Nickelodeon Studios animation production workers are going public about their wage concerns as they seek voluntary recognition from management to join The Animation Guild.
TAG, an IATSE Local, said Monday that it is attempting to unionize 177 production managers, production coordinators, post production assistants, art production coordinators and asset coordinators, among others, at the studio. Though TAG has been busy organizing production workers at studios including Bento Box Entertainment and ShadowMachine since the start of the year, “To date, this is the largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under The Animation Guild,” TAG said in a statement. According to TAG, a “supermajority” of this group voted to join the Guild in a card count.
The Hollywood Reporter has asked Nickelodeon for comment.
With a union, Nickelodeon production workers say they are attempting to boost wages — which several claimed Monday are currently untenable for those living in the Los Angeles area — and lower healthcare costs. “The current pay gap for production roles makes it near impossible to survive in Los Angeles. Many of us have taken the shame of asking our parents for money so we can pay rent and eat,” says production coordinator Ryan Brodsky said in a statement. “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.”
CG asset production coordinator Minh-Chau Nguyen added that “many” colleagues have attempted to earn more by taking on side jobs, working more overtime, taking out loans or asking friends and family for help. “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.”
Nickelodeon management was approached about voluntarily recognizing the worker group, but attorneys representing the employer responded by “choosing to exclude a strategic group of production workers based solely on job title to capitalize on common misconceptions of labor law,” according to TAG. TAG says it “may” file for a union election with the National Labor Relations as soon as next week.
TAG already represents more than 400 animation artists at Nickelodeon that are covered under one labor contract. With its organizing drive, TAG is attempting to include production workers under that same contract, but it says that so far management has sought to cover the group under a separate agreement “that does not offer the same rights and protections.”
“The company shared its preference to keep the productive working relationship a priority when discussing the impending negotiations for the existing bargaining unit,” TAG’s business representative Steve Kaplan said in a statement. “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.”