With negotiations set to begin Tuesday for a new Animation Guild contract, more than 2,600 industry figures have signed a petition calling for pay equity for color stylists, the animation industry’s only predominantly female craft, whose artists set the look, lighting and palette of cartoons.

The 3,500-member Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839, hasn’t struck the industry since 1983, but leaders told their members recently that a strike this time around “is always a possibility, if not a probability.” The guild’s talks are separate from the recently concluded negotiations for a new film and TV contract covering some 43,000 members of IATSE’s 13 West Coast studio locals.

Pay Equity

The petition, organized by the Animation Guild’s Color Stylist Committee, is yet another sign of the growing movement for gender pay equity in Hollywood’s historically female-majority crafts. As reported here exclusively last week, more than 3,300 industry figures have signed another petition calling for gender pay equity in Hollywood’s many other historically female-dominated crafts, such as production coordinators, assistant production coordinators, art department coordinators, script supervisors and costumers.

“Color stylist continues to be a majority-female craft, a rarity in the Animation Guild, for whom women workers only make up 25.6% of its membership,” the petition states. “Despite the many changes made in animation, it can be inferred that what was historically ‘women’s work’ continues to be undervalued and underpaid today. It’s time to change that.”

Organizers of the petition (read it in full below) point out that the minimum pay for journeyman color stylists is 16.8% lower than that of journeymen employed in other sections of the design department, and that it takes twice as long for them to be promoted to higher-paid journeyman status than artists in other departments. “Unlike the others, there is also no supervisor provision included in the Ink and Paint section, so color stylists can be asked to perform supervisory duties without any increase to their salaries.”

Pay Equity

Signers of the petition include animation show creators Rebecca Sugar, Daron Nefcy, Justin Roiland, Craig McCracken, Lauren Faust, Thurop Van Orman, JG Quintel, Ian Jones-Quartey, Owen Dennis, Dana Terrace, Niki Lopez, Jorge Gutiérrez, Matt Braly and Ryan Quincy.

Here is the text with the Pay Equity petition:

We are your Coworkers

Color Stylists are found in the design department of 2D animated productions—we are the skilled artists that set the look, lighting, and palette of cartoons. Every week we decide and execute the color on hundreds of characters, props, and effects that make up an episode of television or a feature film. We help give life to the characters that writers create, that actors voice, and that designers model. We are essential contributors to every production and our work outlives us in the form of products, merchandising, and branding. Over time Color Stylists’ responsibilities have grown to include other design or production tasks such as creating special lighting and palettes, cleaning or revising files, compositing models with backgrounds, formatting files for shipping, and preparing route sheets. It’s also not uncommon for Color Stylists to be asked to paint backgrounds, which can undercut the need for a Background Painter when these roles are not valued equally.

We have been Separated

Despite their similar requirements for artistic skills and expertise, Color Stylists have been separated from their design colleagues in many ways. Character/Prop Design, Background Layout and Background Paint are all classified together under the “Animation” section of the Guild contract, and share the exact same pay scale minimums. Color Stylist is the sole exception. It is found in the “Ink and Paint” section of our contract, and is valued considerably less than any other role working in the design department today. This outdated sectioning in our contract is a remnant from the days when Color Stylists were segregated along with the rest of the Ink and Paint department, into a separate studio location, and treated as lesser employees.

We are Undervalued

Historically, Color Stylists and the Ink and Paint department were roles occupied by women and were the only positions open to women in the early days of animation . As “women’s work,” it paid less than the animation jobs that men performed. Unfortunately that historic pay gap has continued into today’s salaries. Not only are Journey Color Stylist minimums 16.8% less than the rest of the design department, but it takes twice as long for a Color Stylist to reach Journey status when compared to every other design role. Unlike the others, there is also no supervisor provision included in the Ink and Paint section, so Color Stylists can be asked to perform supervisory duties without any increase to their salaries.

We ask for your Support

Stand in solidarity with Animation Color Stylists in recognizing their worth and demanding their wages more accurately reflect the scope of their contributions. Color Stylist continues to be a majority-female craft, a rarity in The Animation Guild for whom women workers only make up 25.6% of its membership. Despite the many changes made in animation, it can be inferred that what was historically “women’s work” continues to be undervalued and underpaid today. It’s time to change that.

Historic precedent is no excuse for continued inequity, please take a moment and sign our petition. We truly thank you for your support!

IATSE Local 839 Color Stylist Committee