The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) staged what it called a “solidarity walk” around Walt Disney Studios in Burbank with dozens of the studio’s animation production workers in protest of Disney’s refusal to voluntarily recognize its unionization efforts.
More than 100 animation workers and artists gathered in front of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building for a rally and marched along the streets adjacent to the studio before presenting Disney’s labor relations counsel Mark Stubbington with a petition signed by over 10,000 animators calling on Disney to recognize its production workers’ wishes to be included as part of the Disney Animation bargaining unit and to receive the benefits of its labor contract, which include higher wages and healthcare.
“This is a historic day where The Animation Guild members are backing a group of people who are seeking to gain voluntary recognition from the company. It’s disappointing that the company is putting us in a position to have to justify what they’ve already provided other managers and supervisors across the entertainment industry. I’m proud to be able to stand with the group today to show that there is a majority of support for representation,” said Animation Guild business representative Steve Kaplan
Last month, Disney denied voluntary recognition, arguing that production workers are classified as management and therefore cannot unionize. The Animation Guild countered in a statement by arguing that animators who are already unionized with IATSE at Disney have been hired as department heads.
“[Disney] knows there are thousands of people like me willing to take a pay cut to follow their dreams, and they have taken advantage of it for long enough. It’s time for production management to be treated as the skilled craft that it is,” said Disney production coordinator Jillian Howell. “I have a career working for successful movies that are known across the globe, that are merchandised and profit well. I should not have to dog-sit and borrow money from my parents in order to make ends meet.”
In recent years, the Animation Guild has made a coordinated effort to unionize production workers at various studios and on the crews of major animated shows. Among the recently unionized shops are Titmouse, Nickelodeon Animation, and the production workers of “Rick & Morty.”
Last month, a spokesperson for Disney told TheWrap that it will negotiate in good faith with the Animation Guild if members choose to unionize in an official vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. TheWrap has reached out to Disney for further comment.