The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has tallied the votes, and in a unanimous decision, vfx workers at Disney-Owned Marvel Studios have voted to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
Background: On August 7, a group of 52 vfx workers at Marvel Studios filed to unionize with IATSE, and a mail-in election was held from August 21 to September 11. On September 12, the NLRB tallied the responses and confirmed a unanimous decision to unionize with IATSE. Workers in the unit include data wranglers, production managers, witness camera operators, and assistants working on MCU series such as Loki and Daredevil: Born Again. In August, vfx workers at Walt Disney Pictures filed their own petition to unionize with IATSE, and the results of that NLRB vote are expected by October 2.
Why is this important? This is the first time in IATSE’s history that a bargaining unit made up entirely of vfx workers has unionized with the organization. It comes at a time when the vfx industry seems as unstable as ever, with layoffs prevalent and workers complaining about low pay, poor working conditions, lack of recognition, and insufficient benefits.
What happens now? Now that the workers have voted to unionize with IATSE, the union will negotiate with the studio to create a contract that better meets the demands of the bargaining unit. No date has been set for the negotiations, but they are obligatory, and both sides must negotiate in good faith. Big picture, IATSE says it anticipates this is the “first of many organizing victories within vfx, and interested client-side and vendor-side vfx workers can reach out to union organizers at vfxunion.org.”
What are the workers saying? Marvel Studios assistant coordinator Anna George was on the Zoom call as the votes were tallied:
It was so emotional hearing the yes’s and knowing we were fighting for what we deserve. What a powerful moment!
Vfx coordinator Carolyn Newes agreed:
I’m just so excited I could be part of this in some small way. It’s so needed and so appreciated by everyone.
Vfx coordinator Thomas Barnard said:
This is historic, and I’m glad to be part of it. Not only will this radically change the game by increasing the quality of storytelling through our work, it’s also a huge step forward for taking care of the unsung individuals who helped to build the industry.
Vfx coordinator Sarah Kazuko explained what joining the union means to her:
I grew up dreaming of working on Marvel films, so when I started my first job at Marvel, I felt like I couldn’t complain about the unpaid overtime, the lack of meal breaks, and the incredible pressure put on vfx teams to meet deadlines because I was just supposed to be grateful to be here at all. But the reality is that every worker deserves rights, and joining IATSE means we don’t have to choose between the job we love and having identities outside of our work.
What’s the union saying? Mark Patch, vfx organizer for IATSE, said:
Today, vfx workers at Marvel Studios spoke with a unanimous, collective voice, demanding fair pay for the hours they work, healthcare, a safe and sustainable working environment, and respect for the work they do. There could be no stronger statement highlighting the overwhelming need for us to continue our work and bring union protections and standards to all vfx workers across the industry. And there could be no stronger example of the courage and solidarity of these workers than each and every one of them declaring “union YES!”