Disney, Lucasfilm, and Pixar reached a settlement with animation workers. After a class action lawsuit that was litigated for over two years, animation workers have been granted a 100 million dollar settlement. The case alleged that the defendants – Sony Pictures Animation, the Walt Disney Company, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and ImageMovers Digital – violated anti-trust laws by suppressing wages through “non-poaching” agreements. ImageMovers Digital is the old name of Two Pic MC.
Variety reported that Disney and its subsidiary companies were the last remaining defendants in the class action suit. According to The Wrap, “the plaintiffs had previously reached similar settlement agreements with DreamWorks, Blue Sky and Sony in July.” U. S. District Judge Lucy Koh gave preliminary approval to a 50 million dollar settlement last October with DreamWorks Animation. Sony ImageWorks’ settlement was 13 million dollars and Blue Sky’s was just under six million dollars.
The lawsuit was originally filed in December, 2014, on behalf of artists Robert Nitsch, David Wentworth, and Georgia Cano. They alleged that they and their co-workers had been cheated of better job opportunities and higher wages because several companies had a gentleman’s agreement not to recruit each other’s employees.
The problem began in the mid-1980s, when George Lucas of Lucasfilm and Ed Catmull, the president of Steve Jobs’ newly formed company Pixar, agreed not to “poach” each other’s artists. Other companies joined the informal conspiracy, agreeing not to cold call artists, to notify each other prior to making a job offer to an artist employed at another studio, or to offer higher wages as an incentive to outbid the current employer. The animation artists argued that this constituted wage-fixing by not permitting them to seek the highest possible compensation for their skills elsewhere.
The settlement agreement states: “Within 10 days of preliminary approval, the Disney Defendants will wire (or cause to be wired) $100,000 to the Class escrow agent, and within 20 days of final approval of the Settlement Agreement, the Disney Defendants will wire (or cause to be wired) $99,900,000 to the Disney escrow agent.” The settlement was filed in federal court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division, on Tuesday, January 31, 2017.