Workers across the animation industry are talking about forming unions in their workplaces. Many people do not know a lot about labour unions and are not used to talking about them, leading to some common questions: What does a union actually do and how do we get one? Why should the people who work at my studio join a union? What would that mean for me as an animation worker?
To answer these questions, we must first look at our industry’s issues. What’s wrong with the Canadian animation industry today? In what ways are workers dissatisfied with their workplaces? And, most importantly, what can we do to improve it?
These seem like big questions, and it might feel like we can do very little as individuals to fight these large companies. It is easy for an employer to ignore individual workers’ concerns, or worse, to retaliate against them for talking about problems at the workplace. But things go differently when we stand up collectively and demand positive changes for everyone. A studio can’t make anything at all without its workers; we gain more leverage (and real power to make change!) when we all stand together to demand better from our employers!
As an animation union, the Canadian Animation Guild does exactly what a labour union does in many other industries: negotiates better working conditions, wage adjustments and minimums; enforces the laws in regards to health, safety and overtime; provides pension plans and extended health benefits; and provides workers with advocates during disputes between employees and employers. The goal of a labour union is to give all workers collective power that allows them to face their employer as an equal, rather than a subject.
The Canadian Animation Guild was founded in 2020, after a long union drive by workers at Titmouse Vancouver, and an even longer organizing effort by all the dedicated animation workers at the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society, who spent years educating Vancouver workers about their rights, and paved the way for the stunning victory at Titmouse.
CAG is also known by its local designation as IATSE Local 938. This means that, although we are an autonomous local union, built from the ground up to fight for worker power in the animation industry, we are also part of a much larger union that provides the same support to over 160,000 cultural and entertainment workers across the US and Canada: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
This document is designed to help workers educate themselves and their coworkers about the benefits of joining a union. If you have any further questions or are looking for help forming a union at your workplace, please contact an IATSE Organizer: