Walt Disney Studios Cartoon Artists Decide to Form a Union

Sixty-three workers at Walt Disney Animation Studios have decided to join the IATSE union.

Walt Disney Studios

A big shift is happening at Walt Disney Animation Studios. According to a new report from THR, 63 employees working on production, including coordinators, managers, and supervisors, have voted to form a union. They decided to join The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) after a vote by the National Labor Relations Board. Out of 68 voters, only 5 opposed the idea. If neither side raises an objection within the next five days, the group will officially become a union and can start negotiating their first contract.

In an earlier stage of this process, Disney argued that production managers and supervisors were considered managers and didn't have common interests with production coordinators. This would have meant they couldn't join the same bargaining group. However, an acting regional director from the NLRB determined that the proposed group for negotiations was appropriate and included all these roles, so they could proceed.

Maggie Hughes, the production coordinator, explained that this victory shows exactly why we're coming together as a union. She also mentioned, "We understood all along that every person in our group should have the chance to be a part of this, but the company chose to make it difficult and try to split us apart by going through this lengthy process."

This all began last year when a bunch of employees asked for better pay and healthcare they could use at different jobs. They wanted Disney to agree to this, but Disney said no. So, in March of this year, they said they would try to form a union.

In addition to the announcement, Shannon Henley, who works as a Production Coordinator, mentioned, "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."

Earlier this year, another group within Disney decided to form a union. In September, more than 50 Visual Effects workers from Marvel Studios voted to join the union IATSE. This happened at a time when there was a lot of attention on how Marvel handles its Visual Effects work.

"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. 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!'" Mark Patch, VFX organizer for IATSE, said in a statement Wednesday.

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