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Sony Pictures Imageworks workers take steps to unionize

April 19, 2012 | 11:03 am

A group of visual effects artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks, one of the leading visual effects companies, is mounting a campaign to unionize.

"We are artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks, the first group of visual effects artists that is taking a stand and attempting to organize under a collective  bargaining agreement,'' read a statement from SpiUnion blog, which was set up by workers at Imageworks who are seeking unions benefits, such as health insurance, that are shared by many of their colleagues who work on animated movies at Sony.

On Friday, officials from the Animation Guild Local 839 and its parent, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, will meet with Imageworks employees at the Culver Hotel to answer questions about joining the union. The animation guild already represents animation workers at Sony.

Sony Pictures Imageworks employs about 400 to 500 workers, at least one third of whom must sign petition cards seeking to be represented by a union before federal labor officials will consider holding an election.

IATSE President Matt Loeb said last year that extending union contracts to the visual effects industry was a top priority, but the campaign did not gain much traction. Employers have argued that providing union benefits would drive up costs, making it harder for them to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, where more work is already being handled in cities such as Vancouver, London and Mumbai, India.

An Imageworks spokesman said the company "respects the employees' right to consider union representation," but had no further comment.

Supporters say workers deserve benefits shared by their peers at a time when visual effects have become increasingly important to the commercial success of movies.

"We need health insurance that will carry us through downtimes now more than ever before,'' SpiUnion says on its blog. "We are not second class citizens. We sacrifice, work hard, and make good movies we should all be proud of. We are not a commodity, we have talent, we have value."

RELATED:

IATSE and the studios reach a new contract

Healthcare costs to dominate IATSE, AMPTP talks

Matt Loeb of IATSE charting a more aggressive path

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker and his alter-ego Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." Credi: Jaimie Trueblood/Sony Pictures.

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