Election marks the first time a sole group of VFX workers has unionized with IATSE since visual effects were pioneered nearly 50 years ago.
Last night, Marvel Studios’ Visual Effects (VFX) Workers unanimously voted in favor of unionizing with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union just announced. This significant milestone marks the first time a unit of solely VFX Workers has unionized with IATSE since VFX was pioneered nearly a half-century ago.
Since that election was first announced, Walt Disney Pictures VFX workers have similarly filed for union election as well. Voting in their NLRB election has already begun, with the results expected on October 2. The union anticipates this is the first of many organizing victories within VFX; interested client-side and vendor-side VFX workers can reach out to organizers at VFXunion.org.
The Marvel workers initially filed for this election August 7, and votes were cast by mail between August 21 and September 11. The count was held Tuesday, September 12. When the final National Labor Relations Board election votes were counted, all votes were in favor of unionizing with IATSE, with zero against.
Anna George, Asst. Coordinator at Marvel, described witnessing the vote count live via Zoom, noting, “It was so emotional hearing the yes’s and knowing we were fighting for what we deserve. What a powerful moment!” Carolyn Newes, VFX Coordinator at Marvel, agreed, stating, “I’m just so excited I could be part of this in some small way. It’s so needed and so appreciated by everyone.”
According to IATSE, “This unanimous result and high turnout demonstrate the Marvel VFX workers’ unwavering collective determination to secure the same rights and protections as their unionized peers in the broader motion picture and television production industry.” Mark Patch, VFX Organizer for IATSE said, “Today, VFX workers at Marvel Studios spoke with a unanimous, collective voice, demanding fair pay for the hours they work, healthcare, a safe and sustainable working environment, and respect for the work they do. There could be no stronger statement highlighting the overwhelming need for us to continue our work and bring union protections and standards to all VFX workers across the industry. And there could be no stronger example of the courage and solidarity of these workers than each and every one of them declaring ‘union YES!’”
The Marvel VFX workers’ successful unionization comes at a pivotal moment in the film and television industry, amidst ongoing strikes by both the Actors and Writers guilds as both seek fair contracts with the studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb explained, “Today’s count demonstrates the unprecedented demand for unionization across new sectors of the entertainment industry is very real. To these VFX workers, I congratulate you on your historic victory. Your bravery, determination, and unity are a beacon for workers not just in VFX, not just in entertainment, but workers in every industry across this country and beyond. You will enter negotiations with Marvel and Disney with the full backing and support of our 170,000 strong alliance. Your fight is our fight.”
IATSE notes that the next step for the Marvel VFX workers is collective bargaining negotiations with the employer to draft a contract. Union contracts, also known as collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s), generally outline terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours, and working conditions. Both the union and the employer are obligated to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement on these terms. No negotiation dates have yet been scheduled as of now.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.