The historic Culver City Hotel may see a little Hollywood union history of its own Friday when visual effects artists from nearby Sony Pictures Imageworks meet with representatives of the Animation Guild and IATSE. “Meeting with @IATSE and @AnimGuild tomorrow. Come with questions, leave with rep cards. #vfx” said a tweet this evening from SpiUnion, the self-described “Imageworks Artists in support of a better VFX Industry.” The gathering is expected to last from noon to 3PM, with IATSE’s Vanessa Holtgrewe and Peter Marley joining Animation Guild organizer Steve Kaplan to answer questions and provide rep cards for people to sign. “This has been a priority for us for a while,” Kaplan told Deadline, “but the artists at Imageworks initiated this, they reached out us.” A Sony spokesman said the company had no comment on the matter but “respects employees’ right to consider union representation.”
At least one-third of the nearly 500 employees at Imageworks, which was founded in 1992, have to sign the petition cards asking for union representation before an election can be scheduled. A 2003 attempt by IATSE to unionize Imageworks employees failed. The Sony HQ in Culver City, center of the company’s VFX division, has 38 Animation Guild unionized artists in the Sony Pictures Animation Unit. SPA unionized in 2004. Imageworks has animated films such as The Smurfs and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and several others. Union rep cards starting showing up on the desks of Imageworks employees in Culver City one morning just over a month ago. “We are not second-class citizens,” said a post on the SpiUnion blog. “We sacrifice, work hard, and make good movies we should all be proud of. We are not a commodity, we have talent, we have value.” A source close to the situation says similar actions took pllace at Imageworks offices in Vancouver, Canada and Albuquerque, which is scheduled to close early this summer. “The issue at Sony Imageworks isn’t about take home pay,” says the source. “It’s about having a 401(k), portable healthcare, vacation days and sick days.”
The Animation Guild’s Kaplan says Friday’s meeting has been opened up not just to visual effects artists at Imageworks but others in the industry as well. “It will be informal,” the organizer says, “but we are taking this very seriously.”
“We are the only vfx facility,” says the SpiUnion blog, “that has all of the following: makes our own content (Cloudy, Smurfs), is partially unionized (SPA), does vfx for other studios, has offices in multiple countries, and is owned by one of the major studios. That gives us a very unique edge in this discussion over any other facility in the world. Let us show the rest of the CG industry that change can start with us.”
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