Image Comics will not voluntarily recognize Comic Book Workers United, which was formed by staffers there this week. The union is a first for major comics publishers.
Image Comics was founded in 1992 by some of the biggest names in comics like Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and Jim Lee, who is now the chief creative officer at DC. These artists and writers were at the forefront of a movement for the people who work in comics to retain ownership of their work. Over time the publisher attracted heavyweight talent, and now comics like Spawn, Invincible, and Saga have become as mainstream as books about Captain America and Batman.
In a statement on its website, Comic Book Workers United says it was the spirit of the founders of Image that inspired them to organize.
“Their dreams of self-determination and more equitable treatment in the industry they loved and helped make successful are also our dreams,“ it wrote.
Motherboard reached out to Image Comics to ask if it would voluntarily recognize the union. Initially it sent a statement saying that “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.“ This afternoon, it followed up with another 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 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."
Voluntary recognition is when a company recognizes a union, and doesn’t make workers petition for an NLRB election.
Motherboard reached out to Image chief operating officer Robert Kirkman, famed writer of The Walking Dead, through his agent, and did not receive a response. We also reached out to Jim Lee to ask about the workers at a company he founded unionizing, and through a representative both Lee and DC declined to comment.
Comic Book Workers United—which says it makes up a supermajority of those eligible to vote—told Motherboard that it is asking that Image 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," Comic Book Workers United told Motherboard. “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.”
Update: After this story was published, Comic Book Workers United reached out with a new statement:
As of 5:00pm today, Image has failed to formally acknowledge our request for voluntary recognition and we are internalizing that lack of response, coupled with a Twitter post the company made indicating their intention to take this to the NLRB for a vote, as a denial of our request. This is disappointing, given that 10 of the 12 eligible staff members have already voted to form and go public with the union, but we are strong in our principles and the election changes nothing. That said It is not too late for voluntary recognition to happen. Supporters can help us achieve our goal by continuing to email, write to, tweet at, and otherwise request that Image voluntarily recognize the CBWU.