Note: This story is still developing as more details come to light almost daily. Please continue to check back frequently to stay up-to-date on the latest breaking information.
On November 1st, 2021, comic book history was made with the formal announcement of the creation of the Comic Book Workers United union. It was an unexpected move, as the comic book industry is mostly made up of freelancers doing work-for-hire (a tradition that has long been derided by those who work in the industry), but not a surprising one - what has been more surprising is the response from management.
Image issued its first statement on November 2nd - a hastily-written piece of public-relations boilerplate that was noncommittal and polite enough so as not to arouse further ire or legal troubles. However, on November 5th they released a second statement:
“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 CWA to represent them in their employment with Image. The NLRB is currently reviewing that petition to determine when that election can 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.”
While it certainly goes further than their initial fluff response, the sad news is that this means Image is refusing to recognize the union, leaving the future of their entire lineup in question as people begin to wonder if (or, more likely, when) their staff goes on strike.
The initial membership of the CBWU is only ten members - the current office staff of Image Comics:
Their demands aren’t unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination and can be mostly boiled down to simply saying they want fair and equitable treatment. The biggest hiccup, however, comes from their demand to have veto-rights for any book being published by Image. While they don’t cite specific books or creators, the full text of this point reads:
“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).”
The comics industry is no stranger to controversy and scandal, so readers are free to draw their own conclusions on who, specifically, is being referenced in the demand from the CBWU. It’s refreshing, though, to see workers standing up and demanding a voice for both themselves and for marginalized/targeted people by calling for the right to not elevate harmful voices, even when those voices aren’t saying something harmful.
The choice of this union to form under the roof of Image Comics is unsurprising - the company itself began back in 1992 by creators seeking to get out from oppressive working conditions imposed upon them by Marvel and DC…which makes their response that much more disappointing. One would expect the “bad boys of comics” to embrace the next generation of disrupters and support their efforts to improve the lives of both creators and behind-the-scenes workers.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops, and report further updates as they happen. In the meantime, please be sure to visit the CBWU website, sign their letter of support, and check out their Social Media Support Kit to show your support and stand in solidarity with them. And don’t forget to follow them on social media for additional news and updates!