Production workers at Nickelodeon Studios have voted to unionize with The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839. According to the guild, 65% of the studio’s 177 production managers, production coordinators, postproduction assistants, art production coordinators and asset coordinators have signed cards saying they want to be represented by the guild.
The guild, however, says that Nickelodeon has declined to recognize the bargaining unit voluntarily.
“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 as early as next week,” the guild said.
Local 839 currently has a collective bargaining agreement with Nickelodeon that covers more than 400 artists, including CG technicians, storyboard artists, character designers and writers.
“We have been collaboratively working with the Animation Guild regarding a path forward for this group of employees, and we expect our long-standing, positive relationship with the Guild to continue,” said David Bittler, spokesperson for Nickelodeon.
The guild’s negotiations committee says it believes that “one agreement should cover all animation workers at Nickelodeon, including the recently unionized production workers. But it seems the studio would prefer to single out production workers in a separate contract that does not offer the same rights and protections.”
Said Steve Kaplan, the guild’s business representative: “The company shared its preference to keep the productive working relationship a priority when discussing the impending negotiations for the existing bargaining unit,” 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.”
Added production coordinator Isabella Potenzini, “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.”
According to the guild, the production workers at Nickelodeon “are coming together to demand an end to unsustainable workplace practices, such as low wages and high-cost healthcare.”
“The current pay gap for production roles makes it near impossible to survive in Los Angeles,” said production coordinator Ryan Brodsky. “Many of us have taken the shame of asking our parents for money so we can pay rent and eat. 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.”
Said 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.”