Comic Book Workers United (CBWU), which won an election in early January to represent workers at Image Comics, has filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint against the company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The complaint, which was filed on January 13, a week after the union vote, and is available on the NLRB website, states:
The Employer retaliated against bargaining unit members and Image Comic employees for commencing R-Case 19-RC-285502 and participating in the procedure for Sub-Region 36 to evaluate the appropriateness of the bargaining unit. The Employer has interfered with the exercise of bargaining unit members’ and Image Comic employees’ Section 7 rights by intentionally disseminating misinformation.
The case number in the complaint refers to the union election. The NLRB lists the complaint as still open, although an investigator has been assigned to it. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was filed on January 25, the NLRB’s FOIA officer stated that the agency was withholding some records because the case is still open, but they may be released once the case has been closed.
ICv2 reached out to both Image Comics and the CBWU. Image Comics had no comment, and the CBWU did not respond to our e-mail.
The NLRB’s website notes that Unfair Labor Practices charges can be filed by individuals, unions, or employers, and are investigated by the NLRB’s regional field examiners and attorneys. In the majority of cases, the charges are dismissed. If the investigation proceeds and is found to have probable merit, the majority of cases are settled without further action by the NLRB. If the parties do not settle, the NLRB Regional director issues a complaint that sets out the alleged violations and the matter goes to an NLRB Administrative Law Judge. In 2021, over 15,000 Unfair Labor Practices charges were filed, and of those, just over 5,000 were settled; the NLRB issued a complaint in about 700.
A group of nine Image staffers first announced the formation of CBWU and their intention to unionize their workplace in November (see “Image Employees Form Union”); eventually, 10 of the 12 employees who regarded themselves as eligible signed on. After Image refused to voluntarily recognize the union, CBWU requested the election. All 12 employees submitted ballots, but Image challenged three of them, and they were not opened. Nonetheless, the remaining employees approved the union by a supermajority of 7-2, making Image the first comics publisher in the U.S. to be unionized (see “Image Comics Employees Vote to Unionize”).