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Comic Book Workers United Files Charges Against Image Comics

By | June 1st, 2023
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The Image Comics employees’ union Comic Book Workers United have filed charges against the publisher with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, alleging three violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The press release describe the publisher’s lead staff as having grown increasingly hostile to their unionized workers. The charges are as follows:

8(a)(1) Coercive Rules: CBWU alleges “Image created a work rule barring solicitation of other employees or dissemination of literature during work hours,” which they believe was done “to discourage and restrict the ability of Union members to engage in protected organizing activity.”

8(a)(3) Changes in Terms and Conditions of Employment: “Image unilaterally implemented a change which only materially affected 1 employee – an elected member of CBWU’s Bargaining Committee. Despite assurances made [to the contrary], [the] change drastically reduced the scope of the aforementioned employee’s position, removing a significant portion of [their] job. The Union has reason to believe it is punitive and retaliatory in nature.”

8(a)(5) Refusal to Bargain/Bad Faith Bargaining (including surface bargaining/direct dealing): CBWU claims “Image unilaterally implemented a new work procedure and initially rolled it out in a non-uniform fashion,” giving different employees inconsistent instructions, and refused to discuss its implementation beforehand. The charge adds “Image Comics managers also misled certain employees to believe that this new policy was mandatory for all Union workers,” and that it was used as “pretense for Management to issue more groundless discipline. Disciplinary actions have increased exponentially, with insufficient justification, lacking a full and fair investigation, without notification of the Union.” It concludes saying, “Union Representatives have yet to receive a single formal notice of any disciplinary actions.”

CBWU, which was the first comics publisher’s union in America, was founded in late 2021, although Image refused to recognize it until it was ratified (with the National Labor Relations Board’s help) in March of this year. The hostility was apparent early in 2022, when co-founder Jim Valentino’s imprint Shadowline removed the names of the ten CBWU members from the credits of its books. According to CBWU, they had previously filed a charge against Concerted Activities (Retaliation, Discharge, Discipline), and another over Changes in Terms and Conditions of Employment.

Image declined comment on the story when reached out to by Popverse. The publisher is currently represented in court by the law firm Baker & Hostetler, LLP, while CBWU (which is affiliated with Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO) are represented by Rosenblatt & Gosch, PLLC. Per ICv2, the NRLB should take 7 to 14 weeks to complete their investigation. “If the charges are not resolved” in the meantime, then the board “will issue a formal complaint, which can lead to a hearing and enforcement action.”

Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Chris is the news manager of Multiversity Comics. A writer from London on the autistic spectrum, he enjoys tweeting and blogging on Medium about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, and games, plus history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic.