Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily “anti-union”. In theory unions are a good idea, gathering together to keep their members from being taken advantage of by companies. When they were created the “robber barons” had basically forced their existence. They were also created or taken over by the mob at times, and even today maintain some of that mentality. I lost faith in the whole system when an auto workers union was trying to get a hotel to join them. I’ve also heard stories about creators and performers giving up on dream projects because the studio wasn’t unionized. Instead of saying “fine, but if they screw you over you’re on your own because we won’t help you” the unions are more like “if you do this we’ll disown you entirely because you should only work for the folks we want you to”. I’ve also heard, mostly from an old forum for animators, that there are unions who collect dues and then do nothing, or let their members suffer during a strike to force a business to accept demands they can’t afford. I like the what a union is supposed to be, it’s just so many of them aren’t and I would hate to miss out on a project because some outside body came in and said I couldn’t, yet kept taking my money while not supporting me when they should.
So I’m not coming at the Comic Book Workers United group because “unions suxxors” or anything like that. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem with it. To quote from an article on Graphic Policy: “Comic Book Workers United is a new unionization effort by Image Comics‘ employees represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).” If you look at the article they have some well-meaning goals, as they want to improve things for creators and protect them (I’m sure some early DC creators wish they had some of those) but as you go over the charter/manifesto/whatever you want to call it on their website you go over their goals page and…a few things don’t quite add up for me. Let’s look at their listed goals overview and see what sounds good and what really doesn’t.
- To foster a more competitive industry as a whole, through salary and workload transparency for all existing and proposed job titles. Employees industry-wide should know what they and their peers are working for and what they can expect from future employment.
I have no problem with people discussing their salary, but is that an issue for the creators? Creators talk about what they charge or what they’re paid by a certain employer, or at least I assumed they did–especially for freelancers. There are arguments for or against but overall I don’t see the problem with telling a colleague how much you made. Most creators have a set amount for X number of pages or however they set their rates.
2. Improve staff morale through annual staff and management reviews to assess performance, workload, and whether there is a clear need to expand a department, craft a new role, or increase compensation for employees who have taken on a larger quantity or more complex suite of tasks.
3. The creation of a more transparent company culture through monthly all-hands meetings, so all staff can better understand both the current and future priorities, responsibilities, and workloads of other departments.
These kind of go together. Having a team on a particular title get a in person or online meeting together to discuss what they’re doing, including the editorial and creative teams, is certainly a good idea. Everyone’s on the same page, and if you’re part of some group, like the Spider-Man group or something, you avoid certain blunders as far as how things are designed between issues and teams. Planes change shape, clothes change color, locations look different, and maybe that could be avoided if they compared notes. Performance reviews can also find the flaws and help ensure the best team possible is working on a particular book. I have to ask why you need a union to set that up?
- 4. Increase knowledge retention through the implementation of detailed record keeping and procedure documentation for all tasks deemed essential to any given role. These documents are to include detailed and explicit descriptions and instructions for all expected job duties.
You…you don’t that now? Isn’t keeping good records important to businesses? Are we sure this is a union and not just a “do your @#$% job” request?
- 5. Improve career mobility for all staff through stricter adherence to the company’s stated intent to offer open positions up to qualified existing employees prior to opening them up to the public.
Now we’re finally getting into union stuff. I’m sure this is just about creators anymore, if it is at all. It sounds more like the stuff going on behind the scenes in running the company. This sounds more like something DreamWave Productions should have had going instead of Pat Lee buying expensive cars for his family.
- 6. The continuation of remote work for any employee who requests it and the creation of a detailed policy outlining how the company provides reasonable accommodations and supplies for remote employees. The pandemic has removed the necessity for the company to pay for a central office space, utilities, etc. With employees in some cases now shouldering one hundred percent of costs that should be shared by the employer, costs such as internet, power, furnishings and other office supplies, computer hardware and related maintenance costs to work from their own personal devices, the company must outline an equitable arrangement for sharing a reasonable percentage of those costs.
We all knew this was going to be the end result of all the work from home stuff from the pandemic. The thing is, and granted I never worked in an office outside of those few months as a telemarketer for a local charity I sucked at, there are some advantages to meeting in person, if only during those staff meetings and peer reviews. If this is the creative teams many of them already work around the world, but it’s easier to walk down the hall and ask something than hoping the other person is in their home office if you call over the phone or video conferencing system.
- 7. Better overall product through the immediate addition of staff, particularly in Production and Marketing departments. Our creators, retailers, and readers can expect white glove attention for all the books we publish; books which will go to press with fewer errors, fewer delays, and a more robust marketing presence due to a more strategic approach to staffing, in reasonable proportion to the actual quantity of output we generate.
Good idea if they can afford it. Again, I’ve seen this called a union but it seems more like suggestions/demand for a better work environment for the backstagers. I’m starting to think I’m wasting my time doing this article but I don’t have time to replace it. Come on, give me something on the story creation side.
- 8. A long term, actionable plan to address the overall lack of diversity in both general staff and management. The authors, artists, and readers who bring comics to life have never been homogenous and the stories we publish can only be improved by staffing our organization in a way that more accurately reflects the demographics of our creators, our readership, and the nation as a whole.
I’ll take that as a no. Look, I’m not against diversity among the backstagers but how does that improve the business? I’m not going to get into the social politics here. The business of business is business and if there aren’t enough diverse people back there maybe think about why and deal with that problem. Are there enough who want to get into the business and can do the job better? Again, we’re talking about staff and management, not the creators. Apparently I misunderstood what this was all about.
- 9. Renewed commitment to company values through the addition of a collective voting option to immediately cancel publication of any title whose creator(s) have been found to have engaged in abuse, sexual assault, racism and xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, ableism, etc. until such time as said creators have engaged in meaningful reparations toward affected person(s).
Here we go. Image basically is a publishing company. A few titles used to be in a shared universe back in the day, but now you won’t find the WildCATS and Youngblood chilling with Spawn because all three of them are in different publishers, Spawn being the only one still at Image. I want to know who is deciding that a creator is acting bigoted because I question how that’s being done now. “You can make jokes about anyone except ‘my’ group” is a current discussion issue thanks to Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special, disagreeing with the groupthink’s approach to solving racism will get you marked as a racist even if your opposition is that you see their solution as racist when you really study it, and I notice outside of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (note that some Islamic extremists ARE anti-Semitic so where do you stand there) no other religious groups are on display.
This is also about what they’re like on their own time, not whether the books themselves are filled with this stuff. Are they really going to let Robert Kirkman go if they find out he has an issue with affirmative action (NOTE THAT I HAVE NO INFORMATION ON THIS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER BECAUSE I’M BEING HYPOTHETICAL SO DON’T GO AFTER THE GUY ON MY COMMENT!!!) after all the money he’s brought to Image? His comics are one of the few Image titles to get any TV show or movie outside of Spawn and that one WildCATS: Cover Action Teams Saturday morning cartoon. The Walking Dead and it’s many spinoffs, Invincible, and even Super Dinosaur have shows and name any other Image title that can boast that. At this point he might even be able to start his own publishing company from Skybound Studios but it’s easier to let Image handle the business end so he can focus on the creative side.
So people have been calling this a union for comic creators but it isn’t. It sounds more like it’s all backstage people, outside of two production designers and an editor. And I had to dig to find some of those jobs. Some of these complaints shouldn’t require a union while none of them deals with the creative side outside of what one commenter called the “cancel council”, so basically this article exists to say…why did I make this article?