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Animation Guild Expands New York Organizing Push With ‘Tooning Out the News’ Effort

The Hollywood Reporter 9/29/2022 Katie Kilkenny
© Courtesy of CBS/Paramount

The Animation Guild is attempting to further expand the union’s footprint in New York with a new effort to organize Paramount+’s Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News, the Guild revealed Thursday.

Tooning Out the News workers will be presenting management with a request for voluntary recognition Thursday and additionally filing a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. TAG is hoping to include 38 workers, in roles including character designers, graphic artists and riggers, in the union. The Guild maintains that it has supermajority support within this workforce for the union.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Paramount+ for comment.

The effort at the animated news satire series, co-created and executive produced by Stephen Colbert, is only the second organizing attempt by the Burbank-based IATSE Local in New York in recent history. Earlier this year, TAG won voluntary recognition for a union at studio Titmouse New York (Harriet the Spy), marking its first union outside of Los Angeles County since the signing of the Local’s charter in 1952. Before that effort, the Guild said at the time, New York animation artists hadn’t had union representation in about 30 years, since a merger between The Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (IATSE Local 841) and another IATSE Local in 1988.

According to Tooning Out the News digital animator Indra Rodies, who is part of the group’s negotiations committee, the union drive at the Paramount+ show has been in development for over a year and was particularly inspired by TAG’s foray into the East Coast with Titmouse New York. “We’re the only department in LNC [Late Night Cartoons, the CBS subsidiary producing the show] that isn’t unionized currently so we’re hoping to join the writers, the producers and the editors, etc., in making Late Night Cartoons a sustainable workplace for the incredibly talented animators that have joined us over the years,” Rodies says.

Animation Guild organizer Ben Speight says the workers involved in the drive currently do not have health care or retirement benefits, paid time off or overtime protections. He adds that, with the union drive, the workers will also fight for increased pay. “But in reality, it’s about having a seat at the table around those and so many other things,” Speight says. “Many of the issues related to having a voice in the production process and just making sure they are heard.”

The Animation Guild currently has other shows under the ViacomCBS umbrella under a union contract, such as Star Trek: Lower Decks, but all are based in the Los Angeles area. Rodies says that New York City is a bit of a “Wild West” for animation talent and argues, “the union is just going to help stabilize the market for animation in New York City and create a massive incentive for talent to consider New York City as a legitimate place for work.”

“Our main goal is to make New York City a sustainable place for animators to thrive and to be able to do the creative work that we’ve been doing in L.A. and elsewhere,” Rodies says.

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