Members of the Animation Guild have voted to approve their new contract with Hollywood’s studios, ending a contract negotiation cycle that extended months past the previous contract’s expiration date.
IATSE Local 839 reported that 87% of voting members approved the contract, with more than triple the votes received during the guild’s last ratification vote in 2018, in which 80% of the 1,081 votes received were in favor of approving the contract.
It has been almost a full year since the initial July 2021 contract expiration date for the Animation Guild. Negotiations between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, did not begin until after the Hollywood Basic Agreement between the studios and the other IATSE locals was narrowly ratified on November 15.
Negotiations then progressed in a slow-but-steady fashion over the course of six months, with AMPTP pausing talks to review COVID-19 safety protocols with the other labor guilds. Both sides announced that they had come to an agreement on May 28.
“This ratification vote shows that the membership has acknowledged the incredible work of our
negotiations subcommittees and dedicated themselves to continuing the work. While we achieved
significant gains, we were not able to reach all the priorities we set out to achieve and that our members
deserve,” said the Animation Guild’s business representative Steve Kaplan in a statement.
“The Local has dedicated itself to member engagement and open discussions about how to achieve those goals, and the membership has responded by ratifying this agreement and agreeing to support efforts to build our strength as a Union and community to give us greater leverage in the future,” Kaplan continued. “I must acknowledge and thank each member of the committee for their hard work over this long negotiation period and thank the leadership and staff of the Local for their never-ending support.”
Gains in the newest contract spanned a wide range of fields within animation, including increased pay rates for jobs like animation timers and color designers. Freelance animation timers will see their rates increase by 5% in the first year of the contract and nearly 5% in the second and third years, while color designers will see their minimum rates increase 4-12% depending on the specific position.
Writers, who were a prominent part of the Animation Guild’s organizing campaign as they called out the pay disparity for writers on animated shows compared to live-action ones, will now be structured into a new ranking system with increased pay rates depending on rank. The new tier system ranks “associate animation writer” as the lowest tier, with “level 1,” “level 2,” and “supervising animation writer” being the next ranks up.
Remote work was also a key gain for animators following the pandemic, as the AMPTP agreed in a sideletter to allow guild members hired in Los Angeles County who are now working in another county or state to continue union work “under specific circumstances.” In previous contracts, workers who moved out of Los Angeles County were told that they would no longer be considered union hires if they did so.
Because of the delayed start and lengthy process of this contract negotiation, there will be a much shorter turnaround for the Animation Guild between now and the next round of AMPTP talks, which will take place in summer 2024.
In the meantime, the Guild has pledged to continue its organizing efforts, expanding the number of unionized animation studios and getting existing members more actively involved as committee heads, shop stewards, and participants in mobilization meetings in order to build more leverage for gains that were unachievable in this round of talks.