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VFX Workers at Disney File for Unionization Under IATSE

Visual effects workers at Walt Disney Pictures have filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board that could allow them to unionize with IATSE. The news comes as Disney-owned Marvel VFX workers are currently organizing for their own union election amid the writers and actors strikes.

Already, roughly 80 percent of the 18 in-house VFX workers — including data wranglers, witness camera operators, and other production staff — at Walt Disney Pictures have signed union authorization cards affirming their desire to unionize under the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union reports. Both the Disney and Marvel unionization efforts involve pros employed directly by the studio; they currently do not cover the thousands of artists who work on Marvel movies through third-party VFX studios.

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After filing with the NLRB, an election could occur in two to three weeks for these Disney workers, according to IATSE. If a majority of workers vote to unionize, the studio — which didn’t voluntarily recognize the effort, according to the union — would then be called upon to begin good-faith negotiations for a union contract. Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The workers are calling for “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,” according to the union.

“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,” said IATSE organizer Mark Patch.

Last week, Marvel’s in-house visual effects workers began to vote on whether they wish to unionize; workers will need to return their ballots by a Sept. 11 deadline. A supermajority of Marvel’s roughly 50-worker VFX crew had already signed authorization cards.

Currently, VFX jobs are largely nonunion, and IATSE has recently been making a bigger push to bring those workers under their banner. IATSE’s idea is to form a new national VFX local that would cover VFX workers, whether they are employed directly by the studios, the production or third-party VFX companies.

Patch tells THR that, assuming the Marvel and Disney votes pass, the union hopes to charter and launch the VFX local before the end of the year. “The majority of VFX workers should be able to find their home in this new union,” he says.

The aim would be to have members of such a local work under the Basic Agreement contract already used by entertainment workers in 13 locals including the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) and Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700), according to Patch. The current Basic Agreement expires in 2024, and negotiations for a new contract are expected to begin next March.

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