This has been the summer of unions fighting for fair workers' rights. While the summer might be coming to an end, the fight continues. This time, the fight is coming from Walt Disney Pictures' 18 in-house VFX employees.
Deadline reports that 18 in-house VFX crewmembers employed by Walt Disney Pictures "have signed cards with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to be represented by the union."
IATSE has called this a "historic move" as it marks the second time that VFX workers at a major studio voted to unionize. On August 7, 2023, more than 50 VFX workers at Marvel filed for similar unionization.
IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb commented on the action, echoing his statement from Aug. 7, saying, "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.”
The VFX industry has been operating without unions since VFX began during the production of the initial Star Wars movies in the 1970s. Since then, VFX artists have been working long hours with unfair wages. There have also been recent discussions about the impossible deadlines VFX companies are given to complete the visual effects of blockbuster films.
While Disney pushing for more live-action remakes of their animated projects like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lilo & Stitch, and Moana, VFX teams are crucial to bringing the fantasy to life. But without proper resources and time, these workers cannot perform to the best of their abilities.
Below-the-line film and TV industry jobs have historically been represented by IATSE, but VFX workers have been largely excluded from the conversation. However, VFX workers have decided to fight for a work environment that benefits them and the art they create.
“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,” said IATSE VFX Organizer Mark Patch. “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.”
According to IATSE, the unionizing VFX workers at Walt Disney Pictures 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.”
This is a major step forward for these workers. We'll keep you updated as this story develops.
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