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Walt Disney Studios’ VFX Workers Vote to Unionize

Group includes artists working across James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment productions, including the ‘Avatar’ films; the group wins IATSE representation through an NLRB election, a first for U.S. vendor-side VFX artists. 

Today, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced that Walt Disney Studios’ visual effects (VFX) workers working on James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment productions, including the Avatar film series, have voted to unionize. The union election yielded 57 votes in favor of representation and 19 votes against, marking the first time that U.S. “vendor-side”’ VFX artists have won union representation through an official National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election.

Lightstorm postvis coordinator Patrick DeVaney commented, "I could not be more proud of my fellow visual effects workers on the Avatar sequels for standing together to secure our right to collectively bargain for more equitable compensation and benefits."

"Today's union victory will bring up many emotions and thoughts, but what I feel the most in this moment is hope,” shared Kabuki lead Jennifer Anaya. “I now have hope that with this union, my fellow artists and I can work together to make LEI better and stronger for everyone.”

The union noted that 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, the workers in VFX classifications have not.

The unionization of the Avatar VFX artists comes on the heels of similar successful efforts across the industry, including unanimous votes to organize by in-house VFX staffers for Marvel and Walt Disney Pictures and the organizing of DNEG workers in British Columbia, Canada. The IATSE announcement is the Union’s fourth organizing win in less than six months.

"I look forward to IATSE representation and the stewardship of the bargaining unit and their desire to fight for the people who also matter in this production,” added lead creature & character artist Jesse McAlister. “I look forward to a 401k and retirement. I look forward to fair wages and I look forward to better health care for my colleagues. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to exercise my rights as a citizen and as a working professional. Cheers to the future of VFX our families and our coworkers."

IATSE International president Matthew D. Loeb remarked on VFX Union’s movement, “Thanks to the courage of these workers and others, we stand at the cusp of a new era in VFX. An era where every worker’s contribution and value are recognized, and they can win the same rights and protections their union co-workers already have.”

Source: IATSE

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.