Walt Disney Studios Animators Vote to Unionize

Sixty-Three Walt Disney Animation Studios production employees vote to unionize with IATSE

A major change is happening within Walt Disney Animation Studios, as a new report from THR states that sixty-three Walt Disney Animation Studios production employees have voted to unionize. The group of sixty-three employees includes production coordinators, production managers, and production supervisors, and they voted to join The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) in a National Labor Relations Board ballot count on Wednesday. Within a group of 68 voters, only five voted against, and if neither of the parties files an objection to the result within five days, the group will be certified and can begin bargaining a first contract.

At one point earlier in the process, Disney stated that production managers and production supervisors were managers and did not sure a "community of interest" with production coordinators. That meant they would not be able to join them in their bargaining unit, but an NLRB acting regional director found that the proposed bargaining unit was "appropriate" and included all of the roles in a direction of election, allowing them to move forward.

Production coordinator Maggie Hughes said that the win "exemplifies the core of why we're unionizing" in a statement. Hughes added, "We knew throughout this process that everyone in our unit deserves to be eligible but the company still decided to pursue this long and arduous process in an attempt to divide us."

This all started last year when the group of workers requested changes to pay and portable healthcare that they would be able to bring with them to different jobs. The group would request to be voluntarily recognized by Disney, but Disney evidently denied that request. That led to an announcement in March of this year that the workers would be starting the process of unionizing.

Alongside that announcement, Production Coordinator Shannon Henley said, "Even though I love my job, I regularly must consider if I should instead find a job with better pay, better hours, better benefits, and a more viable career path forward. Joining TAG gives me hope that I'll no longer have to consider leaving my dream job in order to live comfortably."

That's not the only group to unionize under the Disney umbrella this year, as in September Marvel Studios Visual Effects workers voted unanimously to unionize with IATSE. That group included more than 50 of Marvel's VFX workers, and this coincides with the intense scrutiny that Marvel's VFX process has come under over the past year.

"Today, VFX workers at Marvel Studios spoke with a unanimous, collective voice, demanding fair pay for the hours they work, healthcare, a safe and sustainable working environment, and respect for the work they do," Mark Patch, VFX organizer for IATSE, said in a statement Wednesday. "There could be no stronger statement highlighting the overwhelming need for us to continue our work and bring union protections and standards to all VFX workers across the industry. And there could be no stronger example of the courage and solidarity of these workers than each and every one of them declaring 'union YES!'"