Image Comics Issues Statement Regarding Its Employees’ Unionization

Image Comics has responded to its employees forming a union.

On Nov. 1, 10 Image Comics staff members announced the formation of Comic Book Workers United, a union designed to support a better environment for employees throughout the comic book industry. In response, Image Comics has now offered a statement of its own, which reads, “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.”

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The Communications Workers of America is the largest communications and media union in the United States and represents roughly 700,000 private and public employees. The rights of these employees are then protected by the National Labor Relations Board, an agency that works with the U.S. government to supervise labor representation. Images’ statement clarifies that it will not be recognizing the newly-formed CBWU as an independent union. Instead, they will allow qualifying employees to sign with the CWA for representation, if they are approved by the NLRB.

In its initial announcement, Comic Book Workers United explained, “For years, comics publishing workers have watched our professional efforts support creators and delight readers. Sadly, we have also watched that same labor be taken for granted at best and exploited at worst.” It went on to request that Image Comics recognize it directly, saying, “We love what we do. 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.” Many comic book creators came out to support the CBWU, such as Gail Simone, Greg Pak, Cliff Chiang, Vita Ayala, Erica Henderson, Jim Zub and TKO Presents Editor-in-Chief Sebastian Girner.

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While the comic book industry has never been particularly easy to work in, publishers and creators have been placed under additional strain over the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Recently, citing delays to top titles like Gunslinger Spawn that were caused by supply shortages, Image Comics announced that it would no longer be offering second printings on any of its books, so as to save paper. However, the publisher will still be producing certain reproductions, such as a facsimile edition of Rob Liefeld’s Prophet scheduled for next year.

One of the causes of these supply chain issues is the overall growth of the comic book industry over the course of the pandemic. Comic book and graphic novel sales spiked in 2020, reaching new highs as consumers showed a renewed interest in print media. Despite this, many creators and publishers are currently pushing for more digital content, hoping to avoid distribution issues. This year, Marvel and DC both made moves for more digital content, with the former expanding on their Marvel Unlimited service and the latter teaming up with Webtoon. Additionally, Substack brought on writer Nick Spencer to oversee their own push for digital comics, drawing many top independent creators away from Image Comics. It remains to be seen if the formation of the CBWU and Image’s response will have any impact on the publisher moving forward.

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