Walt Disney Studios Rejecting Employee’s Rights To Unionize

in Disney, Movies & TV

Walt Disney Studios Headquarters in Burbank

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney Studios is one of the most profitable businesses in the world,  but it’s also the most stubborn when it comes to allowing its employees to unionize.

Mickey Mouse scared, screenshot from the Mickey Mouse Shorts episode "Wish Upon a Coin"
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

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It’s no secret that Disney is constantly being called out for underpaying their Cast Members and staff. One could almost argue it’s part of their business strategy to short-change the same people who help the company thrive. While Cast Members at the Park need to fight for a  7% raise, the production team in the animation department in Burbank is now fighting for the right to join a union.

The Animation Guild (TAG),  formed back in 1952, has attempted to organize Disney’s production team by inviting them to join the same union that Nickelodeon and ShadowMachine (the studio that co-produced Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio last year) are a part of. Unfortunately, the guild has announced that their efforts have fallen flat as Disney is refusing to let their producers have any involvement with the union.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original fairytale adventure “Wish” is an all-new story is set in the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, an optimist with a sharp wit and a deep caring for her community, turns to the sky in a moment of need, and makes a wish. Asha’s plea is answered by a cosmic force, a little ball of boundless energy, Star. Together, they will face the most formidable of foes to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars – wondrous things can happen. The voice cast includes Ariana DeBose as Asha and Alan Tudyk as the pajama-wearing goat, Valentino. Featuring original songs by Julia Michaels, “Wish” is helmed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, and produced by Peter Del Vecho and Juan Pablo Reyes. The feature film releases Fall 2023.
Credit: Disney

According to the Animation Guild, the company’s response was clear; Disney much rather go to the National Labor Relations Board for an election. However, putting it to a vote would prevent certain production members, such as coordinators, managers, and producers, from having a say in the matter.

In a statement, TAG organizer Allison Smartt said, “they are claiming that production managers and production supervisors are statutory supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act, meaning that they are excluded from the law that grants people the right to organize unions.” While this is a very poor response from the powerhouse animation company, TAG agreed to take it to the National Labor Relations Board but petitioned Disney to do the right thing.

Exterior of The Walt Disney Company
Credit: Disney

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The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Disney production coordinators in the animation department, such as Maggie Hughes, who responded to the matter with, “we produce and deliver some of the most profitable franchises at one of the oldest animation studios in the world, it’s unreasonable that production workers can’t create a sustainable, comfortable future.”

It’s completely understandable why Hughes would have those strong feelings against her own company. Especially since TAG has confirmed that they have unionized with production supervisors and production managers from other animation studios. Now all eyes are on Disney to do the same.

Disney100 ad thanks animators, workers, and fans
Credit: Disney

Given the company’s history of dodging employee raises and refusing to pay Cast Members a livable wage,  it might not end in Maggie’s favor when the National Labor Relations Board hearing commences later this month.

Do you think Walt Disney Studios should allow their production staff to unionize? Let us know in the comments below. 


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