The first ever visual effects union within IATSE has gotten a little stronger. In-house VFX workers at Walt Disney Pictures have unanimously voted to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, officially joining a newly established branch of VFX workers already made up of Marvel staffers.
Walt Disney Pictures has 18 VFX employees who were eligible to vote to unionize, and 13 of them voted in favor of the union with none opposed. The voters filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board back on August 28, mail-in ballots were sent out between September 8-28, and votes were counted on October 2.
When VFX employees at Marvel successfully voted last month to establish a union, it was the first time in history that VFX workers had managed to organize. VFX workers have largely remained non-union since the ’70s when the field was first established.
As IATSE VFX organizer Mark Patch explained to IndieWire at the time, Marvel’s move established a new local branch with national jurisdiction within IATSE. If other groups of client-side or vendor-side VFX employees were to also vote to unionize, they too would become part of this newly established local branch, strengthening the union and growing its ranks in the process.
Marvel and now Disney may have been the first, but IATSE has said they won’t be the last, and the hope is that VFX workers at other studios will one day vote to do the same. The union says other vendor and client-side VFX workers can reach out to union organizers at VFXunion.org.
“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,” Mack Robinson, a VFX Senior Coordinator at Walt Disney Pictures, said in a statement.
“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,” IATSE VFX organizer Mark Patch said. “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 next step will be for the unionizing workers to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the companies. Workers’ demands are for fair compensation, adequate health care, retirement benefits, and rights already given to other below-the-line crafts covered by IATSE.
No negotiation dates have yet been scheduled as of press time.
“These workers’ collective action against the status quo represents a seismic shift in this critical moment in our industry,” IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement. “This unanimous vote sends a clear message that the demands of VFX workers for dignity, respect, and fairness must be heard.”