Workers at one of the largest independent manga publishers in the U.S. have announced their plans to form a union—making them the first manga company to do so.
Workers at Seven Seas Entertainment announced their intention to form the United Workers of Seven Seas (UW7S), organized in affiliation with the Communications Workers of America. The company publishes manga, danmei (male character romances), light novels (young adult manga), and webtoons.
Union representatives told Publishers Weekly that they’ve been organizing efforts to form the union for five months; management has yet to voluntarily acknowledge the union, they said, but they have filed for election to certify the union with the National Labor Review Board.
UW7S claims in their announcement that the fast growth of the company—”from 10 employees in 2018 to over 40 staff today”—has put more pressure on workers, under unfair conditions. “We find ourselves overworked, underpaid, and inadequately supported,” UW7S workers said in a statement on their website, signed by 30 employees. “Furthermore, we do not receive the vacation, sick days, family leave, health insurance, and retirement benefits otherwise typical of the publishing industry.”
Their goals and demands include benefits such as paid time off, vacation and holiday time, healthcare, pension benefits, parental leave as well as fair wages that meet industry standards, protections for freelancers, and an end to “crunch,” compulsory overtime that’s often considered an abusive and exploitative practice in the game development industry.
Seven Seas publishes Devilman, which was recently adapted into an animated series by Netflix, and Made in Abyss, an adaptation of which was greenlit by Sony last year. The manga industry is notoriously brutal for those within it, with artists and workers pushing through long hours to meet grueling deadlines.
UW7S’s efforts follow the unionization of Image Comics, which became the first comic book publishing company to organize in 2021 and won its election vote in 2022, after the company refused to voluntarily recognize the union.
Seven Seas Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment.