Marvel Studios VFX Workers Unanimously Vote to Unionize With IATSE

Marvel Studios visual effects workers have voted unanimously to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union announced on Wednesday. The election held by the National Labor Relations Board marks the first time a unit made up solely of visual effects artists has unionized with IATSE in the VFX industry’s entire history.

“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,” Mark Patch, VFX Organizer for IATSE, said in a statement. “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 workers filed for the election on Aug. 7, and votes were cast by mail between Aug. 21 and Sept. 11. The count was held on Tuesday. When the final National Labor Relations Board election votes were counted, all votes were in favor of unionizing with IATSE, with zero against.

Thomas Barnard, VFX coordinator at Marvel, reflected on the unprecedented result of the vote and what it means for VFX going forward.

“This is historic and I’m glad to be part of it,” he said. “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, said, “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, and joining IATSE means we don’t have to choose between the job we love and having identities outside of our work.”

While the union election did not include VFX artists from third-party vendors that are hired by Marvel Studios, IATSE sees it as a key first step to unionizing more VFX artists and including them in the labor benefits that other below-the-line workers, from film editors to makeup artists, already earn as part of IATSE’s bargaining agreements with Hollywood studios.

IATSE International president Matthew D. Loeb said, “Today’s count demonstrates the unprecedented demand for unionization across new sectors of the entertainment industry is very real. To these VFX workers, I congratulate you on your historic victory. 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 outcome of the NLRB election in favor of unionizing, the next step for the union is to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with the employer to draft a contract addressing the needs of the represented workers.

The move comes as Hot Labor Summer has galvanized workers across industries, with Hollywood at a standstill as the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are currently on strike.

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