The Simpsons production workers are joining a union
“National Labor Relations Board” – Google News
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
OK, there’s a big shake-up at the offices of one of this country’s most beloved entertainment institutions.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “THE SIMPSONS THEME”)
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) The Simpsons.
MARTIN: Production workers at “The Simpsons” and other shows are hoping to join a union. Now, unions aren’t rare in animated TV. Writers, actors and animators are all part of their respective guilds, but generally not production workers. NPR’s Andrew Limbong has more on the people trying to change that.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Ashley Cooper is the production manager for the retakes department on “The Simpsons.” It’s one of those jobs where it’s kind of hard to pin down exactly what her day to day is like, but she describes it as being the caboose on the train.
ASHLEY COOPER: I get the show in color. We all screen it for any mistakes or issues. We get the rewrite, we perform the tasks to get the rewrite back in color, and then we make sure it goes on the television when it’s supposed to.
LIMBONG: Cooper has been on the production team with “The Simpsons” since 2005, and she says that the perception of production jobs – that’s production managers, coordinators, writers assistants and more – is that they’re a short-term stopover. But these jobs become careers, says Cooper.
COOPER: So people can wind up spending many years in something that’s seen as, like, a job for a young person to do for six months.
LIMBONG: Cooper says production workers’ benefits are much weaker compared to the union co-workers she works every day with to get the show on the air. So Cooper and more than 80 other production workers at “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and “American Dad!” filed with the National Labor Relations Board to join the Animation Guild. The parent company, Disney, hasn’t responded to NPR for a comment. Here’s Jason Jones. At “American Dad!” he’s the production supervisor of the animatic timing department.
JASON JONES: I feel like this is a beacon, to see a show like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and “American Dad!” having union organization efforts for animation production workers.
LIMBONG: Talks of unionizing were happening back in 2019, before the pandemic, before this broader wave of unionization across all industries we’re seeing today. The pandemic put the topic on the back burner. But recently, in the niche community of animation, production workers at a few smaller studios started unionizing. But “American Dad!” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are about as mainstream as you can get in animation. And Jones is hoping this move changes the industry’s view of production workers as just a steppingstone because, he says, they love animation production work, and they’re good at it, too.
Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF DANNY ELFMAN’S “THE SIMPSONS THEME”)
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