Artists join their Marvel Studios VFX brethren, becoming only the 2nd sole group of VFX workers to unionize with IATSE since the pioneering of visual effects nearly 50 years ago.
Joining the organizing wave in the animation and visual effects industries, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced the in-house visual effects (VFX) workers at Walt Disney Pictures this week unanimously voted in favor of unionizing in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
This marks the second time a unit of solely VFX workers successfully voted to unionize with IATSE since VFX was commercialized nearly a half-century ago, with the other just last month when Marvel Studios VFX workers unanimously voted to join the movement.
The election was initially filed for on August 28, with votes cast by mail between September 8 through September 28. When the votes were counted on October 2, there were eighteen eligible voters, with 13 voting in favor of the union and zero opposed.
“For so long we’ve wanted the same protections as everyone else, but there was no hope in sight,” remarked Mack Robinson, a VFX Senior Coordinator. “Winning this election was a long fight, but I’m proud to say it’s been won by each and every VFX worker wanting a brighter, sustainable future.”
The unanimous unionization of Walt Disney Pictures’ VFX workers and Marvel Studio’s VFX workers last month is part of an ongoing wave of organizing throughout the entertainment industry, with workers across several previously unrepresented classifications rallying to unite under IATSE.
“Today’s unanimous victory shows that VFX workers everywhere have a clear path to winning a meaningful say about their working conditions and quality of life,” commented IATSE VFX Organizer Mark Patch. “We’ll be continuing our work to win a great contract, but we need to bring every studio and vendor in line to bring those union standards to all VFX workers." The union anticipates this is the second of many organizing victories within VFX, and interested client-side and vendor-side VFX workers can reach out to union organizers at VFXunion.org.
While positions like Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes / Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint have historically been represented by IATSE in motion picture and television, workers in VFX classifications have not. VFX job classifications have largely remained non-union since the field was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s.
The unionizing workers are demanding fair compensation for all hours worked, adequate health care, retirement benefits, and, more generally, the same rights and protections afforded to their unionized coworkers IATSE already represents.
“These workers’ collective action against the status quo represents a seismic shift in this critical moment in our industry,” noted IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “This unanimous vote sends a clear message that the demands of VFX workers for dignity, respect, and fairness must be heard.”
Walt Disney Pictures has been at the forefront of the entertainment industry for a century. Established originally as Walt Disney Productions, it was renamed in 1983. The unionizing VFX workers are responsible for creating visual effects across the studio’s impressive catalogue, including modern classics such as the live-action adaptations of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
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.