Austin workers form first animation studio union in Texas; organize with IATSE
Powerhouse Animation is the first animation studio in Texas to unionize. It is the first time that major entertainment union IATSE has organized in a right-to-work state.
Workers announced their supermajority support for a union on Monday, and they asked their management to offer them voluntary recognition, which would avoid an official National Labor Relations Board vote.
Workers organized for 10 months, according to character artist and union supporter Suzanne Sharpe.
She said her coworkers wanted better health care and retirement benefits, more job security, and more power for leadership to negotiate fair contracts with clients. She also said management had not said whether they would offer voluntary recognition to the union.
Powerhouse Animation’s management did not respond to TPR’s request for comment.
One hundred and thirty-seven workers would be covered by the union, and more than 100 have signed pro-union cards, according to Ben Speight, one of IATSE’s Animation Guild organizers.
“That’s just an overwhelming demonstration of support,” he explained. “That really is a mandate to the employer to do the option that is available under the National Labor Relations Act, which is to voluntarily recognize the union. That’s what most of the animation studios have done to date.”
Sharpe said she and her coworkers they were inspired by other unionized animation studios around the country.
“We also met with other unionizing efforts from [animation studios] Titmouse and Late Night Cartoons, who organized before us earlier that year; so it was really great to see the different stages of that process,” Sharpe said. “And we also met some people from the Disney bargaining unit, and it was really great to see what we can become down the road.”
Speight added that IATSE and the Animation Guild were long overdue in organizing in right-to-work states in which animation has expanded, and that Powerhouse Animation wouldn’t be the last time they organize in Texas.
“We, the Animation Guild, will aggressively and actively back up any animation worker and anybody that’s in adjacent industries in Texas and anywhere else within the United States, just as we have with the Powerhouse workers,” he said. “Victory begets victory, and courage is contagious.”