Marvel Studios VFX Workers File to Join IATSE Union

Visual Effects (VFX) crews at Marvel Studios have filed for a unionization election with the National Labor Relations Board, Monday. The move signals a major shift in an industry that has largely remained non-union since VFX was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s. A supermajority of Marvel’s more than 50-worker crew had signed authorization cards indicating they wished to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). They are VFX pros employed directly by Marvel and generally work in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. It doesn’t include the thousands of VFX artists who work on Marvel movies through third-party VFX studios. Marvel has not yet voluntarily recognized the union effort, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Marvel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some visual effects workers have called their working conditions at Marvel “toxic,” complaining about being overworked with long hours, seven day weeks. “I’m a VFX Artist, and I’m Tired of Getting ‘Pixel-F–ked’ by Marvel,” one anonymous worker told New York Magazine’s online site Vulture. “That’s a term we use in the industry when the client will nitpick over every little pixel.”

Bella Huffman, VFX Coordinator, highlighted the challenging nature of the industry: “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 Marvel VFX workers’ filing for a union election comes at a pivotal moment in the film and television industry, amidst ongoing strikes by both the Actors and Writers guilds as both seek fair contracts with the studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

“This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do,” Mark Patch, an VFX organizer for IATSE, said in the press release.

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