Rachel Gitlevich, a worker from Titmouse New York, was one of the leaders in attendance and invited to a follow-up discussion with vice president Kamala Harris and secretary of labor Marty Walsh. Attendees discussed how they organized their unions and what kinds of resistance they faced along the way. Other attendees included workers from Amazon, Starbucks, REI, the Baltimore Public Library, and Paizo.
After their meeting, Harris tweeted:
The Animation Guild president Jeanette Moreno King also tweeted her support.
In a statement shared with Cartoon Brew, Gitlevich spoke about her experience of organizing at Titmouse:
It is really a testament to how much Washington cares about this issue that they even bothered to have this meeting. The point of this meeting is to inspire workers across the country to organize. I got an opportunity to talk to [Amazon labor organizer] Chris Smalls, and I asked him, “How did you organize 8,000 employees?” We were 114. The formula was identical to what we did at Titmouse. The language was identical to what we did at Titmouse. Labor organizing is just 1-on-1 conversations and meeting people where they’re at. How do you get a person from the point of, “I’m scared, this is risky” to “I can do this.” That’s the biggest hurdle. So by having this meeting at the White House, hopefully that pushes somebody over that hurdle.
Gitlevich’s union organizing took place at Titmouse New York, whose founder and president Chris Prynoski told Cartoon Brew:
It was so cool to see photos of Rachel in the White House yesterday! As supporters of the union movement, we are proud of the Titmouse artists and support them as we move into the future together!
President Biden has said in the past that he intends to be the “most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” To that end, he assigned Harris to chair a task force which promotes organization and encourages union membership.
The White House visit comes as the #NewDealForAnimation movement continues to thrive. A number of animation workers across the country, and north of the border, have already voted in favor of unionizing.
The Animation Guild has had five groups of production workers vote to unionize within the past few months. Those votes represented the first time production workers at any U.S. studio had done so in recent history. And just this week, it was announced that editorial employees at Bento Box had voted to join up with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and its post-production local, the Motion Picture Editors Guild.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with comments from Rachel Gitlevich and Chris Prynoski.