It's as simple as that. Quit gripping and join up, especially if you don't have an agent or lawyer that represents you.
If there ain't a union in your area join the one closest to you. Artists can join the film makers, illustrators, theatre or fine artist unions. Just because you work with computer games doing animation or concepts design doesn't mean your special concerning employment and legal aspects. Your work enviroment is just the same as for animation people or if you work on movies.
The union here in Sweden has made these official statments recently. I've added some comments myself of course.
Minimum hourly wage, employed 50 USD (exchange rate calculation 040922 from 375 SEK)
Never do sketch test for free. No other job in the world does samples for free (fine artist, photographers, resturants) now do they? If a client can't read your portfolio then maybe they should hire an art director who knows how to hire artists?
Please don't email me or pm me union business. If you have a non-union employer maybe it's time to sign up?
Making a better world for all of us,