Walt Disney Pictures Visual Effects (VFX) workers have voted unanimously in favour of unionizing with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). This follows a similar decision by Marvel Studios’ VFX worked, which is part of an ongoing wave of organizing throughout the entertainment industry, with workers across several previously unrepresented classifications rallying to unite under IATSE.
The team has been behind the special effects on Disney’s live-action films, including ‘Lion King’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Aladdin’, and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.
Voting was underway between September 8th through to September 28th, with the votes counted on October 2nd. There there were eighteen eligible voters, with 13 voting in favor of the union and zero opposed.
Mack Robinson, a VFX Senior Coordinator, said in a statement on the 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.”
IATSE VFX Organizer Mark Patch also added:
“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 covers a wide range of roles within the entertainment industry, including Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes / Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint, among others.
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.”
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.
With visual effects becoming so crutial for the creation of shows and films, along with many reports of long hours, poor working condition and deadline crunching, with the VFX crews joining the union, they will hopefully get better working conditions and better pay, which ultimately, should result in better VFX within shows and films that we watch.
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