Visual effects workers at Marvel Studios and seven of its subsidiaries have voted 32-0 to unionize with IATSE in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The union called the unanimous vote an “historic first” for the industry’s VFX workforce.
The next step for IATSE is to engage in collective bargaining with Marvel to negotiate a first contract covering the studio’s VFX workers, 42 of whom were eligible to vote. VFX staffers at Walt Disney Pictures, meanwhile, aren’t far behind and are now voting in their own NLRB election, with the results expected on October 2.
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“Today’s count demonstrates the unprecedented demand for unionization across new sectors of the entertainment industry is very real,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. “To these VFX workers, I congratulate you on your historic victory. Your bravery, determination, and unity are a beacon for workers not just in VFX, not just in entertainment, but workers in every industry across this country and beyond. You will enter negotiations with Marvel and Disney with the full backing and support of our 170,000 strong alliance. Your fight is our fight.”
Positions such as art directors, camera operators, sound, editors, hair & makeup artists, costumers, script supervisors, grips, lighting, props, painters and many others historically have been represented by IATSE in film and television, but workers in VFX classifications have not — until now.
According to the NLRB, the new bargaining unit includes VFX production manager, VFX associate production manager, VFX coordinator, VFX assistant coordinator, VFX production assistant, VFX production artist (in-house compositor), lead VFX data wrangler, VFX data wrangler, VFX junior data wrangler, VFX witness camera operator and VFX texture photographer. Excluded from the bargaining unit are all other employees, guard, confidential employees and supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
“This unanimous result and high turnout demonstrate the Marvel VFX workers’ unwavering collective determination to secure the same rights and protections as their unionized peers in the broader motion picture and television production industry,” IATSE said in a statement.
“Today, VFX workers at Marvel Studios spoke with a unanimous, collective voice, demanding fair pay for the hours they work, healthcare, a safe and sustainable working environment, and respect for the work they do,” said Mark Patch, IATSE’s VFX organizer. “There could be no stronger statement highlighting the overwhelming need for us to continue our work and bring union protections and standards to all VFX workers across the industry. And there could be no stronger example of the courage and solidarity of these workers than each and every one of them declaring ‘Union Yes.’”
The employer is Marvel Film Productions, LLC, and its subsidiaries Bad Egg Productions, LLC; Blind Faith Productions, LLC; Changeup Productions, LLC; Frequent Productions LLC; Limbo Productions, LLC; Oakhaven Productions, LLC; and Warbird Productions II, LLC, as a single employer.
“This is historic, and I’m glad to be part of it,” said Thomas Barnard, VFX coordinator at Marvel. “Not only will this radically change the game by increasing the quality of storytelling through our work, it’s also a huge step forward for taking care of the unsung individuals who helped to build the industry.”
Sarah Kazuko Chow, VFX coordinator at Marvel said: “I grew up dreaming of working on Marvel films, so when I started my first job at Marvel, I felt like I couldn’t complain about the unpaid overtime, the lack of meal breaks, and the incredible pressure put on VFX teams to meet deadlines because I was just supposed to be grateful to be here at all. But the reality is that every worker deserves rights, and joining IATSE means we don’t have to choose between the job we love and having identities outside of our work.”
Anna George, an assistant coordinator at Marvel, described witnessing the vote count live via Zoom: “It was so emotional hearing the yeses and knowing we were fighting for what we deserve. What a powerful moment.”
Added Carolyn Newes, VFX Coordinator at Marvel: “I’m just so excited I could be part of this in some small way. It’s so needed and so appreciated by everyone.”
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