Courtesy of Disney Media & Entertainment
Production staff on the long-running animated TV shows The Simpsons† American father! and Family man joined a union this month. Workers said they hope for benefits, such as health care and retirement, as well as a change in the way manufacturing work is viewed in the industry.
Jobs as a production supervisor, coordinator, and writer’s assistant are often thought of as springboard jobs, says Ashley Cooper, a production manager for The Simpsonseven though they are integral to making sure shows get on the air.
But for many people, these jobs become careers.
“So people can spend many years doing something that’s seen as a job for a young person to do for six months,” Cooper said.
Unionizing is not rare in animation. Animators, actors and writers are all part of their respective guilds. But production work has long been excluded from these unions. And as such, production workers often receive far worse benefits than the union colleagues they work with every day to get the show on the air.
“It doesn’t feel like everything is equal,” says Laura Smalec, production coordinator at Family man† “You can’t have a show without production staff. So I think that’s the moral of the story in the end.”
In recent months, smaller groups of production workers in various workplaces have joined unions – including the animation studio Mees and the employees of Rick & Morty and Solar Contradictions. In those cases, management has voluntarily recognized those unions. But 20th Television Animation, the parent company behind The Simpsons, Family Man, and American father!, has not. A spokesperson said the company would not comment at this time.
But simply filing could signal other production workers in animation that they should also consider joining a union, said Jason Jones, a production supervisor for American father!† “I hope it encourages everyone else to organize and recognize their self-esteem and not to believe in that old studio concept that production is somehow a stepping stone to a better career path.”
Because, says Jones, many of them love the jobs they have now. They don’t want to go on with anything else.