Back on October 6th, I reported that the WGA and Tyler Perry were reaching a settlement in principal. Today it’s official: Tyler Perry Studios will become a signatory to the WGA contract. Sadly, the news release (below) does indicate that “some of the writers” writers fired from Perry’s two television series, House Of Payne and the upcoming Meet The Browns “will not be returning”. Is that by choice? Or by Perry edict? I’ve asked the WGA to explain this.

This follows considerable bad publicity for the entertainment mogul. The writer/actor/director/producer/author/playwright has been persona non grata after the Writers Guild filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board on October 2, accusing Perry of axing more than half his writing staff on the TBS sitcom House Of Payne because of their union activity, and bargaining in bad faith with the Hollywood guild. Dozens upon dozens of the biggest producer, writer and showrunner names in scripted television even went so far as to sign an open letter bashing him for his anti-WGA activity. And good thing Barack Obama declined Perry’s invitation to the grand opening of his Tyler Perry Studios production facility in Atlanta this month. Had he not, the Democrat endorsed by many labor unions would have been met by picket lines thrown up by the Writers Guild of America and supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (Perry is one of the Democratic presidential candidate’s staunchest supporters and prized campaigners and even forthcoming film biographer…)

What had gone on for the past six months inside Perry’s production company was kept secret by the WGA until the guild filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, alleging that House of Payne unlawfully fired four writers in retaliation for their union activity. (A fifth writer quit in solidarity.) The charge also accused Perry’s company of bargaining in bad faith with the guild, which had been seeking to negotiate a contract covering the writers on Perry’s cable television series House of Payne and upcoming Meet the Browns. The four fired scribes, Kellie Griffin, Christopher Moore, Teri Brown-Jackson, and Lamont Ferrell, are all African Americans and together have written over 100 episodes.

During the dispute, a lawyer for Perry tried to claim that the writers’ firings had nothing to do with contract negotiations but were related solely to “the quality of their work”. But the firings came just as House Of Payne was being syndicated which is when the big money starts to roll in, and just when the writers were working on Perry’s new comedy premiering in January on TBS. Perry’s lawyer admitted that one sticking point with the WGA had been residuals from repeats shown on broadcast TV stations. Those residuals are vital to the financial security of showbiz writers even though a pittance to the producers. Perry also refused to agree to a WGA contract giving the writers health care benefits or pensions. Perry fired the writers after warning them some weeks ago that they should “be careful about pushing the WGA deal or you could be replaced,” according to one of the axed scribes.

Because Perry owns 100% of his films and TV productions, he can as an indie forgo a guild agreement. This month the WGA told guild members that, “under Working Rule 8, members of the Writers Guild of America, West may not accept employment with any non-signatory entity, including Tyler Perry studios and all of its related entities. The guild intends to fully enforce this important policy.” At the same time, the WGA picketed outside the gala party at Tyler Perry Studios, a 60,000-square-foot production complex on 28 acres on the outskirts of Atlanta featuring a 300-seat screening room, three sound stages, and a theater. I and other media outlets publicized the names of those who crossed the picket line to attend, including many of them members of the Screen Actors Guild: Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett Jr, Holly Robinson Peete, Tracey Edmonds, music mogul L.A. Reid, singer John Legend, baseball legends Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Also, Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight who all performed.

I’m glad to see this unfortunate matter settled. Here is today’s press release:

Atlanta, GA (November 26, 2008) — Tyler Perry Studios and the Writers Guild of America, West today announced that they have come to an agreement following more than five months of negotiations. Vic Bulluck, executive director of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, was instrumental in bringing the two parties together.

“We are pleased to have come to a resolution with the WGA, and thank the NAACP for their support during negotiations. We look forward to many years working with the talented writers who are members of the Guild.” stated Tyler Perry. “With a continued focus on fostering young, diverse talent, we are eager to continue our dialogue with the WGA to dramatically increase the number of minority writers working in Hollywood today.”

“At a time when true independent producers like Mr. Perry are rare in this business, we congratulate him on his success and welcome his decision to become signatory to a WGA contract,” said Writers Guild of America, West President Patric M. Verrone. “I also would like to thank Ben Jealous, NAACP national president and CEO, Vic Bulluck, executive director NAACP Hollywood Bureau, and Clayola Brown, national president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, for their help during this negotiation.”

“The NAACP is a staunch advocate for workers rights and for nearly one hundred years has fought for greater minority representation and inclusion in Hollywood. We applaud Tyler Perry’s efforts to not only promote, but to also provide work for people of color in the entertainment industry,” stated Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.  Adding, “We recognize the unique and important influence writers have in our society. The NAACP will continue to work with the WGA to make sure their rights are protected and that all the networks and studios provide greater opportunity for minority writers.”

The contract with the WGA was the last union agreement outstanding for Tyler Perry Studios, which had previously brokered deals with the Teamsters, IATSE, SAG, DGA, and others. Acknowledging that some of the writers on the TBS series House of Payne and Meet the Browns will not be returning, Perry thanked them for their services and wished them well in their future endeavors.

Matt Johnson of Ziffrren, Brittenham negotiated the deal for Tyler Perry Studios.

Tyler Perry Studios is 100% financed by Tyler Perry in an entrepreneurial endeavor, and is not backed by a studio or other investors. The studio produces both Meet the Browns and House of Payne, as well as several feature films a year including the upcoming Madea Goes to Jail.  Perry recently announced the formation of another production arm, 34th Street Films, which will develop projects written and directed by talent other than Perry under the Tyler Perry brand.

  1. Tyler Perry And WGA Talk Settlement
  2. One Of Tyler Perry’s Union Actors Confronts Him
  3. Photos: WGA Pickets Tyler Perry Studios
  4. TV Showrunners Tell Tyler Perry: Firings For WGA Activity “Simply Not Acceptable”
  5. WGA vs Tyler Perry Productions, Contd
  6. Tyler Perry’s Alleged Role As Union Buster Becoming Big Obama Embarrassment?
  7. Tyler Perry Fires 4 Writers For Union Activity; Perry’s New Studio Picketed

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