LOS ANGELES, CA — In-house Visual Effects (VFX) workers at Walt Disney Pictures unanimously voted in favor of unionizing with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union announced Tuesday. This significant milestone marks the second time a unit of solely VFX Workers successfully voting to unionize with IATSE since VFX was commercialized nearly a half-century ago, with the other just last month.
The election was initially filed for on August 28, with votes cast by mail between September 8 through September 28. When the votes were counted on October 2, there were eighteen eligible voters, with 13 voting in favor of the union and zero opposed. Mack Robinson, a VFX Senior Coordinator remarked on historic nature of the vote, “For so long we’ve wanted the same protections as everyone else, but there was no hope in sight. Winning this election was a long fight, but I’m proud to say it’s been won by each and every VFX worker wanting a brighter, sustainable future.”
The unanimous unionization of Walt Disney Pictures’ VFX workers, in addition to the similarly unanimous election of Marvel Studio’s VFX workers last month, is part of an ongoing wave of organizing throughout the entertainment industry, with workers across several previously unrepresented classifications rallying to unite under IATSE. From IATSE VFX Organizer Mark Patch: “Today’s unanimous victory shows that VFX workers everywhere have a clear path to winning a meaningful say about their working conditions and quality of life. We’ll be continuing our work to win a great contract, but we need to bring every studio and vendor in line to bring those union standards to all VFX workers.” The union anticipates this is the second of many organizing victories within VFX, and interested client-side and vendor-side VFX workers can reach out to union organizers at VFXunion.org.
While positions like Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes / Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint, among others, have historically been represented by IATSE in motion picture and television, workers in VFX classifications historically have not. VFX job classifications have largely remained non-union since the field was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s.
The unionizing workers are demanding fair compensation for all hours worked, adequate health care, retirement benefits, and more generally, the same rights and protections afforded to their unionized coworkers who are already represented by IATSE. IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said, “These workers’ collective action against the status quo represents a seismic shift in this critical moment in our industry. This unanimous vote sends a clear message that the demands of VFX workers for dignity, respect, and fairness must be heard.”
Walt Disney Pictures, a prestigious arm of Walt Disney Studios, has been at the forefront of the entertainment industry for a century. Established originally as Walt Disney Productions, it was renamed in 1983. The unionizing VFX workers are responsible for creating the VFX across the studio’s impressive catalogue, including modern classics such as the live-action adaptations of ‘Lion King’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Aladdin’, and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, among others.
Following the outcome of the NLRB election in favor of unionizing, the next step for the union is to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with the employer to draft a contract addressing the needs of the represented workers. Union contracts, also known as collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s), generally outline terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours, and working conditions. Both the union and the employer are obligated to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement on these terms. As of this writing, no negotiation dates have yet been scheduled.