The largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under The Animation Guild may head to the National Labor Review Board as studio opts to exclude certain workers based on job title, denying them the same rights and protections as other artists covered by a separate collective bargaining agreement.
A super majority of Nickelodeon Studios’ production workers have voted to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, and bargain their first collective bargaining agreement. To date, this is the largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under TAG. The proposed unit would cover 177 production managers, production coordinators, post-production assistants, art production coordinators, and asset coordinators.
According to TAG, attorneys representing the studio responded to a request for voluntary recognition by excluding a strategic group of production workers based solely on job title to capitalize on common misconceptions of labor law to unnecessarily prolong this process.
“I am deeply disappointed in Nickelodeon's decision to deliberately make our efforts for equality and fairness even more difficult, but I have seen firsthand the strength and solidarity shared between our fellow production workers,” said production coordinator Isabella Potenzini.
The Animation Guild has a collective bargaining agreement with Nickelodeon that covers more than 400 artists, including CG technicians, storyboard artists, character designers, and writers. However, no dates have been set for negotiation. The Negotiations Committee believes one agreement should cover all animation workers at Nickelodeon, including the recently unionized production workers. The studio, TAG states, “would prefer to single out production workers in a separate contract that does not offer the same rights and protections.”
“The company shared its preference to keep the productive working relationship a priority when discussing the impending negotiations for the existing bargaining unit,” commented Animation Guild Business Representative Steve Kaplan. “It is, therefore, a surprise and shame that the company is choosing to put that relationship in jeopardy by forcing us to go to the NLRB and possibly take escalating action to achieve our goal of the inclusion of the production staff.”
With this new vote, production workers at Nickelodeon are coming together to demand an end to unsustainable workplace practices, such as low wages and high-cost healthcare.
“The current pay gap for production roles makes it near impossible to survive in Los Angeles,” explained production coordinator Ryan Brodsky. “Many of us have taken the shame of asking our parents for money so we can pay rent and eat. We’re working full-time for one of the largest corporations on earth, and there’s no reason that our parents should be funding this multi-billion-dollar corporation.”
CG asset production coordinator Minh-Chau Nguyen added, “As production workers, many of us have had to supplement our pay disparity by taking up side gigs, putting in extra overtime, taking out loans, or reaching out to family and friends for financial support. This unsustainable model of working more for less needs to end now. With voluntary recognition from Nickelodeon, my hope is that the future generation of production workers can focus on building their career instead of worrying about unlivable wages, work-life imbalance, and inadequate benefits.”
Since voluntary recognition has not yet been reached, the production workers and The Animation Guild may be forced to file for a union election with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) as early as next week.