Animation workers at Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News have voted to join The Animation Guild (TAG) IATSE Local 839, becoming the second such group of animation workers and production staff in New York to do so, joining workers from Titmouse New York who cast a similar vote in January of this year.
That Titmouse vote was historic and represented the first time that workers at an animation studio in New York had unionized in more than three decades. They are currently in the process of negotiating their first contract since the vote.
According to TAG, a super majority of animation workers at Tooning Out the News voted in favor of unionizing. A petition has now been filed with the National Labor Relations Board to organize an election and certify the union. TAG is also submitting a letter for voluntary recognition to ViacomCBS’s CBS Eye Animation Productions, producers of the show.
In total, the bargaining unit at Tooning Out the News includes 38 animation workers in various positions. Those positions are as follows: After Effects compositor, After Effects lead, animation coordinator, animation production assistant, animation technician, assistant director, background designer, character designer, design lead, digital animator, digital lead, drawn animator, drawn lead, graphics coordinator, graphics director, graphics artist, rigger, rigging lead, and supervising animation director.
According to a TAG release, key issues for the workers are clear definitions of job roles, classifying workers accurately, addressing unrealistic schedules, appropriately paid overtime, better health benefits, and a minimum wage more in-line with a livable salary.
“For seven years in this industry I’ve found fighting for myself to be a difficult and mostly futile battle. The Late Night Collective [the name of the organizing committee] is teaming up to ensure that we all have a voice, and that that voice matters,” said Cassidy Routh, graphics artist on Tooning Out the News, after the vote was tallied. “Consistent and affordable healthcare, reasonable hours, and fair wages are issues near and dear to my heart, and together we ask that Late Night Cartoons voluntarily recognize our union so that we can continue to provide our hard work without fear of what will happen when the season ends.”
According to TAG, “The organizing work done by the Tooning Out the News crew is a testament to the power of animation workers coming together to demand an end to unsustainable workplace practices and provide a collective voice on issues that directly impact them on the job.”