LOS ANGELES, CA — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) jointly celebrated an important step forward as the committed production employees of Walt Disney Animation Studios voted 93% in favor of unionizing in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election conducted Wednesday. This landmark result sets a historical precedent for project based Production Coordinators, Production Managers and Production Supervisors as Disney celebrates its centennial year.
“This historic win during Disney’s 100th year celebration means that production folks can turn their wish into a reality,” said Liz Davalos, a Production Coordinator. Her sentiment is echoed by her peers, including Hannah Bialosky, who sees this decision as “a strong precedent for all other Production Management workers in the Animation industry hoping to organize with their studios.”
In September, the NLRB confirmed Production Coordinators, Production Supervisors, and Production Managers were eligible to unionize through the formal NLRB election process. More specifically, the NLRB Regional Director’s ruling unequivocally affirmed that Production Supervisors and Production Managers at Walt Disney Animation Studios are neither supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act, managerial employees, nor confidential employees, and do share a community of interest with Production Coordinators, rendering them eligible.
The Animation Guild has recently netted several groundbreaking victories in representing production department workers, though thus far those efforts have only been successful when the employer voluntarily recognizes the workers’ union, as was the case for Nickelodeon production workers and production and IT workers on ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad!’. This route bypasses the need for a unionization election, so the question as to whether certain production job titles would be eligible to unionize through an NLRB election previously remained unanswered.
This decisive victory arrives 267 days post the union’s request for voluntary recognition and 168 days following the conclusion of related NLRB hearings. Production Coordinator Maggie Hughes, referencing the employers’ strategy to stall and gerrymander the unit said, “this win exemplifies the core of why we’re unionizing. We knew throughout this process that everyone in our unit deserves to be eligible but the company still decided to pursue this long and arduous process in an attempt to divide us. We have stayed patient and adamant in our stance so it feels extremely validating to win this colossal victory not only for ourselves but also for the animation industry as a whole.”
Nora Rogers, a Production Supervisor, emphasized, “This win marks the start of our voice as production department workers holding true weight… the NLRB’s decision provided us the opportunity to stop asking and start demanding.” The joy and triumph are evident in the words of Production Coordinator Catherine Fearon, “this win means we will finally feel like valued members of our studio and set the standard for production management throughout the industry! It’s been a long time coming, but it feels like we have earned this victory!
The wave of organizing amongst production department workers goes beyond Animation. In September, IATSE chartered Production Workers Guild (PWG) Local 111, a new national Local Union for a unit of 5,000 TV commercial production department workers employed by Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) companies previously known as ‘Stand With Production’. IATSE and The Animation Guild remain steadfast and united in our vision to ensure everyone working behind the scenes in entertainment, including production department workers, deserve the same rights and protections as those working in traditionally unionized crafts.
Production department workers interested in joining this growing movement should contact an organizer at animationguild.org/start-a-union/ if you work in animation, or iatse.net/join if you work in another sector of entertainment.
With the NLRB election decided, the employer becomes obligated to negotiate in good faith with the union to reach an agreement on key workplace terms and conditions.