Marvel Studios’ visual effects team has made history by voting unanimously to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The decision was reached following an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as announced by the company on Wednesday.
This groundbreaking development represents the first instance of a dedicated visual effects (VFX) workforce forming a union under the umbrella of IATSE. The initial request for the election was filed by Marvel Studios workers on August 7, and the voting process took place between August 21 and September 11. During the vote count on September 12, all participating workers expressed their support for joining IATSE, with no opposing votes recorded.
Mark Patch, the VFX organizer for IATSE, expressed, “Today, VFX workers at Marvel Studios have spoken with a united voice, demanding equitable compensation for their efforts, access to healthcare, a safe and sustainable working environment, and recognition for the valuable work they contribute. This resounding vote underscores the urgent need to extend union protections and standards to all VFX professionals throughout the industry. It also exemplifies the unwavering courage and solidarity displayed by these workers, each of whom declared ‘union YES!'”
The decision to unionize comes at a time when Marvel Studios and other film productions, including special effects-heavy blockbusters such as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, have faced criticism for the demanding workloads and tight deadlines imposed on VFX teams.
While Marvel Studios becomes the first in-house VFX team to unionize with IATSE, Walt Disney Pictures’ VFX personnel also initiated unionization efforts in late August.
Thomas Barnard, a VFX coordinator at Marvel, expressed his enthusiasm for this historic moment, stating, “This is a momentous occasion, and I’m proud to be part of it. Not only will it significantly elevate the quality of storytelling through our work, but it’s also a substantial step toward recognizing the often-overlooked individuals who have contributed significantly to building this industry.”
The next phase for the newly formed union involves entering into collective bargaining negotiations with Marvel Studios’ executives to formulate a contract that addresses the needs and concerns of the workers. At present, specific negotiation dates have not been scheduled.
This unionization vote coincides with ongoing strikes led by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) as they seek fair agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb congratulated the VFX workers on their historic achievement, stating, “Today’s vote demonstrates the unmistakable demand for unionization across emerging sectors of the entertainment industry. To these VFX workers, I extend my heartfelt congratulations on your groundbreaking victory. Your bravery, resolve, and unity serve as a beacon not only for VFX professionals but for workers across various industries in this country and beyond. As you enter negotiations with Marvel and Disney, you do so with the unwavering support of our 170,000-strong alliance. Your struggle is our struggle.”