A group of nine Image Comics employees announced this morning that they have formed a union, Comic Book Workers United, and they intend to seek recognition from the publisher.

UPDATE:  After initially declining comment, an Image spokesperson released a brief statement from management.  "Image has always believed in the fair and equitable treatment of staff and has always strived to support employees to the best of our company's ability with regard to their employment."

The organizers write on their website that the comics publishing workforce is “overtaxed and undervalued,” a situation they say has gotten worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “Since its onset we have been expected to take on even larger workloads with fewer resources,” the unionizing employees wrote.

They also stated that forming a union is “a natural development for a company that started the way Image Comics did,” citing the founders’ desire for more self-determination and better treatment than what they were experiencing at their former employers. 

“We are honored to grow their legacy by taking this step to give all comic book industry professionals, regardless of title, the same rights, guarantees, security, and protections which the founders sought when they broke away from the big two to start their own company,” the employees wrote.  “In fact, several months into our organizing efforts, Jim Valentino made a comment on social media celebrating union accomplishments.  That was the moment we knew this could work.”

The organizers list a series of concrete goals on the website, including

  • Salary and workload transparency for all positions;
  • Annual performance reviews;
  • Monthly all-hands meetings so staff can better understand what other departments are doing;
  • Detailed record-keeping of the tasks required for each job, including detailed job descriptions and instructions for all job duties;
  • Better compliance with the company’s stated intent to post all job openings internally before opening them up to outside candidates;
  • Continuation of remote work on request, and creation of a detailed remote-work policy that states what accommodation the company will provide for remote employees and how it will share the cost of work done at home, which is currently shouldered solely by employees;
  • Increased staffing, particularly in the Production and Marketing departments;
  • A long-term plan to increase diversity of staff and management; 
  • An option for all employees to vote on whether to immediately cancel any title whose creators “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).”

If Image does not voluntarily recognize the union, the organizers can either hold an election or choose a neutral third party to verify that a majority of eligible employees have signed union membership cards.  The National Labor Relations Board states on its website that “Once a union has been certified or recognized, the employer is required to bargain over your terms and conditions of employment with your union representative.”

This is not the first recent unionization effort by employees of a company in the geek culture space.  RPG publisher Paizo recently recognized a union formed by its employees only eight days after the announcement of its formation (see "Paizo Voluntarily Recognizes Union").