Marvel’s overworked visual effects workers have voted to join a union.

Marvel's overworked visual effects workers have voted to join a union.

Marvel VFX Workers Vote to Join Union: Advancing the Rights of Visual Effects Professionals

In a groundbreaking move, visual effects (VFX) workers at Disney-owned Marvel have voted to join a union, making them the first group of VFX professionals to push for such representation. A significant majority of the 52-member on-set production crew have expressed their desire to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which operates under the National Labor Relations Board.

The IATSE union already represents a range of other professionals in the entertainment industry, including hair and makeup artists, wardrobe personnel, lighting technicians, and prop handlers. However, this marks the first time that VFX workers have collectively sought union protection.

This move comes as a response to longstanding concerns about VFX workers’ compensation and the demanding pace of production schedules. Some workers have claimed that they were given nearly impossible deadlines for achieving complex visual effects. Bella Huffman, a VFX coordinator, 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 dissatisfaction among VFX professionals has been well-documented. Last year, Dhruv Govil, who had worked on movies like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” expressed his frustration on Twitter. In a now-deleted post, he criticized the company for overworking teams and paying low salaries. Govil wrote, “Working on Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry. I’ve seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked, while Marvel tightens the purse strings.”

It’s worth noting that the unionization movement at Marvel comes at a time when Disney and other studios are grappling with strikes from the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. These labor disputes have resulted in the partial or complete shutdown of numerous film and television productions across the entertainment capital.

Marvel’s films have been at the forefront of VFX utilization, relying heavily on cutting-edge special effects to bring comic book heroes to life. The move towards unionization reflects a growing recognition that the well-being and fair treatment of VFX workers are crucial for sustaining the creative magic that audiences enjoy on the big screen.

IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb sees the unionization efforts as part of a broader wave of solidarity among entertainment workers. He stated, “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.”

The decision by Marvel’s VFX workers to join a union marks a significant milestone in the ongoing evolution of labor rights and representation within the entertainment industry. It demonstrates a collective determination to address longstanding issues and create a more equitable and sustainable work environment for VFX professionals. As the industry continues to evolve, this move sets an important precedent, ensuring that the contributions of VFX workers are acknowledged and rewarded fairly.