you have to give about waiting for the product.)

I'm so not surprised that feelgood tweeting about a union got rolled back from within, not going to explain more about what I know, but there is a super predictable disconnect between ideals and group-therapy posturing/purity squabbling. It resembles Monty Python "People's front of Judea" comedy.

Co-ops or collectives however do seem like a wonderful idea with potential IMO. Art and publishing collectives (with real life shared housing or studios) exist elsewhere, furries could do it too and really should make it a goal.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Furry isn't centralized. There's no management and no entities like studios that can dictate who gets to create content. There's no 'management' to negotiate with. Most conventions rely on volunteers and once again, since they aren't employees, there's no basis to form a union. I get the feeling that those trying to push this want to be able to decide who's in the club and what they can charge. Neither would be good for the fandom and it would ultimately fail anyway since there would be zero way to enforce any rules. This is pretty much a non-issue.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

A modest exception could be the idea of shifting a market, for example, if you could get a sizeable chunk of furry artists to unite on refusing to work on weekends. Or a trade compact where a chunk of members set a basic price floor for commissions that accommodates a share towards group health insurance. Or agree to pool effort to work with mediation about business disputes and refuse service to people who cross lines. There may be a little of this already with informal agreement not to work with nazifurs and other known bad actors. That's why some of those turn to artists in Russia.

Is there much power in a "strike" idea where artists stop offering service for a week or something... having a hard time thinking of why people would care. Con volunteers can though. They either volunteer or don't, so group resignation is one of the few ways they have to address management issues. There was a plan for that with RMFC 2017 up to the point it shut down.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (2 votes)

You seem to think real world business works like the toxic dump that is twitter, tumbler, etc. It doesn't. Artists are already free to decide which business to take, but I promise most would tell anyone trying to make that decision for them to shove it (which they should).

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Collectively, teams who run furry cons have hundreds of years of experience between them, so there's a lot I could learn after only 15 years of running a business. But I know that if someone started a trade compact, professional association, etc that could help members to deal with bad actors who would vandalize what we do, help mitigate a race to the bottom on prices, or get health insurance, I wouldn't find that at all similar to the bosses I told to shove it when I started mine.

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

It's true that for most furry businesses it is essentially irrelevant; but I could see some furry organizations - such as MFF - being big enough and containing sufficient stratification that there could be a space for representation of some kind for classes of both volunteers and attendees in disputes with management - including both operational (e.g. MFF's VPs) and strategic (the board).

Wages are, after all, just one component of an employee/employer relationship; working conditions and 'perks' (formal or otherwise) remain quite realistic topics of volunteer/management negotiation, be it in specific departments or generally. On the attendee side, I could see artists/dealers and fursuiters emerging as coherent groups. Any of these might wish to extract special treatment or concessions in return for their participation - or have grievances which could benefit from the involvement of a professional mediator.

While such representation might not have the same legal standing as that of an employee union, it could have practical standing, if the issue was big enough that a significant number of the class were willing to 'strike' over it. As I understand it, a big part of union legislation formalizing such representational arrangements; to limit abuses that can be committed on both sides with their respective powers, to the benefit of the community.

Of course, hopefully convention (and dealer/website/...) management continues to be close enough to their fellows and share enough common interest that disputes can be resolved amicably. But it may be a mistake to assume that this will always be the case; and at the scale we're getting to, the alternatives to formal representation of parties could feasibly include a dispute leading to the informal collapse of a million-dollar operation.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

A convention isn't a business. There is no paid management. There is no way any convention is going to run itself based on whatever the current issues are on the toxic social media sites that a lot of the mob mentality comes from. A convention isn't a democracy, nor could run that way. People vote with their time in the case of volunteers or with their wallets in the case of attendees. Both know up front what they are getting in return and there is no negotiation. If a group of attendees said "We aren't coming if so and so gets a panel." Do you know what the response would be? "Fine, don't come." Even on hot button issues, the actual numbers of those involved who even care about said issues are tiny. A couple hundred pay for registration and don't show up (no refunds), oh well.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

The last con I remember that acted like it wasn't a business was RMFC 2017, with the SovCit in charge and the not paying taxes thing. And the nazi thing, where the con chose to say "Fine, don't come" to people protesting their failure to act. Which had key staffers ready to walk out -- just like a union! And nobody ever told you about it! It was going to be the next step but the con folded first. This is a good place to say that cons are businesses and collective action does have a use.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

"A couple hundred pay for registration and don't show up (no refunds), oh well."

Hmmm, where have I heard this before... is that you Scorch?

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (9 votes)

Furry is not a job description, so the answer is no.
Also, Betteridge's law of headlines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headlines

Your rating: None Average: 2.6 (5 votes)

Every furry doing a taxable activity has a job description under the US Beareau of Labor Statistics Standard Occupational Classification or equivalent in other countries. It goes on their IRS forms. Dealers dens have artist/merchants and others can count con trips as business expense for reasons from research or marketing to performing. Furries get audit questions on activity like drawing in sketchbooks during a trip. There's also class interest for consumer rights or volunteers, like the ones who banned you from Eurofurence channels
for being a racist POS.
Organizing does have a use.

Your rating: None Average: 2.6 (5 votes)

"Every natural person with a job has a job. Artist/merchants have jobs pertaining to artistry/merchantry. IRS job forms have job descriptions. IRS does job-related verifications to do job profiles of job-practicing job-having workers. Tautologies defend my position. I resort to name-calling to assert the POV of me and my equally-minded ideological online protesters."

9/10 would read again.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

This is laughable.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None Average: 2 (3 votes)

I had a bit of a hefty thought on this article, but I've likely changed my mind because honestly, why bother?
Most people on here won't take it...

So all I can say is this:
If anyone tries to turn this fandom into a cult government organization, things will only turn out bad likely. Even if it happens only to lawful business. I think it's more leaning toward the healthy side to keep furry business decentralized. I cannot stand the idea of furry business be all under the same political special rules, even if it's a rule that bans people who is high-class felon who's lacking any signs of change, even if it's true that I would have a rule like that myself if I owned a furcon.

Honestly I hope it remains decentralized and any legit trouble happening can hopefully be taken care with law enforcement. If I ran a furcon by myself, I want to have my own rules and a movement to support love and tolerance toward humans alone and help fight against social isolation people with serious mental issues who's trying to control it.

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About the author

Sonious (Tantroo McNally)read storiescontact (login required)

a Kangaroo from CheektRoowaga, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, philosophy and writing