Marvel VFX Workers Move Toward Unionization; Vote Set for Next Week

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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Disney/Marvel have reached a stipulated election agreement, allowing Marvel’s in-house visual effects workers to vote on whether they wish to unionize, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

An election date of Aug. 21 has been set and workers will need to return their ballots by a Sept. 11 deadline. Ballots would be tallied by a third party, and if the vote passes, the union would be certified, IATSE organizer Mark Patch tells THR.

A supermajority of Marvel’s roughly 50-worker VFX crew has already signed authorization cards indicating they wished to be represented by the union, and last week they filed for a unionization election with the National Labor Relations Board.

According to Patch, Disney and IATSE agreed to this speedier election format (“We are proceeding with our election and we’re confident it will prevail,” he says), but a neutrality agreement hasn’t been granted. Marvel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from THR.

The Marvel VFX unionization effort involves pros employed directly by Marvel; it doesn’t include the thousands of artists who work on Marvel movies through third-party VFX studios. If successful, this would be the first group to certify union participation amid a wider call for unionization in the VFX community.

What local these workers would join is still unclear. Patch tells THR that IATSE’s idea is to form a new national VFX local that would cover VFX workers, whether they are employed directly by the studios, the production, or third-party VFX companies. “The majority of VFX workers should be able to find their home in this new union,” he says.

Patch adds that 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) and Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700). The current Basic Agreement expires in 2024 and negotiations for a new contract are expected to begin next March.

The VFX industry actively explored the potential of a union a decade ago following the bankruptcy of Rhythm & Hues in the wake of finishing the Oscar-winning work on Life of Pi, but it never materialized. More recently, a fresh effort to organize started.

The unionization effort occurs not only amid the backdrop of Hollywood’s labor stoppage, but also a broader rise of unionization attempts across the United States within companies such as Amazon and Starbucks.

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