Not long after Marvel Studios’ visual effects artists filed for unionization and union representation, it looks like VFX artists at Walt Disney Studios are now doing the same. Variety reports that visual effects artists at Disney Studios have filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to unionize. This includes a supermajority of over 80% of the 18 in-house VFX crew members at Walt Disney Studios, who signed authorization cards signaling their desire to unionize.
DISNEY IN-HOUSE VFX ARTISTS FILING FOR AN ELECTION TO UNIONIZE
This is a fairly historic moment. It’s only the second time in history that VFX artists have joined together to demand the same protections and rights as their colleagues. Earlier in August, VFX crews at Marvel Studios also voted to unionize starting Aug. 21. The ballots for that vote are due later on Sept. 11. The vote count will reportedly take place on Sept. 12.
A previous press release on the Marvel VFX workers on Aug. 7 from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) stated, “A supermajority of Marvel’s more than 50-worker crew had signed authorization cards indicating they wished to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).” VFX organizer for IATSE Mark also announced in a new statement on today’s move by the Disney VFX workers:
“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. 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.”h/t to Variety for the transcript
Also, International President of IATSE Matthew D. Loeb added:
“The determination of these VFX workers is not just commendable, it’s groundbreaking. 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.”h/t to Variety for the transcript.
The recent instances of Disney and Marvel VFX workers voting for union representation are the first time VFX artists have banded together and sought unionization. IATSE currently represents more than 168,000 workers in the entertainment industry, including technicians, artisans, and craftspersons working in the realm of movies and television. However, historically, workers in the VFX department have not been represented by IATSE. This looks like a positive move to change all of that.
VFX artists moving to collectively unionize comes at a time when the entertainment industry is facing strikes from both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the actors union (SAG-AFTRA), who striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). They are striking in favor of increased residuals, protection against AI, more transparency in the current wave of media streaming, among other things.
In recent months, there have been allegations of poor working conditions for visual effects artists and crews working on Marvel film and TV projects, such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Thor: Love and Thunder, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. As noted by Variety, workers have voiced complaints regarding the demanding post-production schedules for the projects, including excessive overtime, chronic understaffing, and constantly changing deadlines, which in turn creates unavoidable substandard work
Earlier this year, Marvel Studios and Disney fired executive Victoria Alonso from the company. According to a report by Vulture, sources in the visual effects industry alleged that Alonso was “singularly responsible” for Marvel’s toxic work environment. It was also alleged that Alonso maintained a blacklist that VFX artists feared.
The Disney VFX artists have worked on multiple hit films across Disney’s catalog, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Visual effects workers have largely worked non-union since major visual effects work was pioneered with the production of films such as Star Wars in the 1970s. Unionizing workers are looking for fair compensation for all hours worked, adequate health care, retirement benefits, and similar rights and protections afforded to their unionized coworkers represented by IATSE.
Variety notes that a labor board election could occur in two to three weeks. If a majority of workers vote in favor of unionizing in the election, Disney would be required to begin good-faith negotiations for a contract covering the VFX workers as a group.
What do you think of the news? Do you see this as a positive step for VFX crews at Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios? Let us know your thoughts about the development on The Illuminerdi’s social media.