Production Workers At Nickelodeon Voted To Unionize But The Studio Refused Voluntary Recognition
A super majority of production workers at Nickelodeon Studios have voted in favor of unionizing with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, and will begin bargaining their first collective bargaining agreement. The production workers join more than 400 Nickelodeon artists already represented by TAG.
At 177 workers, this is now the largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under TAG. The new unit includes production managers, production coordinators, post-production assistants, art production coordinators, asset coordinators, and others.
According to TAG, when presented with the request for voluntary recognition, Nickelodeon’s lawyers instead chose to strategically exclude a group of those workers based on job title, capitalizing on “common misconceptions of labor law in order to unnecessarily to prolong the process.”
Since Nickelodeon has refused voluntary recognition, production workers and the Guild’s next step may be a union election with the National Labor Review Board as early as next week.
TAG’s negotiations committee believes one agreement should cover all animation workers at Nickelodeon, including production workers. However, it says that it believes “the studio would prefer to single out production workers in a separate contract that does not offer the same rights and protections.”
“I am deeply disappointed in Nickelodeon’s decision to deliberately make our efforts for equality and fairness even more difficult, but I have seen firsthand the strength and solidarity shared between our fellow production workers,” said production coordinator Isabella Potenzini.
TAG business representative Steve Kaplan added: “The company shared its preference to keep the productive working relationship a priority when discussing the impending negotiations for the existing bargaining unit. It is therefore a surprise and shame that the company is choosing to put that relationship in jeopardy by forcing us to go to the NLRB and possibly take escalating action to achieve our goal of the inclusion of the production staff.”
Nickelodeon production workers who voted to unionize cited reasons including unsuitable workplace practices, low wages, and high-cost healthcare. Production coordinator Ryan Brodsky is quoted as saying:
The current pay gap for production roles makes it near impossible to survive in Los Angeles. Many of us have taken the shame of asking our parents for money so we can pay rent and eat. We’re working full-time for one of the largest corporations on earth and there’s no reason that our parents should be funding this multi-billion-dollar corporation.
CG asset production coordinator Minh-Chau Nguyen agreed, saying:
As production workers, many of us have had to supplement our pay disparity by taking up side gigs, putting in extra overtime, taking out loans, or reaching out to family and friends for financial support. This unsustainable model of working more for less needs to end now. With voluntary recognition from Nickelodeon, my hope is that the future generation of production workers can focus on building their careers instead of worrying about unlivable wages, work-life imbalance, and inadequate benefits.
The Nickelodeon’s production workers may be the largest group to have joined up with TAG so far, but their vote only tops off what has been a phenomenal breakthrough year of organizing efforts by the Guild. Production workers at Rick and Morty and Solar Oposites filed in February, kicking off a string of similar votes at Titmouse LA; The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad!; Tooning Out the News; and Bento Box Entertainment.