Updated on December 10, 2021
Comics and animated productions occasionally show their characters as members of unions. While it’s sometimes just a one-off gag, it can also drive the story’s plot. Below are a few examples of unions as the focus of a cartoon.
Unsurprisingly, “The Simpsons” have poked fun at unions on various occasions (including their downsides/problems with corruption).
Still, unions’ most prominent role came in the fourth season episode “Last Exit to Springfield.” In this episode, Homer becomes the head of the power plant’s union. He does this to keep the plant workers from losing (on a whim of Mr. Burns) their dental plan. This is mainly to avoid paying for braces Lisa needs.
This ultimately leads to the union going on strike, which Mr. Burns deals with badly. One of the best parts is the brief parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Unions and/or strikes appeared twice in this strip.
In the first storyline, Santa Claus’ elves go on strike. It ends with President Reagan firing the elves. This was a parody of the famous early 80s air traffic controllers’ strike.
The second, longer storyline had the strip’s characters’ union walk out and go on strike over their comic’s “working conditions.” The executive in charge of the strip promptly decides to replace the striking characters with scabs. Said replacements include a cameo by political cartoonist Pat Oliphant’s little corner-of-the-strip bird filling in for Opus. Unfortunately for our heroes, they didn’t win this labor fight.
Apparently, despite decades of loyalty to his employer, Clark Kent’s been on strike at least once.
“Superman” #271 from 1974 features Clark, along with his fellow WGBS-TV employees, going on strike. Clark’s boss, Morgan Edge, was empathetic to the strikers’ demands. However, he told them said demands would have to be cleared with his fellow board members first. I assume the strike was successful, since Clark wasn’t shown squeezing coal into diamonds for cash and/or hitting up his friend Bruce Wayne for loans.
(From 1971 through 1986, the “Daily Planet” was owned by Galaxy Broadcasting, with Galaxy’s headquarters/flagship station WGBS-TV integrated into the “Daily Planet” building. Clark was reassigned as WGBS’ evening news anchor.)
In real life, there’ve been a few animation studio strikes. The most famous one was probably the 1941 strike at Walt Disney’s studios, during the production of “Dumbo.”