EXCLUSIVE… 3RD UPDATE FRIDAY 11PM: It’s war! I hear that The Biggest Loser producers, Shine Group’s Reveille and JD Roth’s and Todd Nelson’s Eyeworks-owned 3 Ball Prods., are planning to resume production on the weight-loss reality series on Monday morning after a week-long shutdown because of the IATSE-backed strike by crew members. But the restart of filming is not the result of an agreement with IATSE. I hear the producers are bringing in replacements and the show will continue to be non-union. (In a letter sent to the crew members on Tuesday, the full text of which is displayed in the 2nd Updatedbelow, the producers threaten striking crew members that their jobs may be lost if they hire permanent replacements.) I hear that no Biggest Loser crew members are expected to cross the picket line on Monday. “Should be ugly,” one insider says. Meanwhile, I hear that the Biggest Loser employees who are striking to go union have received support from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, a voluntary federation of 57 national and international unions, which has issued a “Do Not Patronize” sanction against the Biggest Loser producers. The companies’ put on AFL-CIO “Do Not Patronize” list “have been identified as unfair employers and adversaries of the labor movement, and all trade unionists and friends of organized labor are urged not to patronize those businesses,” according to the organization’s Web site.
EXCLUSIVE… 2ND UPDATE THURSDAY 4PM: It’s Day 3 of IATSE’s strike against veteran NBC reality series The Biggest Loser and the production companies behind it, mainly Reveille Prods. and 3 Ball Prods. As we first reported, the strike started on Monday night when the show’s crew walked off the set. The picketing, which started yesterday at the production location aka The Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, spread today to the Redondo Beach offices of 3 Ball where the show is being edited. Production on the series’s upcoming 11th season continues to be halted. Meanwhile, the producers have sent a stern Facts About a Strike letter to the crew, stressing that they may hire permanent replacements for the striking members. (letter posted below.) The strike is taking a toll on the striking employees. “Most of the crew is bummed, but determined,” one insider said. “Many have been on the show for 4 or 5 seasons. They are sticking together, many on the picket lines.”
The main issue for the crew is that, because Biggest Loser has no deal with IATSE, the crew members can’t accrue their union days to qualify for health and pension benefits while working on the show. Since Biggest Loser is a reality series on an atypical schedule as it films 4 to 5 days a week from September to March, many crew members have to leave for a period of time so they can get their IA days on other shows while they would rather stay on Biggest Loser full-time and make their union days there. The Biggest Loser crew usually consists of 90-100 people, 40 of whom are IA members. I hear the show adheres to union rules in terms of work schedule and that crew rates are substantially above union minimum. But word is that there has not been a crew raise since season 6. That has coincided with the current economic downturn, and the ratings for the long-running show have begun to trend downwards lately. But the raise freeze has left employees a little frustrated as they get to shoot many paid product placement segments on the show. “The crew wonders where all that money goes,” one person said. And while the producers explain in the letter why they don’t want the show to go union, a move that would allow crew members to get their health benefits through IATSE, they don’t offer company-based health benefits as an alternative with the argument that they pay above union rates, so crew members should be able to afford their own health care. (which most of them can’t)
Will the strike find a successful resolution before the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? It’s hard to say because complicating the things is a possible negotiating tactic by IATSE which has been in separate negotiations with Reveille for the company’s new Paula Abdul reality show Live to Dance on CBS. Word is that the union has pulled that negotiating team and are trying to leverage all Reveille/Shine shows to go union. I hear that has pissed Biggest Loser union members off to no end because none of them want their jobs to be a negotiating pawn. Word is that ultimately IATSE may do a separate deal for The Biggest Loser but the back-and-forth has led to further delays. IATSE first talked with the Biggest Loser producers about a deal in Season 4 when the show signed with the DGA but those talks went nowhere.
November 9, 2010
FACTS ABOUT A STRIKE
We understand that the IATSE is trying to call some of our employees out on strike. Before you decide what to do, think about the following factual answers to typical questions about strikes:
1. IF EMPLOYEES GO OUT ON STRIKE, WILL THEY CONTINUE TO GET PAID?
Striking employees aren’t working so they don’t get paid for the time they are striking.. The Company will not pay wages during a strike and neither will the union.
2. CAN EMPLOYEES COLLECT UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSA TION DURING A STRIKE?
No. California will not pay unemployment compensation to strikers out of work because of a strike.
3. IF THE UNION CALLS A STRIKE, CAN THE COMPANY CONTINUE TO OPERATE?
Yes. The Company can and will continue to operate during a strike with employees who want to work and if necessary with permanent replacements (see next Q and A).
4. COULD I BE REPLACED IF THE UNION CALLS A STRIKE?
Yes. Under the law, if the union calls a strike to try to force the Company to agree to the union’s demands (called an “economic strike”), the Company may replace the strikers with permanent replacements. If you strike and are permanently replaced, you have no right to be reinstated to your old job until vacancies become available and you are reinstated from a preferential hiring list.
5. WHY IS THE COMPANY OPPOSED TO THIS UNION?
The threat of strikes is a major reason the Company is opposed to this union. We also don’t see why you should have to pay union dues, fees, fines and assessments in order to work here. Some of our employees have worked for the Company for years. We strongly prefer to solve problems directly with our employees, without the involvement of a union with its own agenda.
If you would like more information about your rights or the rules governing this situation, please contact the Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board, telephone (213) 894-5200 or (310) 235-7352 or go to www.nlrb.gov.
1ST UPDATE WEDNESDAY PM: IATSE has put out this statement confirming my story that it is on strike against The Biggest Loser. The relationship between the Hollywood guilds and reality shows has been very problematic.
Los Angeles – The IATSE has confirmed that it is on strike against the reality series, “The Biggest Loser,” and its production entities, Reveille Productions, 25/7 Productions and 3 Ball Productions. This top rated show for NBC is now filming its tenth season. The work action follows a vote by 100% of the production crew members to support the IA. AFTRA and DGA already have agreements with the production.
IA International President Matthew D. Loeb said, “This is a top-rated prime-time television show, and the crew remains unified. The strike is the result of a unanimous decision by members of the production crew that they get a contract similar to others covering these types of productions, and we are resolute in getting it for them.”
EXCLUSIVE TUESDAY 7PM: Production on NBC’s veteran reality series The Biggest Loser has been put on hold following a walkout by the show’s crew in an effort to unionize. I hear that representatives from IATSE, the union that represents most film and TV crew members, showed up on the set of The Biggest Loser last night and led the crew off the set. As a result, filming on the show was suspended. The Biggest Loser also didn’t shoot today, while representatives from IATSE and Reveille, which produces the series with 3 Ball Prods., have been discussing a potential agreement. There have been rumblings that the walkout was the culmination of ongoing efforts by the Biggest Loser crew to go union but show insiders tell me that the producers were not aware of such attempts and were surprised by the labor action last night. I’ll be updating the story as it evolves.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.