Studio recognizes union in historic vote marking Local 839‘s milestone of representation outside of Los Angeles County; this comes on the heels of last year’s vote by Titmouse Vancouver to organize under Canadian Animation Union IATSE Local 938.
Animation workers at Titmouse New York studios have voted to join The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, a milestone that marks the first time that Local 839 will represent animation workers outside Los Angeles County since its charter was signed 70 years ago.
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.
More than 90% of the animation workers at the studio signed union representation cards. In response, the studio voluntarily recognized the unit, which was certified by a neutral arbitrator on January 7, 2022. A committee of Titmouse New York workers will soon sit at the bargaining table to negotiate their first union contract.
The Animation Guild is the only union representing animation artists and animation production workers in the United States. A sister local, the Canadian Animation Union, IATSE Local 938, formed in the last year and negotiated a first contract for Titmouse Vancouver workers.
“This historic moment is a cause for celebration as we begin a nationwide effort to ensure all animation workers are treated with respect and are afforded the same benefits and protections as those who are working in Southern California,” noted The Animation Guild Business representative Steve Kaplan.
Titmouse founder and president Chris Prynoski stated, "We are proud of the Titmouse artists in NY and support them as we move into the future together! Responsible employment practices are the foundation of our artist-driven studios. Following our voluntary recognition of the unit, we look forward to the opportunity to work with IATSE as we explore the first agreement for our NY-based employees.”
Key issues for the animation workers include defining job roles and classifying workers accurately, addressing unrealistic schedules, paying overtime appropriately, improving health benefits, and establishing wage minimums to ensure a livable salary.
Members of the Titmouse New York Organizing Committee shared comments on their achievement.
“This historic moment has given me a sense of agency I never thought I could be afforded in the workplace, especially as a production worker,” shared production supervisor Gray Rothey. “Unionization felt unattainable until I saw the unstoppable force that is this organizing effort. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and relief knowing that this means current and future generations of New York artists and production staff will have their voices heard.”
“I'm overjoyed that my students and young peers will be able to thrive in an environment that supports them from today forward,” added story artist Chrissy Fellmeth. “To my fellow New Yorkers in animation and production, I'm confident that our collective pain is being recognized now that we have a seat at the table.”
Source: The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839