Marvel Studios’ visual effects staff has taken a significant step toward unionization, which would mark a first for a sector that has historically lacked guild representation.
Crew members from the Walt Disney Co. superhero film and television studio have applied to run in a union election, marking the first such step for the VFX industry.
A large majority of Marvel’s more than 50-strong visual effects crew have signed authorization cards indicating they want to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union said Monday.
The union effort comes at a time when Hollywood is grappling with a rising tide of pro-working class sentiment, as actors, represented by SAG-AFTRA, and screenwriters, represented by the Writers Guild of America, for the first time in more than strike at the same time for 60 years.
“For nearly half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits that their colleagues and crew members have relied on since the dawn of the Hollywood film industry,” said Mark Patch, VFX organizer at IATSE. in a statement. “This is a historic first step for VFX workers to come together with a collective voice and demand respect for the work we do.”
IATSE, representing a variety of technical professions on film sites, has tried Working for more than a decade to extend union benefits to visual effects workers shared by their peers in the rest of the industry. Workers already represented by IATSE include costume designers, hair and make-up artists and script supervisors.
Marvel employees who voted to form a union have worked on productions such as the series Loki and the upcoming movie The Marvels, and work in New York and Atlanta.
VFX workers said it was a challenge because protections afforded to other unionized workers, such as sheltered hours or overtime pay, do not apply to them. The visual effects crew members are oddballs among Hollywood workers, most of whom are unionized.
The VFX industry is plagued by long, grueling hours as streaming services and cinemas demand more big-budget digital effects productions, workers say. Marvel in particular has been criticized for its claims Treatment of VFX staff.
“The move signals a major shift in an industry that has remained largely non-union since the introduction of VFX in the production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s,” IATSE said in a press release.
The National Labor Relations Board will now conduct due diligence and is expected to later set a date for the union election where eligible workers will vote on whether to join the union.
A Marvel spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement of the union election comes at a time when much production has been halted due to the twin strikes by Hollywood film and television actors and writers. WGA members have been on strike since early May, followed by film and television actors resigning in mid-July. Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are calling for higher streaming fees and protection from artificial intelligence.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented wave of solidarity that is breaking down old barriers in the industry and proving that we are all fighting together in this fight,” said Matthew D. Loeb, President of IATSE International, in a statement. “It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everywhere entertainers stand up for the rights of others, that’s what our movement is about.”