A group of employees at Seven Seas Entertainment, an independent manga publisher based in Los Angeles, announced plans to form the United Workers of Seven Seas, a new union organized in affiliation with the Communications Workers of America. UW7S announced its plans to unionize Seven Seas yesterday on its website, releasing a background statement on working conditions at the house and posting a list of the union’s goals.
The action by the Seven Seas staff follows a similar move by employees at Image Comics, who voted to certify a union in January.
In a statement announcing the new union effort, UW7S described Seven Seas as a “fast-growing publishing company dedicated to bringing the best of manga, danmei, light novels, and webtoons to fans. We went from 10 employees in 2018 to over 40 staff today.” The statement continues, “With rapid growth comes growing pains, and we, the workers of Seven Seas, have been shouldering much of that pain. We find ourselves overworked, underpaid, and inadequately supported. Furthermore, we do not receive the vacation, sick days, family leave, health insurance, and retirement benefits otherwise typical of the publishing industry.”
The UW7S released a list of 30 Seven Seas employees working in support of the union that can be found on the UW7S website.
Representatives from UW7S said the group has been organizing for about five months and confirmed that it has reached out to the CWA for support. UW7S organizers told PW they have “filed for election [to certify the union] with the NLRB but no election has been been held yet.” The UW7S also said they “have not received a response so far,” from Seven Seas management to their efforts to unionize.
Seven Seas management did not respond to PW by Tuesday morning when asked for comment.
Seven Seas was cofounded in 2004 by Jason DeAngelis, who continues to head the publisher. Seven Seas originally focused on creating original English-language manga, or comics inspired by Japanese manga but produced elsewhere. Since its launch, the house has grown quickly, adding licensed Japanese manga in translation to its publishing program, as well as light novels (prose works inspired by manga and anime). Seven Seas manga is distributed to the trade by Penguin Random House Publisher Services. Seven Seas is a leading indie North American manga publisher whose growth has been fueled by the growing popularity and sales of manga of all kinds in the U.S.
The UW7S released a 16 point list of goals to improve working conditions. Among their demands are healthcare, paid leave, and pension benefits, as well as paid time off and vacations (“employees are expected to be available in the virtual office at all times”), and reasonable workloads (“many employees are overloaded or burnt out due to high workloads”). The union is also seeking protections and benefits for freelancers (“across the board increases to pay, kill fees, and revision fees for freelancers”), and anti-harassment policies and grievance procedure (“staff should never be required to work on materials that make them uncomfortable.”)
The UW7S statement concluded: “We're eager to produce the best products we can, and the best way to do that is with a living wage, proper hardware and software, and a well-organized digital office. As a union, we seek to negotiate better working conditions for both Seven Seas employees and the many freelancers who make what we do possible.”