Marvel VFX artists vote unanimously to unionize

Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in Avengers: Endgame.

Disney | Wonder

Hollywood, already hit by two strikes, has some new union members.

Marvel Studios’ visual effects employees voted unanimously to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. IATSE announced Wednesday. This is the first time a unit consisting entirely of VFX staff has joined the group.

VFX artists have faced increased workloads and tight deadlines to complete some of the industry’s lowest-budget franchise films in recent years, causing tensions between these workers and studios.

In particular, Disneywhich Marvel Studios is a part of, required immense special effects work in the last three years to complete a huge selection of superhero films and television shows for its Disney+ streaming service. According to IATSE, Marvel Studios’ VFX team consists of more than 50 people.

“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 the VFX teams to meet deadlines because I was just grateful should be here in the first place,” said Sarah Kazuko Chow, VFX coordinator at Marvel, in a statement.

Disney representatives did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The push for unionization comes as Hollywood grapples with double strikes by its writers and actors.

Like the strikers, Marvel’s VFX artists are interested in a labor contract that offers fair pay, health benefits and “a safe and sustainable work environment,” said Mark Patch, VFX organizer at IATSE.

They’re not the only VFX team seeking a union. In late August, Walt Disney Pictures VFX employees petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to host a unionization election.

Now that the vote is official, Marvel VFX employees will have to engage in collective bargaining with Marvel Studios executives to hammer out a contract. However, since the studio is already in talks with Hollywood screenwriters and has not yet addressed contractual issues with striking actors, it could take some time for the VFX artists to come to the table.

“Today’s count shows that the unprecedented demand for unionization in new sectors of the entertainment industry is very real,” Matthew Loeb, president of IATSE International, said in a statement.

IATSE represents 170,000 industry employees, from studio mechanics to wardrobe and makeup artists. In late 2021, the union faced off against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to negotiate a new contract.

The union authorized a strike, but was able to reach an agreement with the studios. The three-year contract contained clauses that provided for a 10-hour rotation between shifts, 54 hours of rest on weekends, increased funding for health insurance and pension insurance, and a 3% increase in tariffs for each year during the contract period. Heavy penalties were also imposed for non-compliance with these break periods.

Loeb told Marvel’s VFX artists that it had the support of IATSE and told those who voted for a union: “Your fight is our fight.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is a member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The AMPTP is currently negotiating with striking writers and actors in Hollywood. Marvel VFX artists vote unanimously to unionize

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