Artist RightsBusiness

‘Rick and Morty’ Artists Push to Unionize Their Show—And Succeed

The crew of the Adult Swim series Rick & Morty ratified a new labor agreement last Monday with the Animation Guild. The term agreement will give them hourly wage boosts and health and pension benefits. The agreement is especially significant since the majority of Adult Swim animation productions aren’t unionized, and most artists who work at studios that produce shows for the channel are paid below union minimums.

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, was contacted by show staffers a few months ago and worked with the show’s artists to engineer an organizing drive. “This is an incredible victory for the Rick and Morty crew,” Animation Guild organizer Steven Kaplan said in a statement. “They were the drivers on this, exercising their leverage at the right time. Management knew the artists were a valuable asset to the show. And to their credit, they did the right thing by quickly agreeing to a contract.”

The Guild’s business rep Steve Hulett said, “I’ve been repping the Guild for a while now, and this was as focused and dedicated a crew as I’ve seen. After management realized the artists were serious about coming under the Animation Guild’s jurisdiction, they moved quickly to negotiate a fair and comprehensive contract. The talks were intense at times, but also cordial and professional.”

Rick and Morty follows the standard TV pipeline with story and design work done in the US, animation done outside of the country (at Bardel in Vancouver), and final post done stateside. The show’s American artists work at Rick and Morty LLC, which operates out of the Starburns Industries building in Burbank, California. (The show’s first season was produced by Starburns Industries.) Over two dozen U.S. artists currently working on the series will be covered under the new agreement.

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