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Disney Animation Workers to Hold Unionization Vote After Studio Refuses Voluntary Recognition

The Animation Guild continues its campaign to unionize production workers at major studios

IATSE Local 839, also known as The Animation Guild, announced on Wednesday that it is organizing with approximately 80 production workers at Walt Disney Animation Studios and that a unionization vote with the National Labor Relations Board will be held after the studio refused to voluntarily recognize the union.

The Animation Guild has had several successful unionization drives for animation production workers at several prominent studios, including Nickelodeon and Titmouse, as well as amongst workers on several high-profile animated TV series like “Rick & Morty.” Now it is turning its attention to Hollywood’s most prominent animation house, looking to organize production managers, supervisors and coordinators.

Like Nickelodeon, the Animation Guild already has an existing union contract with Disney that covers hundreds of animators in positions like storyboard artists, VFX supervisors and more. The Guild now seeks to include production workers within that existing contract to allow them to gain higher wages and healthcare benefits.

But IATSE says that Disney has rejected voluntary recognition on the argument that production workers are in managerial roles and therefore cannot unionize. While IATSE has released an open petition urging Disney to reverse course and recognize the union, an NLRB hearing has been set for later this month.

“Disney denying Production Coordinators, Production Supervisors, and Production Managers voluntary recognition and trying to divide us signals that they want us to be scared, to give up, and accept less than we deserve,” read a statement from the WDAS production organizing committee. “If they think this will make Production cower, they are wrong. Production is a craft in its own right, and by forming our union we are saying we deserve to have viable and sustainable careers paths, living wages, and the ability to retire with dignity.”

 “Every behind-the-scenes entertainment worker deserves a chance to make their voice heard and democratically decide for themselves if they want to be represented by a union. It’s disturbing that the Walt Disney Company would prefer to create division within one of its own workplaces by trying to single out some workers from a unionizing group just so they can pay them less and deny them the benefits and protections they deserve,” IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement.

“Disney already employs IATSE members as department heads and similar job titles across their business. This is a blatant attempt to undermine the collective bargaining rights of our members and to drive down standards for all workers in our industry. We’re not leaving anyone behind. We’ll see you at the NLRB,” Loeb added.

A spokesperson for Disney confirmed that the company has received the notice from the Animation Guild of the production workers’ intent to unionize and that it will negotiate in good faith if production workers approve the NLRB unionization vote.