Workers at Wildbrain Studios, one of Vancouver’s largest animation studios, are organizing a unionization campaign with the Canadian Animation Guild (CAG), Local 938 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
Wildbrain handles animation for numerous major series and specials, including Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego, Sonic Prime, Johnny Test, and Chip and Potato, Apple TV+’s The Snoopy Show and Snoopy in Space, and BBC’s Fireman Sam.
IATSE 938 represents animation workers in British Columbia. In 2020, workers at Titmouse’s Vancouver studio joined the organization, becoming the first British Columbian animation studio to unionize. CAG first revealed that Wildbrain workers were mulling the idea of unionizing last Friday and announced a digital town hall meeting for Wednesday, September 6.
📣WILDBRAIN WORKERS ARE FORMING A UNION!📣
One of the biggest Vancouver studios is on its way to joining CAG, with hundreds of workers having already signed union support cards! What happens next?
Bring all your questions to the WildBrain Digital Town Hall, Wednesday at 7pm! pic.twitter.com/on5nTi5csp
— Canadian Animation Guild, IATSE Local 938 (@CAG938) September 1, 2023
Wildbrain employs more than 800 artists at its Vancouver studio. According to union organizers hundreds of workers have already signed support cards with IATSE. For the British Columbian Labor Board to certify the union, 55% of workers must sign a card.
To help keep Wildbrain workers informed, movement leaders have set up a website with an extensive FAQ and the option to communicate confidentially with organizers. There, the group has also outlined its goals, writing:
Wildbrain workers are coming together to improve our working conditions by forming a union with IATSE Local 938 – Canadian Animation Guild. We are forming a union to demand better wages, annual wage increases, more reliable and predictable work, improved benefits, and more!
All too often, artists and creatives are told that precarious work with low pay and poor conditions is just the price we pay for doing what we love. Not anymore! We are building a movement to make Wildbrain a place where workers can love what they do, be proud of what they create, AND enjoy a fulfilling, sustainable, and long-term career.
On Wednesday, ahead of the town hall, IATSE spokesperson Will Gladman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Wildbrain workers are looking for ways to address insecurity that he says is “baked into the industry.” He explained:
People are working really short-term contracts, sometimes weeks at a time. You go to work on Friday. You’re not sure if you’ll have a job on Monday. I think workers are just tired of holding the bag when things slow down every time.
One of his key concerns was the health and well-being of animation workers, which he says is directly affected by their working conditions. “People make good money in the unionized film and tv industry here generally, and it means that they can afford to take breaks from work when they have to,” he argued, saying that workers must also receive health-care benefits and retirement savings to help during fallow periods.
In a statement, Wildbrain chief content officer Stephanie Betts said:
Our core values at Wildbrain are centered around our people. We are committed to an artist-centric culture, and we believe in a respectful, inclusive, and fair environment for everyone. We actively work to instill these values in everything we do, including ensuring that we are competitive within our industry. Everyone at Wildbrain has a voice, and we look forward to keeping open lines of communication directly with our employees at all levels.
In addition to its Vancouver base, Wildbrain has offices and/or studios in London, New York, Shanghai, Benelux, Nordics, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Greece, Turkey, India, and the Middle East.
Pictured at top: The Snoopy Show