75% of the 83 artists working on James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment productions have agreed to unionize with IATSE. Back in December, 2023, the Visual Effects (VFX) workers employed by the subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). 57 workers voted in favor of union representation and only 19 voted against it.
Jennifer Anaya, who’s a Kabuki Lead with 4 years at the studio, simply wants affordable healthcare, sustainable, benefits, and a living wage for VFX Workers, “Today’s union victory will bring up many emotions and thoughts, but what I feel the most in this moment is hope,” Anaya said. “I now have hope that with this union, my fellow artists and I can work together to make LEI better and stronger for everyone. There is hope that our words can now be put into action because our united voices cannot be ignored. I hope that our efforts will empower others at studios around the world to strive for fair and equal pay, better benefits and sustainable work conditions. And for the first time in my career, I have hope for my future…because I finally have a say in it. What was once thought of as a pipedream is now a reality, and I hope the legacy of this union will benefit future VFX artists for years to come.”
The vote follows Marvel Studios VFX Workers unanimously voting to unionize with IATSE. Historically, VFX artists are often overworked, underpaid, and all-around undervalued. Kristin Camera, who’s Lab Generalist with 2.5 years at Lightstorm, believes a much-needed change is now in the air. “This is a huge step forward for our industry as a whole–we’ve come together as a united front to affirm our worth to not just the studios, but to the public as a whole,” Camera said. “For too long I’ve been scared about where VFX is going, and even considered leaving. Now I actually feel like there’s a future for us, and I’m excited for it.”
It’s another historic moment for the union, which over the last year, has witnessed more and more workers standing up for the rights to fair compensation and treatment. IATSE International President, Matthew D. Loeb, expressed his admiration for these trailblazers. “Thanks to the courage of these workers and others, we stand at the cusp of a new era in VFX,” Loeb said. “An era where every worker’s contributions and value are recognized, and they can win the same rights and protections their union co-workers already have. As we move on to discuss negotiating a fair contract with management in good faith, let this moment serve as a beachhead for the entire industry.”