WDAS Production Workers TAG WDAS Production Workers TAG

A supermajority of production workers at Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) has voted to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, to begin bargaining for their first collective agreement.

How has Disney responded? Unfortunately, WDAS leadership has refused to voluntarily recognize the unit as a whole and wants to exclude more than half of the group based on job title. According to IATSE, the move is meant to capitalize on misconceptions of labor law and prolong the unionization process.

What is WDAS being accused of? A popular tactic among major companies that don’t want their employees unionizing is to attempt to divide the worker base. This is often done by excluding specific job categories from the unionization effort. According to TAG, WDAS has omitted production managers, production coordinators, and production supervisors from the bargaining group.

What happens now? After Disney refused voluntary recognition, IATSE, on behalf of The Animation Guild, filed a petition for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote. TAG has also released an open letter and launched an online petition asking Disney leadership “to do the right thing and recognize the demand of production coordinators, production managers, and production supervisors to join IATSE Local 839, The Animation Guild (TAG). ”

Big picture: The Animation Guild has facilitated a major wave of production workers voting to unionize over the past year. Production workers at shows including Solar Opposites, Rick and Morty, The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad! Tooning Out the News,, and studios Titmouse LA, Bento Box Entertainment, and Nickelodeon Animation Studios all voted to let TAG represent them over the past 13 months.

What they’re saying: After WDAS refused to recognize its employees’ decision, the WDAS Production Organizing Committee released a statement saying:

Disney denying production coordinators, production supervisors, and production managers voluntary recognition and trying to divide us signals that they want us to be scared, to give up, and accept less than we deserve. If they think this will make production cower, they are wrong. Production is a craft in its own right, and by forming our union we are saying we deserve to have viable and sustainable career paths, living wages, and the ability to retire with dignity.

IATSE Local 839 business representative Steve Kaplan stated:

We gave the studio an opportunity to work collaboratively, but their refusal to voluntarily recognize the bargaining unit directly challenges the supermajority of support for unionizing the workers. We take the request for representation to heart, and we will commit resources to ensure that the production workers achieve the rights and improved conditions that only a collective agreement can bring.

WDAS production coordinator Hanna Bialosky said:

The compensation we currently receive doesn’t come close to matching the value of the work being performed, let alone allow most of us to be financially independent. Our salaries make it difficult for us to stay in these jobs we love as a lifelong career and live a moderately comfortable life without being financially dependent on a partner, parent, or second job. Meanwhile, the content we help create goes on to make billions of dollars for Disney through box office revenue, merchandise, gaming, publishing, streaming, parks attractions, and more. It is past time the studio recognizes our value and the critical role we play in their productions and compensates us fairly.

And IATSE International president Matthew D. Loeb added:

Every behind-the-scenes entertainment worker deserves a chance to make their voice heard and democratically decide for themselves if they want to be represented by a union. It’s disturbing that the Walt Disney Company would prefer to create division within one of its own workplaces by trying to single out some workers from a unionizing group just so they can pay them less and deny them the benefits and protections they deserve. Disney already employs IATSE members as department heads and similar job titles across their business. This is a blatant attempt to undermine the collective bargaining rights of our members and to drive down standards for all workers in our industry. We’re not leaving anyone behind. We’ll see you at the NLRB.

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