Image Comics will not voluntarily recognize CBWU union

Comic News

Since Monday’s bombshell announcement that Image Comics staffers were forming a union, the reaction of Image management has been muted. The next day they released a rather cookie cutter statement, saying:  “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.”

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However this afternoon a longer statement was posted on Twitter with more details on management’s reaction: 

Earlier this week, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking to hold a secret-ballot election so that eligible members of the Image Comics office staff can determine if they want the CWA to represent them in their employment with Image. The NLRB is currently reviewing that petition to determine when that election will be held, where it will take place, and who can vote.

Everyone at Image is committed to working through this process, and we are confident that the resolution to these efforts will have positive long-term benefits.

Although this means that Image is not voluntarily recognizing the Union, it can’t stop the union by itself if eligible Image employees vote to accept the CWA as their representative. The wild card here: if there are enough non-management Image employees who are not part of the CBWU and do not want to unionize they could vote it down. And not all Image staffers are eligible to vote, as many are considered part of management.

Vice Magazine has reached out to several of the stakeholders for comment. Current image COO Robert Kirkman and former Image partner Jim Lee did not respond. Representatives of CBWU told Vice that their members make up a supermajority of those eligible to vote and called on their supporters to continue to put pressure on Image management to voluntarily recognize the union.

We are asking [Image] to voluntarily recognize our union and encourage our supporters to please ask them to do the same. The outpouring of support so far has been terrific, but we need to keep that momentum going; it’s not over yet! Once we hear back on their decision to voluntarily recognize CBWU, we can start moving forward in a more just workplace, and industry, for all.

While some saw this as a procedural move, there is always the possibility of more union busting moves that aren’t visible to onlookers. For instance, Kickstarter laying off a number of union organizers was definitely seen as a union busting move; however Kickstarter employees eventually did vote to unionize, the first tech company to do so.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes, the Image announcement was met with immediate criticism from industry onlookers who recalled that Image Comics was founded by creators who wanted to break away from an industry that didn’t offer fair and equitable compensation for their creations. Many feel that a union that protects the rights of comics industry staffers certainly seems to be well within the aspirational goals of the Image founders. Former Image employee David Brothers has a twitter thread about this here which is well worth reading. 

More to come.

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