On Sunday, hundreds of animation workers and supporters held a rally in Burbank in support of the Animation Guild amid contract talks for a new master agreement with film and television studios. Also known as IATSE Local 839, the guild covers workers in the animation industry including artists, technicians and writers.

Their initial contract was set to expire on July 29, 2021, but it has been extended repeatedly for eight months as negotiations were continuously delayed. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was simultaneously dealing with a looming strike from a larger collection of Film and Television Production worker Unions in IATSE, whose talks do not affect TAG’s agreement. TAG agreed to let AMTP deal with these other negotiations first, but delays have continued even into 2022 after multiple rounds of talks.

While the Animation Guild’s exact demands are currently private, it’s clear they are seeking broad wage increases for workers across the board to accommodate for the cost of living increases in Los Angeles. The guild has also noted disparities in the payouts animation writers receive as opposed to live-action writers for the very same job.

There has also been a push for increased pay for streaming shows, which was also listed as a point of contention in the IATSE Live-Action union negotiations this summer. Most streaming services have gotten away with paying much less than broadcast networks or cable channels, despite having absolutely massive budgets.

Demonstrators gathered in the Burbank parking lot on a sunny day, a few blocks from Disney studios, with signs and painted cars. They chanted between speeches from TAG leadership which included co-chair of the Color Design Committee Teri Cusumano. 

Cusumano said the guild’s current agreement, “represents the industry of the past rather than the industry of today.” She followed up with, “We need a new deal that pays us equally for our work regardless of what platform it airs on, that equally represents workers regardless of where they are doing that work. We need a new deal that pays animation workers equally to our live-action counterparts and we desperately need a new deal that gives equal pay for equal work.”

Mairghread Scott, TAG Writer’s Craft Committee Co-Chair focused on celebrating members and allies and hoping that more guild members will get involved in the guild’s committees. “That future isn’t up to me, it’s up to you… You can do it. It’s your money in their pockets. Take it back!”

TAG organizer Ben Speight told The Hollywood Reporter that the eight months since their contract was supposed to expire is “unprecedented,” and a side aim of the rally is, “to see how many TAG members and our allies would show up when there is a call to action.” Speight also added later that there is currently “a lot of distance between the two parties,” referring to TAG and AMTP.

The two sides will be returning to the bargaining table on Tuesday, and The Animation Guild members are hoping to keep momentum and enthusiasm going in the marathon of negotiations that have been happening.

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