Marvel Visual Effects Workers Unanimously Vote “Yes” to Unionize

It’s official: In a unanimous vote, the visual effects employees at Marvel Studios voted to unionize with IATSE in a closely watched election held by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote marks the first time a unit of solely VFX workers has unionized with IATSE.

Voting closed on Monday after the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Disney/Marvel reached a stipulated election agreement last month. According to today’s announcement from IATSE, there was a “high turnout” from the roughly 50 Marvel employees, which includes jobs such as VFX coordinators and data wranglers. The result was expected, as a supermajority of these workers has already signed authorization cards indicating they wish to be represented by the union. The next step for the union is to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with the studio to draft a union contract. A date for these negotiations has yet to be scheduled.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

Roughly 18 staffers that work in VFX at Walt Disney Pictures also are voting on unionization; that vote began Friday and runs through Oct. 2. In both cases, this includes those employed directly by the studio. It doesn’t include the thousands of artists who work on Marvel and Disney movies through third-party VFX companies.

With these elections, IATSE wishes to form a new, broad national VFX Local that it hopes to launch before the end of the year.

IATSE organizer Mark Patch 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), Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700) and Art Directors Guild (Local 800). The current Basic Agreement expires in 2024, and negotiations for a new contract are expected to begin next March.

“Today, VFX workers at Marvel Studios spoke with a unanimous, collective voice, demanding fair pay for the hours they work, health care, a safe and sustainable working environment, and respect for the work they do,” says Patch. “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!'”

The Marvel vote comes after a tumultuous several months in this field. In March, Marvel fired Victoria Alonso, who oversaw VFX at the studio, though the departure was said to be over issues unrelated to those duties. Marvel also made headlines when anonymous VFX pros complained about untenable working conditions, including long hours and seven-day work weeks.

These concerns, as well as unpaid overtime, credits, wages and retirement benefits, are among the key issues identified by VFX workers that would like to see change.

Several Marvel employees released statements with today’s announcement. Said Marvel VFX coordinator Sarah Kazuko Chow, “I grew up dreaming of working on Marvel films, so when I started my first job at Marvel, I felt like I couldn’t complain about the unpaid overtime, the lack of meal breaks, and the incredible pressure put on VFX teams to meet deadlines because I was just supposed to be grateful to be here at all. But the reality is that every worker deserves rights.”

A decade ago, following the bankruptcy of the Rhythm & Hues in the wake of finishing its Oscar-winning work on Life of Pi, the VFX industry actively explored the potential of a union as well as other efforts to change what is viewed in the community as a broken business model.

Best of The Hollywood Reporter

Click here to read the full article.