Visual effects workers on Monday at Walt Disney Pictures filed with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election to unionize.
More than 80% of the 18 in-house visual effects crew members signed authorization cards supporting a VFX union. Visual effects workers want the same rights and protections provided to other entertainment industry fields, such as camera operators, wardrobe, sound, editors, lighting, propers, etc.
This marks just the second time a visual effects staff has attempted to form a union, and follows Marvel Studios’ VFX team and its first-ever request to unionize earlier this month. These efforts come amid increasing reports about the sheer number of hours and projects that visual effects workers must take on due to the heavier reliance on CGI in films and television shows.
The labor board could schedule an election in two to three weeks, and if the majority votes in favor, Disney will be required to begin “good-faith” contract negotiations. Disney was not immediately available for comment.
“Today, courageous Visual Effects workers at Walt Disney Pictures overcame the fear and silence that have kept our community from having a voice on the job for decades,” said IATSE VFX Organizer Mark Patch in a press release. “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.”
While VFX has been around for a while, it gained recognition as a profession during the production of Star Wars in the 1970s. Despite other union sin the entertainment business, the field has never tried to organize before. Disney employees in favor of unionizing want fair compensation for all hours worked, health care, and retirement benefits awarded to other entertainment unions. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees backs the move to form a union. This labor union represents over 168,0000 talents and notes an “unprecedented demand for unionization across all sectors of the entertainment industry.”
The alliance also represents Marvel Studios’ VFX personnel, who are set to vote beginning August 21 through September 11, with a final tally taking place the next day.
“For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their coworkers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry,” said International President of IATSE, Matthew D. Loeb. “This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.”
IASTE is also helping organize unions for Gladius Studios’ animation, VFX, and video games departments with The Animation Guild.
“The determination of these VFX workers is not just commendable, it’s groundbreaking,” said Loeb. “Their collective action against the status quo represents a seismic shift in this critical moment in our industry. The chorus of voices demanding change is unprecedented, and demonstrates our united movement is not about any one company, but about setting a precedent of dignity, respect, and fairness for all.”