Animation Workers Reach $100 Million Settlement With Disney in Wage-Fixing Suit

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Courtesy of Disney

Animation workers have reached a $100 million settlement with the Walt Disney Company, Pixar, and Lucasfilm in a class action lawsuit claiming that the defendants violated antitrust laws by conspiring to set animation wages via non-poaching agreements.

Also part of the settlement are Two Pic MC, formerly known as ImageMovers.

The settlement was disclosed in a court filing on Tuesday.

Disney and its companies were the last remaining defendants in the litigation. Earlier this month, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $50 million settlement with DreamWorks Animation, following previous settlements of $13 million with Sony Imageworks and $5.95 million with Blue Sky. All of the sums will be put in a settlement fund.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Robert Nitsch, a former DreamWorks Animation senior character effects artist; David Wentworth, a former ImageMovers Digital production engineer; and Georgia Cano, a digital artist who held jobs at Rhythm & Hues, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and ImageMovers Digital. The legal filing says that each of the plaintiffs plan to seek service awards that would amount to $100,000 for the entire litigation.

The workers contend that the roots of the anti-poaching agreements go back to the mid-1980s, when George Lucas and Ed Catmull, the president of Steve Jobs’ newly formed company Pixar, agreed to not raid each other’s employees.

Other companies then joined the conspiracy, the suit contended, with agreements on such things as cold calling and notifying each other when making an offer to an employee of another company. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the company making such an offer would not increase the compensation offered to the prospective employee in its offer if the company currently employing the employee made a counteroffer.

The class of employees include animation and visual effects employees at Pixar between 2004 – 2010; Lucasfilm between 2004 and 2010, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. from 2004 to 2010, the Walt Disney Company from 2004 to 2010, Sony Pictures Animation Inc. and Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. from 2004 to 2010, Blue Sky Studios, Inc. from 2005 to 2010 and Two Pic MC, formerly ImageMovers Digital, from 2007 to 2010.

The litigation has its origins in 2010 Department of Justice antitrust complaints against Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm, in which the companies agreed to refrain from wage-fixing practices for a period of five years.

Lucasfilm and Pixar later settled civil  litigation in 2013 after a group of Silicon Valley workers named the companies in wage fixing lawsuits. Other companies also settled, including Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel, which agreed to pay $415 million. That settlement was approved in 2015.

A hearing on the Disney settlement is scheduled for March 9 in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

 

 

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  1. Steve says:

    Mark, I’m sure that no one’s embaressed about anything. It’s $100 million. For a company that annually pulls in more than $50 billion. I’m willing to bet that most of the board members and corporate leadership have never and will never even have heard about this case.

    • Mark says:

      Actually, I’m quite sure they are aware. The settlement is far less than what they should have, and could have paid had the law actually been respected. Catmull ruined his reputation and embarrassed Disney with his shenanigans. It was incredibly stupid, and incredibly illegal.

  2. Mark says:

    Disney must be real embarrassed by having to pay out this much money plus lawyer fees to cover this shameful act by catmull. No wonder he’s a joke at the studio. For someone who spent their career spouting the idea of “hiring better people than you,” he ought to hire someone better than him who’s got better taste and knows something about creativity. And doesn’t treat employees with such great disrespect.

  3. Jay_oakland says:

    This is how you keep intelligent, creative, talented American tech workers at poverty wages. Among other things like temps, h1-bs…etc. they can’t be fairly compensated because some 1% fat cat deserves his second house out in Kawaii. They rigged the system against the engineer who needs that raise so he can put his kid through college; or live beyond one paycheck from ruin… these SOBs have the nerve to try and control our destinies, our very freedom to change jobs, our upward mobility. Make no mistake this is still happening. The Artists, scientists, engineers, and technicians (many are still at these companies) drove the digital revolution and changed the world. They deserve better.

  4. Wayne says:

    Mmmm George seems like you didn’t treat your employees so well after all.

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