Petition for a union election has been filed with the NLRB, and The Animation Guild has begun working with studio leadership towards a path for voluntary recognition.
Production workers at Titmouse Los Angeles have filed to join The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, and begin collective bargaining for their first union contract. The news comes just a week after production workers at Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) to be represented by TAG. It also follows animation workers at Titmouse New York studios voting to join TAG this past January, a milestone that marked the first time that Local 839 will represent animation workers outside Los Angeles County since its charter was signed 70 years ago. A sister local, the Canadian Animation Union, IATSE Local 938, formed in the last year and negotiated a first contract for Titmouse Vancouver workers.
Titmouse, a multiple Emmy Award-winning studio, is known for its work on a wide range of top series including Big Mouth, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Fairfax, and Midnight Gospel. The company has studios in Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver. Back in early 2020, the company signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce a number of original adult animated series; Netflix will also get first look rights to any adult animated series developed and created at the studio.
In a statement regarding the filing, TAG said, “We are proud of the focused and passionate efforts of the organizing committee at Titmouse LA, as they work to harness the collective power of their peers to make working conditions sustainable for all production workers. Moreover, this organizing effort would designate Titmouse as a fully union studio In Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver.”
According to TAG, a petition for a union election was filed with the NLRB on February 28, 2022, and the guild has been in communications with Titmouse leadership, and together, they are working towards a path to voluntary recognition.
Those represented in the unit of 69 workers include: Production Managers, Production Supervisors, Storyboard Coordinator, Script Coordinator, Writer's Assistants, Office Production Coordinators and Assistants, and more.
According to Titmouse production assistant Jocelyn Montoya, “I want to make the future of production sustainable and accessible for all, and bargaining as a collective through unionizing allows us to have a seat at the table of the future of animation production. It is time production received the recognition and equal treatment for their hard-work and here is a chance for Titmouse LA to lead by example what it looks like when a studio is truly unified! Let’s help make history!”
“I’ve had a bevy of disparaging experiences in the industry as an out trans person, as an at-will employee,” noted production coordinator Cel La Flaca. “When I came to Titmouse, it felt like I found home; however, even your own house needs renovations sometimes and it’s ok to admit that. I want other BIPOC, LGBTQIA, disabled, and marginalized peoples to have a presence in this industry without going through the trials I had to. I want people to be able to grow in their work and have sustainable lives. I want others to have a future.”
Production coordinator Bryn Owens added, “The benefits of unionizing are immense not only to the production staff (being given the respect, benefits, tools, and training they deserve) but also to the company as a whole. A happier workforce means a more productive studio with collective goals, realistic deadlines, and compassion for each other. It’s a brand-new landscape full of unrealized potential, and we have come together to define it.”
“In my 13 years in the animation industry I have worked at several animation studios in both feature and television animation,” production manager Bonnie Robinson Stewart continued. “I have seen the highs and lows that can come with working in production. Titmouse has been my favorite studio to work at and I want it to be the shining example of how an animation studio should be run. I hope that what we at Titmouse and our friends at Green Portal accomplish will empower production people at other studios to unionize and get the better treatment and benefits that they deserve. Industry wide, we should have the support, respect, mobility and continuity of benefits, like health insurance and pensions, that the TAG artists have had for years. We want to take our cool jobs and make them into sustainable, great lifelong careers.”
Source: The Animation Guild
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.