UPDATE with statement from Image Comics: “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 staff of Image Comics has announced that they have formed a union named Comic Book Workers United. The announcement came on Twitter earlier today, with a summary statement and a link to their new website, which contains a list of goals for the union. This marks the first time a major modern comics publisher has had its employees unionize. The new union’s goals include salary and workload transparency, continued remote work options for employees, an actionable plan to address a lack of diversity, and the addition of a collective voting option to immediately cancel publication of any title whose creator or creators have been found to have engaged in abuse, sexual assault, or bigotry.
“For years, comics publishing workers have watched our professional efforts support creators and delight readers,” states the Comic Book Workers United’s website. “Sadly, we have also watched that same labor be taken for granted at best and exploited at worst. Keeping our heads above water was the new normal before the pandemic and since its onset we have been expected to take on even larger workloads with fewer resources. Our workforce, and the comic book and publishing industry as a whole, is overtaxed and undervalued. This is detrimental not only to general staff but also to the creators we are paid to serve and the audiences they in turn work to entertain.”
“We love what we do,” continues the Comic Book Workers United introductory statement. “But loving what you do doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for improvements to your working conditions. It is with this in mind and with great hope for the future of Image Comics and the comic book industry itself that we announce our intent to form a union and request voluntary recognition.” The website also notes that the organizers looked to Image’s founders for inspiration, referring to their choice to found Image at the height of their popularity rather than continue working for either DC or Marvel. Additionally, they noted that Image founder and former publisher Jim Valentino recently spoke out in support of unions on Facebook, which was cited as “the moment [union organizers] knew this could work” on their webpage.
Now that a union has formed, Image’s management can either choose to voluntarily recognize the union and enter into collective bargaining, or they can require that a majority of employees sign union support cards. Once a majority of eligible employees sign voter support cards, they are then sent to the National Labor Relations Board which then arranges for a formal vote.
Notably, Comic Book Workers United represents only the staff for Image Comics and not the creators of specific comics series. Comics creators are generally classified as independent contractors, which cannot currently organize as a union in the United States.
As of press time, Image Comics management has not formally responded to the formation of Comic Book Workers United.