‘Marvel’ VFX team vote to unionize

In a historic milestone for the world of visual effects (VFX), Marvel Studios’ VFX workers have unanimously voted in favor of unionizing with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

The results of the election, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), were announced on Wednesday, marking a pivotal moment in the history of the VFX industry.

This landmark decision is the first time that a unit solely consisting of VFX workers has successfully unionized with IATSE since the inception of VFX nearly half a century ago.

The process began when the workers filed for the election on August 7, and votes were cast by mail between August 21 and September 11. The NLRB conducted the vote count on Tuesday, September 12, and the outcome was unanimous, with all votes in favor of unionizing and none against.

Anna George, Assistant Coordinator at Marvel, expressed her emotional reaction to the vote count conducted via Zoom: “It was so emotional hearing the yes’s and knowing we were fighting for what we deserve. What a powerful moment!” Carolyn Newes, VFX Coordinator at Marvel, echoed this sentiment, stating, “I’m just so excited I could be part of this in some small way. It’s so needed and so appreciated by everyone.”

The unanimous support for unionization and the high voter turnout demonstrate the Marvel VFX workers’ unwavering commitment to securing the same rights and protections enjoyed by their unionized counterparts in the broader motion picture and television production industry.

Mark Patch, VFX Organizer for IATSE, emphasized the significance of this decision: “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.”

Historically, positions like Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes/Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint have been represented by IATSE in the entertainment industry, while VFX workers were not. The current unit includes only Marvel’s in-house VFX team, but Walt Disney Pictures VFX staffers are also in the process of voting in their NLRB election, with results expected on October 2. IATSE anticipates that this victory will set a precedent for further organizing within the VFX sector.

Thomas Barnard, VFX Coordinator at Marvel, reflected on the historical significance of the vote: “This is historic, and I’m glad to be part of it. Not only will this radically change the game by increasing the quality of storytelling through our work, it’s also a huge step forward for taking care of the unsung individuals who helped to build the industry.”

Sarah Kazuko Chow, VFX Coordinator at Marvel, emphasized the importance of worker rights: “Every worker deserves rights, and joining IATSE means we don’t have to choose between the job we love and having identities outside of our work.”

Marvel Studios’ VFX workers’ successful unionization coincides with ongoing strikes by both the Actors and Writers guilds, who are seeking fair contracts with the studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb offered his congratulations to the VFX workers: “Your bravery, determination, and unity are a beacon for workers not just in VFX, not just in entertainment, but workers in every industry across this country and beyond. You will enter negotiations with Marvel and Disney with the full backing and support of our 170,000 strong alliance. Your fight is our fight.”

Following the election’s outcome, the next step for the union is to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with Marvel Studios to draft a contract addressing the needs of the represented workers. These union contracts, or collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), typically outline terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours, and working conditions. Negotiation dates have not yet been scheduled at the time of this writing.

This historic decision by Marvel Studios’ VFX workers signifies a major step forward in the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights and fair treatment within the entertainment industry.