Unionizing Production Animation: Nickelodeon

In December 2022, a significant development unfolded at Nickelodeon when a supermajority of production workers, represented by The Animation Guild (TAG), announced their intention to unionize. This move marked the largest production bargaining unit to date for TAG, encompassing 177 Production Managers, Production Coordinators, Post Production Assistants, Art Production Coordinators, Asset Coordinators, and other key roles.

Initially, Nickelodeon refused to voluntarily recognize the union, choosing to exclude a strategic group of production workers based solely on their job titles. This decision sparked concerns among the newly formed union members yet they stood strongly together and showed solidarity.

The Animation Guild already had an existing collective bargaining agreement with Nickelodeon that covered over 400 artists and writers. And, they firmly believed that one comprehensive agreement should encompass all animation workers at Nickelodeon, including the recently unionized production workers.

The primary motivation behind the unionization was to address long-standing workplace issues, such as low wages and high-cost healthcare, which were deemed unsustainable by the production workers. They united to demand improved working conditions and fair treatment.

“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. “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.”

I have never felt more creatively supported and surrounded by peers than I do at Nickelodeon,” says Production Coordinator Abigail Bokun. “Which makes it hurt even more that I had to fight for a wage to support paying my bills and rent upon receiving my job offer. Production not only maintains the pipeline of animation, it is often the pipeline for new talent to get their start in the industry and have the opportunity to branch into creative roles. We love to see our projects succeed and deserve the same equity and respect our artist co-workers have already won in their fights for collective bargaining. Workers protected by a union will always perform better and invest more into the shows they work on while their basic needs of livable wage and affordable healthcare are being met.” 

In January, there was a significant shift in Nickelodeon’s stance. The studio voluntarily recognized the union, setting the stage for negotiations. This pivotal moment marked a significant step towards labor-management cooperation and the company’s commitment to working with the unionized workforce.

What’s Next: Currently, the bargaining unit, which includes both production workers and artists, is actively engaged in negotiating a new contract. Everyone is working together to create a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement that encompasses the diverse needs and expectations of Nickelodeon’s animation workforce.