What happens next? As Disney has not granted voluntary recognition, production workers on the three shows are filing petitions for union elections with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB): The Simpsons filed on June 1, American Dad! filed yesterday, and Family Guy is filing today.
Those of us who have been working in animation production for many years take pride in knowing that we are an integral part of the longevity and evolution of our shows, right alongside the artists that we work with. Even though we meet the same tight deadlines and work the same long hours, we [are aware] that we do not share the same basic protections as the artists we spend those hours with. We deserve the same respect and dignity as our fellow union-protected workers.
The big picture: Earlier this year, production workers at Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites, and Titmouse L.A. became the first such workers in Los Angeles to be represented by The Animation Guild. At the time, we predicted those moves could spark a whole new wave of unionization for production workers throughout the L.A. animation industry, and that seems to be the case today.
How have the production companies responded? According to TAG, attorneys representing the organizations which employ those workers responded to that request by stating that the productions’ parent studio, the Walt Disney Company’s 20th Television Animation, is not yet prepared to voluntarily recognize the entire unit as proposed by TAG and has asked for additional time to review. Disney itself has not released a statement.
Who exactly is unionizing? Artists on the shows are already covered by the guild’s current contract. Workers represented in this unionization drive include production managers, production supervisors, production coordinators, writers’ assistants, production assistants, associate producers, office assistants, IT supervisors, among others.
Jason Jones, animatic and timing production supervisor on American Dad! since 2009, added:
I’ve chosen to organize because I truly love my job and want to improve the quality of my team’s working environment. Production roles are often viewed as stepping-stone jobs but I look at our shows [Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Simpsons] and I see production crew who have been here for 10 or 15+ years. These aren’t stepping-stone jobs. These are careers and they deserve to be treated as such.
Family Guy design production assistant (2019-present) Andee Kiraly explained:
The many production staff members are also trained artists or hold a BFA. [We] rely on that education and training to do our jobs… It is time we were included in TAG so we can have the same quality health care, pensions, and transparency in compensation that our counterparts currently enjoy.
Production workers at The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad! have filed to join The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, and begin collective bargaining for their first union contract. The move follows a request by a super majority of the production workers on those shows filed on May 26, 2022, to be voluntarily recognized.