Disney VFX Artists File for Unionization Vote With IATSE

Visual effects workers at the studio’s live-action division join their counterparts at Marvel Studios in union push

Disney Diane Jurgens
Burbank California, February 17 2019 : World famous of the Walt Disney Company is headquartered at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. (Getty Images)

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced on Monday that a supermajority of the 18 in-house visual effects artists at Walt Disney Pictures have signed cards with their intent to unionize.

The move comes two weeks after VFX artists at another Disney-owned production company, Marvel Studios, also sent their petition to the National Labor Relations Board for a unionization vote. IATSE, under the direction of lead organizer Mark Patch, is making a concentrated effort to unionize VFX artists, who remain among the few below-the-line workers without union representation.

The in-house VFX artists at Walt Disney Pictures have recently been involved on the studio’s series of remakes of its classic animated films, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.”

While the vote will not include the third-party VFX houses that do the vast majority of work on Disney films, IATSE hopes that these early unionization efforts will help encourage artists that work in-house at other studios and at third-party companies to step forward and demand better wages and working conditions, along with other benefits like healthcare and pension that have been enjoyed by IATSE members in other professions for decades.

“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,” Patch said in a statement.

“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,” Patch continued.

Voting is underway for the VFX team at Marvel Studios, with the results of the vote set to be announced on Sept. 12. Disney’s VFX team is expected to have its unionization vote within the coming month.

“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,” IATSE President Matthew Loeb said. “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.”

The vote to unionize comes, of course, amid a wave of labor actions in Hollywood unlike anything seen in decades, most notably the ongoing double strike by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA.

WGA, which went on strike May 2, resumed negotiating with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing studio bosses, resumed negotiations, in early August.

Meanwhile, amid a series of self-inflicted public image wounds and a public sentiment overwhelmingly on the side of striking actors and writers, AMPTP has hired the crisis PR firm the Levinson Group.

For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.