In the latest step forward for worker solidarity in animation, a super majority of production workers at Nickelodeon Animation Studio has voted to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, and negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement.
To date, this is the largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under The Animation Guild. The proposed unit would cover 177 production managers, production coordinators, post-production assistants, art production coordinators, asset coordinators, and more.
According to TAG, attorneys representing the studio responded to a request for voluntary recognition “by choosing to exclude a strategic group of production workers based solely on job title to capitalize on common misconceptions of labor law in order to unnecessarily prolong this process.”
Isabella Potenzini, a production coordinator at the studio, shares, “I am deeply disappointed in Nickelodeon’s decision to deliberately make our efforts for equality and fairness even more difficult, but I have seen firsthand the strength and solidarity shared between our fellow production workers.”
The Guild has an existing collective bargaining agreement with Nickelodeon that covers more than 400 artists, including CG technicians, storyboard artists, character designers and writers. The Negotiations Committee believes one agreement should cover all animation workers at Nickelodeon, including the recently unionized cohort, but notes that the studio seems to be angling for a separate contract for production workers.
“The company shared its preference to keep the productive working relationship a priority when discussing the impending negotiations for the existing bargaining unit,” says Animation Guild Business Representative Steve Kaplan. “It is therefore a surprise and shame that the company is choosing to put that relationship in jeopardy by forcing us to go to the NLRB and possibly take escalating action to achieve our goal of the inclusion of the production staff.”
The priority for the newly unionized production workers at Nickelodeon is to end unsustainable workplace practices, such as low wages and high-cost healthcare. No negotiation dates have been set yet.
“The current pay gap for production roles makes it near impossible to survive in Los Angeles. Many of us have taken the shame of asking our parents for money so we can pay rent and eat,” says production coordinator Ryan Brodsky. “We’re working full time for one of the largest corporations on Earth and there’s no reason that our parents should be funding this multi-billion dollar corporation.”
The sentiment is echoed by CG Asset Production Coordinator Minh-Chau Nguyen: “As production workers, many of us have had to supplement our pay disparity by taking up side gigs, putting in extra overtime, taking out loans or reaching out to family and friends for financial support. This unsustainable model of working more for less needs to end now.
“With voluntary recognition from Nickelodeon, my hope is that the future generation of production workers can focus on building their career instead of worrying about unlivable wages, work-life imbalance, and inadequate benefits.”
Since voluntary recognition has not yet been reached, the production workers and The Animation Guild may be forced to file for a union election with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) as early as next week.
Founded in 1952, The Animation Guild today represents more than 5,000 artists, technicians and writers in the animation industry, advocating for workers to improve wages and conditions.