The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Direction of Election in a landmark decision allowing Production Coordinators, Production Supervisors, and Production Managers at Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) to vote on whether to unionize with IATSE, setting a historical precedent as Disney celebrates its centennial year. Together, The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) celebrate this important milestone in production worker organizing.
“This historic win during Disney’s 100th year celebration means that production folks can turn their wish into a reality,” says Production Coordinator Liz Davalos. “A career with sustainable wages, benefits, and growth that honestly reflects the strategic craft of Production Management.”
This key decision comes more than seven months after the organizing unit of production workers requested voluntary recognition from the studio. Disney studio leadership refused the initial request and chose to pursue an NLRB hearing to exclude more than half of the bargaining unit based solely on job title and capitalize on common misconceptions of labor law to unnecessarily prolong the unionization process. The hearing concluded 132 days ago.
The NLRB’s ruling unequivocally affirmed that Production Supervisors and Production Managers at WDAS are neither supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act, managerial employees, nor confidential employees, and do share a community of interest with Production Coordinators, rendering them eligible for unionization.
“This win exemplifies the core of why we’re unionizing. We knew throughout this process that everyone in our unit deserves to be eligible, but the company still decided to pursue this long and arduous process to divide us. We have stayed patient and adamant in our stance, so it feels extremely validating to win this colossal victory not only for ourselves but also for the animation industry as a whole,” says Production Coordinator Maggie Hughes.
Adds Production Supervisor Nora Rogers: “We are one step closer to having a say in our own future. We have asked to be seen and treated as equal to our creative counterparts for what feels like an eternity, and the NLRB’s decision provides us the opportunity to stop asking and start demanding. There is still a long road ahead of us, but this win has shown us that our courage, passion, and drive can take us anywhere, including to the negotiation table.”
A solidarity petition created to publicly support these courageous workers has reached almost 100,000 signatures. The organizing unit hopes that with this decision, WDAS will voluntarily recognize the unit, negotiate in good faith to reach an expeditious agreement, and acknowledge the dedication and hard work of these employees. If studio leadership chooses not to pursue this path, the election for WDAS production workers to affirm union representation with the IATSE will occur between October 10 to October 31, with the votes slated to be counted on November 1.
Production department workers interested in joining this growing movement should contact an organizer at animationguild.org/start-a-union/ if you work in animation, or iatse.net/join if you work in another sector of entertainment.