Guild History

The ’30s

Sadie Bodin in 1935

Sadie Bodin in 1935

The earliest attempts to organize animation studios, at Iwerks in 1931 and Van Beuren in 1935, were unsuccessful. In 1935, Sadie Bodin, inker and scene planner at Van Beuren, was fired for her union activities and became the first person to picket an animation studio. The Wagner Act, making it illegal to fire someone for wanting a union, was not yet in force.

Sadie Bodin 1987

Sadie Bodin in 1987.

In 1936, the Commercial Artists and Designers Union (CADU) set out to organize the Max Fleischer Studios (best known for Popeye and Betty Boop), and other shops in

In 1937, after Fleischer refused to recognize their union and fired fifteen artists for complaining, the Fleischer artists “hit the bricks” for the first cartoonists’ strike. After five months of noisy boycotts and demonstrations, Paramount forced Fleischer to sign with the CADU. This was the first union contract in animation.

Fleischer retaliated by moving his operation to Florida, a state with a strong anti-union bias. To lure artists to Florida, Fleischer had to pay the highest salaries in the business. The costs incurred fighting the union broke the company, and Paramount took over and moved it back to New York where it became Famous Studios.

Above left: A cartoon from a Commercial Artists and Designers Union flyer. Right: The picket line at Fleischer Studios in 1937 (Marty Taras, center).