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Production workers for The Simpsons and Family Guy unionise

The Animation Guild is now unionising with production workers from The Simpsons, American Dad!, and Family Guy, having previously been left out compared to animators, writers, and actors.

Production workers at The Simpsons, American Dad!, and Family Guy have gained voluntary recognition from 20th Television Animation, their parent company, to join The Animation Guild.

It’s part of a wider push by The Animation Guild to expand the type of memberships it offers. Until now, production work on television shows has largely been considered a ‘stepping stone’ to bigger careers within the industry.

This has meant that those in production have not received healthcare or retirement benefits. Their role is usually to provide logistical and administrative support for programmes, and is largely considered ‘lower-level’ compared to top-dog writing gigs.

‘Stepping stone’ work within production is not the case, however, according to managers who work in television. Speaking to NPR, The Simpsons production manager Ashley Cooper said that ‘people can wind up spending many years in something that’s seen as a job for a young person to do for six months’.

The Animation Guild also commented that ‘production workers won with 90% support across all three shows’.

It’s not just these three shows that have seen production staff unionise, either. The Animation Guild has taken on employees from Harriet the Spy, Rick and Morty, and Solar Opposites all within the last year.

Also speaking to NPR, production supervision for American Dad!, Jason Jones, said ‘I would hope that it galvanises everyone else to organise and recognise their own self-worth and not believe in that old studio construct that production is somehow a stepping stone.’

Giving production workers new rights and benefits as a result of unionisation is a growing trend across work forces in the US and the UK. As Quartz points out, the pandemic made it more obvious than ever that we have a reliance on key or essential workers.

Many jobs – like production – have historically been framed as beginner tier labour. It gives employers the excuse to neglect proper financial security, healthcare benefits, and contracts, despite these roles requiring very specific skills.

Quite often employees make these jobs lifelong career commitments, either for necessity or simply because they ‘don’t want to move on to something else’ as Jones says.

Either way, this is great news for production workers. May the unionising train continue to gather steam.