As announced in a tweet from Union Elections yesterday, Image staffers have voted to unionize by a vote of 7-2. Eligible voters include employees working in various behind the scenes jobs in editorial, production and accounting. The new union, Comic Book Workers United,  has been officially recognized by the National Labor Relations Board and will be a part of the 700,000 member Communication Workers of America union.

The CBWU wrote a statement on their website:

We’re beyond thrilled to announce that today we, Comic Book Workers United, have WON our union election, making Image Comics the FIRST unionized comic book publisher in the United States.

All 12 Image staffers submitted ballots, leading to a 7:2 result in favor of the union. At this time, three staffers’ ballots are subject to a frivolous legal challenge on eligibility, thus their ballots were not opened. Although these three ballots were not opened, their challenge had no impact on our supermajority win. CBWU and the CWA continue to push for their inclusion in the democratic process.

Winning this election is only the beginning — as always, we are #drawninsolidarity and are eager to continue working together with CWA on the next steps towards securing a strong, fair, and exemplary first contract for comic book publishing workers.

We want to stress how crucial it is for all workers to know they are worthy of respect, fair treatment, fair compensation, and recognition for their time and effort. The NLRB, NLRBGC, and the CWA have been a boon of resources on how to get started on the path to unionization.

It is our sincere hope that today’s win inspires our peers to organize for a democratic voice. CBWU is ready to stand with you to help create a better and more equitable comics industry for all.

In a statement supplied by Image Comics to media, they wrote “Earlier this morning the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and National Labor Relations Board vote results were tallied, 7 – 2, in favor of unionization. Everyone at Image is committed to this process and we look forward to continuing to work together on this.”

The historic vote marks the first comic book publishing company in the US to unionize – whether workers at other companies will follow will be one of the biggest stories of 2022. Even by comic book standards, Image Comics is a fairly small shop, with barely a couple dozen employees. This small staff turning out what is variously called the third largest  comics publisher in the US may be a contributing factor of the conditions that led to unionizing.

Communication Workers of America represents some 700,000 workers in media and communications but also airlines, broadcast and cable television, public service, higher education and health care, manufacturing, and high tech.

The Image move to unionize was announced in early November, and went to a vote after Image management did not voluntarily recognize the union. 

As for where things go from here: the union and management will negotiate terms, based on CBWU’s initial list of demands. Mediation is always an option when thorny issues arise. In November, the CBWU spoke to Vice Magazine and stated that the uncertainties of employment in the pandemic were part of what led them to seek to unionize. Issues over controversial content also influenced the movement.

For anyone who reads to the bottom of the story, the CBWU only covers EMPLOYEES of Image Comics. It has no effect on freelancers or creators. That’s a whole other situation – legally freelancers cannot unionize but can form guilds, and getting the fractious and multifaceted comics industry to agree to any kind of unionizing effort has proven futile over the years.

Despite the past, Image Comics unionizing is a huge step for the industry…the first ever legally recognized comic book union. For an industry with a shameful past of mistreating both freelancers and staffers, it’s a move that recognizes the many gains that the industry had made since it began in the back rooms of pulp magazine publishers.