In early 2022, the animation industry witnessed an inspiring effort to unionize production workers at iconic shows—The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad!. For decades, production workers at these shows had supported and worked alongside artist colleagues who were represented and protected by The Animation Guild.
“Those of us who have been working in animation production for many years take pride in knowing that we are an integral part of the longevity and evolution of our shows, right alongside the artists that we work with,” says Jason Jones, Animatic and Timing Production Supervisor at American Dad! “Even though we meet the same tight deadlines and work the same long hours, we [are aware] that we do not share the same basic protections as the artists we spend those hours with. We deserve the same respect and dignity as our fellow Union-protected worker.”
“For years animation production staff at The Simpsons, American Dad!, and Family Guy worked alongside their artist peers without the same Union protections,” says Ashley Cooper, Production Manager at The Simpsons. “The many production staff members are also trained artists or hold a BFA. [We] rely on that education and training to do our jobs. … It is time we were included in TAG so we can have the same quality health care, pensions, and transparency in compensation that our counterparts currently enjoy.”
Check out this video and read on to learn more about this inspiring organizing story:
Groups of engaged workers at each production began the important task of one on one conversations with other production colleagues to assess interest in Unionizing. For more than five months, they met and talked about the workplace issues that affected the workers most and how organizing as a union would benefit them.
On May 26, 2022, a supermajority of the production workforce at the three shows voluntarily sought voluntary union recognition. The animation studio behind these shows, 20th Television Animation (owned by Disney) did not originally voluntarily recognize the bargaining units. However, on July 1, 2022, the studio recognized the workers’ efforts, promising a new era of cooperation.
Unfortunately, more than one year after voluntarily recognizing the bargaining units, 20th TVA/Disney has not yet come to the negotiation table or scheduled dates, avoiding an obligation to bargain in good faith with these courageous workers. Each day that passes is a loss in income, affordable healthcare and retirement benefits, along with other union protections, for the underpaid and overworked unionized staff at the studio.
In response, the dedicated animation production workers organized a “Solidarity Picnic” to galvanize the animation community, and send a message to the studio that the group is undeterred in their efforts to ensure a fair and equitable workplace.
Further, the organizing committees at the three shows put together a petition of support, which gathered an impressive number of signatures from industry colleagues, supporters, and fans worldwide. This collective action highlighted the widespread support for the workers’ rights.
The efforts to unionize The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad! grew to include Solar Opposites and King of the Hill. These efforts serve as a testament to the determination and solidarity of animation professionals. Despite the challenges, they remain committed to achieving equitable labor conditions in the industry, ultimately paving the way for a brighter future for all animation production workers.
What’s Next: Solar Opposites also organized with this group and has ratified their agreement, and the other groups prepare to enter negotiations. They also recently welcomed King of the Hill production workers to the cadre of Fox TVA/Disney shows that have organized with TAG.