Visual effects crews at Walt Disney Studios have taken a significant step to unionize after filing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to unionize.
A supermajority (over 80%) of the 18 in-house VFX crew members at Walt Disney Pictures signed authorization cards signaling their desire to unionize.
The historical move is the second time in history that VFX professionals have joined together to demand the same protections and rights as their colleagues. Earlier this month, VFX crews at Marvel Studios voted to unionize beginning Aug. 21. Ballots are due on Sept. 11, and the vote count will take place on Sept. 12.
“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. 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,” IATSE VFX organizer Mark Patch said in a statement.
“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. 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,” International President of IATSE Matthew D. Loeb said.
The unionizing VFX workers are responsible for creating the VFX across the studio’s catalog, which includes “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
VFX workers have remained non-union since the field was pioneered during production of the first “Star Wars” films in the 1970s and ’80s As part of the move, unionizing workers are demanding fair compensation for all hours worked, adequate health care, retirement benefits, and more generally, the same rights and protections afforded to their unionized coworkers who are already represented by IATSE.
These demands echo the increasingly prevalent calls for improvements across VFX Industry and are corroborated with the sentiment uncovered by IATSE’s 2022 VFX Worker Rate and Conditions Survey, which was published in March.
With Monday’s filing, a labor board election could commence as soon as two to three weeks. If a majority of these workers vote in favor of unionizing in that election, the studio would be required to begin good-faith negotiations for a contract covering these workers as a group.