A union of workers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ nonprofit Academy Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving film history, has been voluntarily recognized by management.
A card check on Thursday found that 76 percent of workers eligible for the group supported unionization with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 36, and Academy management subsequently agreed to recognize the group. Around 90 workers — including archivists, film preservationists, librarians and curators working across the Academy Film Archive, Margaret Herrick Library, Science and Technology Council and in various Academy programs — are joining the Vernon-based AFSCME Council, which also recently saw success in organizing the Academy Museum. (AFSCME originally sought to include around 100 in the bargaining unit.)
“The voluntary recognition agreement that the AFWU has negotiated with the Academy demonstrates the willingness of all parties to collaborate on behalf of our shared values and goals,” Academy Film Archive senior film archivist Sean Kilcoyne said in a statement. “We are encouraged that it only took a few weeks to get to this point and we look forward to working together to negotiate a contract that improves the lives and working conditions of all Academy Foundation employees.”
Added Academy COO and Academy Museum general counsel Brendan Connell, Jr., “The Academy gladly recognizes the Academy Foundation Workers Union — alongside our IATSE and Academy Museum union employees — and its efforts to organize.” Connell continued, “The important work of these staff members to preserve and make film history accessible for the public is critical to the Academy’s mission. We look forward to working together for our organization’s successful future.”
In their initial announcement of the union, workers stated that they wished to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. “Our union will allow us to better support each other, and our colleagues throughout the field, to set new and greater standards for improved transparency, diversity and inclusion, and equitable pay in the workplace,” traffic specialist Adam Foster said in a statement at the time. Senior film archivist Kilcoyne added that the group wanted to address “greater environmental sustainability.”
In July, Academy management voluntarily recognized a bargaining unit at the Academy Museum after the group filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. Both Academy unionization efforts were part of AFSCME’s “Cultural Workers United” drive, formed to organize workers at cultural institutions like museums, zoos and libraries.
The union will now work towards forming a bargaining team and negotiating their first contract. Said Margaret Herrick Library collections archivist Stella Ahn, “Negotiating a contract together will uplift our employees and thus strengthen the entire institution so that we can continue serving the film and educational communities that benefit from our work.”