Marvel’s visual effects artists have made the first move towards unionisation in an area of the film business that is infamously underrepresented. Marvel Studios’ on-set VFX artists have reportedly petitioned the US National Labour Relations Board, according to a statement from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
The IATSE hailed the move as “a major shift in an industry that has largely remained non-union since VFX was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s,” saying a supermajority of Marvel’s 50-plus VFX crew had signed authorisation cards indicating their desire to be represented by IATSE, which already represents around 168,000 technicians and craftspeople who are a part of live theatre, film and TV, and related areas in the US and Canada.
Being a first step towards unionisation for Marvel’s VFX artists, the petition applies to only “on-set” workers, which comprises data wranglers, production managers, witness camera operators, and assistants on film and television productions.
IATSE VFX organiser Mark Patch highlighted, “For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their coworkers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry. This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.”
Highlighted the challenging nature of the industry, IATSE VFX coordinator Bella Huffman stated, “Turnaround times don’t apply to us, protected hours don’t apply to us, and pay equity doesn’t apply to us. Visual effects must become a sustainable and safe department for everyone who’s suffered far too long and for all newcomers who need to know they won’t be exploited.”
The move by Marvel VFX workers to file for a union election comes at a time when the writers’ guild and the actors’ union SAG-AFRA are on strike at the same time in the United States for the first time since 1960. Both these groups seek fair contracts with the studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb said, “We are witnessing an unprecedented wave of solidarity that’s breaking down old barriers in the industry and proving we’re all in this fight together. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Entertainment workers everywhere are sticking up for each other’s rights, that’s what our movement is all about. I congratulate these workers on taking this important step and using their collective voice.”