Visual effects workers at Walt Disney Pictures have recently filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in an effort to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). This news comes at a time when Disney-owned Marvel VFX workers are also pursuing their own union election, and when writers and actors in the industry are going on strike.
The union reports that approximately 80 percent of the 18 in-house VFX workers at Walt Disney Pictures have already signed union authorization cards, expressing their desire to unionize under IATSE. It is important to note that this includes only the pros employed directly by the studio and does not include the thousands of artists who work on Marvel movies through third-party VFX studios.
After filing with the NLRB, an election could potentially take place in the next two to three weeks for these Disney workers, according to IATSE. If a majority of the workers vote in favor of unionization, the studio would then be required to commence good-faith negotiations for a union contract.
The workers are seeking fair compensation for all hours worked, adequate healthcare, retirement benefits, and the same rights and protections afforded to their unionized coworkers already represented by IATSE.
This development is being celebrated by IATSE organizer Mark Patch, who stated, “Today, courageous Visual Effects workers at Walt Disney Pictures overcame the fear and silence that have prevented our community from having a voice on the job for decades. With an overwhelming supermajority of these crews demanding an end to ‘the way VFX has always been,’ this is a clear sign that our campaign is not about one studio or corporation. It’s about VFX workers across the industry using the tools at our disposal to uplift ourselves and forge a better path forward.”
Meanwhile, Marvel’s in-house visual effects workers have commenced voting on their own unionization effort. Workers have until September 11 to return their ballots. A significant majority of Marvel’s approximately 50-worker VFX crew have already signed authorization cards indicating their desire to be represented by the union. IATSE is confident that they will prevail in this election as well.
At present, the majority of VFX jobs in the industry are non-union. IATSE has been making a concerted effort to bring these workers under their banner, with a specific focus on forming a new national VFX local that would encompass VFX workers employed directly by studios, productions, or third-party VFX companies.
The exact local that these workers would join remains uncertain. However, Patch previously shared that IATSE’s intention is to create a new national VFX local that would provide a home for the majority of VFX workers. The aim would be for members of this local to work under the Basic Agreement contract already utilized by entertainment workers in 13 locals, including the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) and Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700). The current Basic Agreement is set to expire in 2024, and negotiations for a new contract are anticipated to begin in March of next year.
Overall, the moves toward unionizing by visual effects workers at Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel reflect a broader push for improved rights, benefits, and protections in the VFX industry. By joining forces with IATSE, these workers hope to secure fair compensation and working conditions that are on par with their unionized counterparts in the entertainment industry.