UPDATE, 2:02 PM: The strike at Last Chance Holiday is over. IATSE and producers Indy Entertainment reached a deal late this morning. The protesting crew of the low-budget feature approved the union contact this afternoon. The strike started Tuesday with crew members wanting union representation to combat long hours and the lack of benefits on the indie pic. The crew will return to work immediately.
PREVIOUSLY, 11:07 AM: The last few days have been no vacation for Last Chance Holiday. Members from IATSE Locals 600, 495, 706 and others took to the picket line yesterday to back up the crew of the Indy Entertainment-produced feature in their labor dispute. And another picket against the film is scheduled for today in Griffith Park. Although shooting continued on Last Chance Holiday last night, union sources tell me that the small budget production has been unable to fully recrew because of the strike. Having complained of excessive hours and lack of benefits on the production, the members of the crew sought union representation earlier this week. The Art Directors Guild sent out an email Tuesday urging members to “please support this crew, which has been intimidated and abused by the production”. However, the action planned for later today might prove moot at this point. A production insiders say that the producers of Last Chance Holiday and the union are meeting soon to try to work out an … Read More »
Despite a looming strike next week, there was no last minute deal struck today in the last bargaining session between the Motion Picture and Television Fund and the union that represents the healthcare workers at the Wasserman Camus in Woodland Hills and other facilities. “After extensive good faith bargaining on MPTF’s part, we have reached an impasse. No further negotiating sessions have been planned,” said MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher in a statement Wednesday. Union officials insist they are still willing to meet in good faith with the MPTF before the three-day strike scheduled to start Monday night. However, with no deal on a new three-year contract and no one scheduled to talk further, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West says it does intend to follow through on the formal strike notice it gave the MPTF last week and hit the picket line starting late on March 18. Further action could follow, a source confirmed to me. Part of that action could stem from the MPTF’s intention to bring in replacement workers during the strike. “We have completed the polling of our employees and have lined up qualified temporary staffing for a five-day period starting Monday night for those employees who have elected to walk out. Patient and resident safety is and will always be our primary concern and … Read More »
The Writers Guild of America West has demanded a $3 million bond from Nickelodeon because of “chronically late residuals payment and inadequate reporting practices.” In a March 8 dated letter I have obtained, the WGA West tells the Viacom-owned network that if the multi-million dollar bond is not posted by March 25, the guild could take further action. That action could include instructing “writers to withhold their services from any signatory Company for which Nickelodeon is the residuals payer.” Invoking Article 42 of the guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement, the bond demand came in a letter earlier this month from the WGA West’s director of Legal Services Katherine Shannon Christovisch sent to Nickelodeon’s lawyers at LA firm Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp. Stating that “Nickelodeon pays haphazardly, often only after the Guild initiates an arbitration claim” and “scores of writers have had to wait years to get the residuals due,” Christovisch notes that the company is falls under Article 42’s definition of not being “reliable or financially responsible residuals payers.” She adds “we have determined the adequacy of the bond by projecting, based on recent reuse history, the residuals that we project will become due in 2013.”
Sources tell me that WGA president Chris Keyser decided to act on the long simmering situation earlier thus year after members complained of increasing economic hardship because of the late … Read More »
UPDATE, 9:56 PM: I just got a statement (see below) from MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher about the SEIU’s planned three-day strike. Expressing “surprise and disappointment” on the labor action, Beitcher says that “on Monday we will begin polling our represented employees on their intention to report to work during the strike and will initiate plans to replace those who are choosing to honor the strike.”
PREVIOUSLY, 7:32 PM: The union that represents workers at the Motion Picture and Television Fund facilities today gave management a strike notice. Unless a deal on a new three-year contract is reached in the next 10 days, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West intends to hit the picket line for three days starting late on March 18. Further action could follow. The notice comes a day after another bad bargaining session between the union and management that left the SEIU feeling that had no choice but to move towards escalating the situation “The MPTF don’t want to discuss anything but what they have put on the table. They had no interest in anything the union had to offer. It is the very definition of unfair labor practices,” a source close to events told me tonight. Another session is scheduled for March 13. However, I’ve learned that the union is willing to sit down on other days if management will too. Today’s move should come as no surprise as the SEIU … Read More »
UPDATE, 8:34 AM: The union that represents healthcare workers at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s care facility and hospital is planning picket lines this week but the organization’s CEO says “progress was made” in the last set of talks between the two sides. “We were encouraged by this past week’s bargaining session with SEIU and a federal mediator,” said the MPTF’s Bob Beitcher in a statement today. In the February 14 meeting, the MPTF offered to open up their books to provide the SEIU will a full sense of their negotiating position, says a source close to the situation. The union, who won a strike authorization vote from their members on January 30, is planning to picket MPTF offices and the Woodland Hills hospital on February 21. More visibly, the SEIU is considering a picket line at Jeffrey Katzenberg’s February 23 ‘Night Before’ charity event for the MPTF at the Beverly Hill Hotel. Read MPTF CEO Beitcher’s full statement here:
We were encouraged by this past week’s bargaining session with SEIU and a federal mediator. Progress was made in resolving a long list of open contract points and both parties were actively engaged in narrowing the discussions to a few key issues. To facilitate additional progress, MPTF and SEIU continue to comply with additional information requests and MPTF has agreed to provide an educational workshop for SEIU’s bargaining unit. We are hopeful that the next bargaining session on March 7th will take us even closer to achieving a mutually satisfactory 3-year agreement.
PREVIOUSLY, FEB. 15: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s 11th Annual ‘Night Before’ Oscars Fundraiser benefitting the Motion Picture and Television Fund on February 23rd could suffer a pre-strike union picket line. That’s because of a stalemated bargaining session Thursday between the MPTF and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West. I have learned that the powerful union is “strongly considering” going out on the line at the charity event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. That would present guests with a dilemma because some notables also belong to unions — Hollywood guilds — and won’t want to cross the picket line. The gala has been protested before – but by families and concerned friends of the long-term care hospital and units when Katzenberg decided to close them. The guests in limousines simply whizzed past the demonstrators barely giving them a glance. But last year’s fundraiser went off without a hitch when a compromise was reached to keep the long-term care facilities open. Read More »
Another salvo was fired today in the war of words between the Newspaper Guild of New York and The New York Times. The two are in negotiations over digital and print agreements that expired in March 2011. Approximately 1,000 NYT employees are covered by the print contract and 100 by the digital contact. Earlier this week, the Guild claimed that in suddenly seeking two deals and not one unified agreement, NYT management is trying to create an impasse in the talks so it can force its “last, best” offer on employees. Yesterday, the NYT said it does want a single contractm but it can’t pursue one if the Guild won’t, as the NYT claims, “explicitly commit to negotiate a single contract.” Today the Guild explained its position: Read More »
UPDATED: For a third straight year, AFTRA is dominating the broadcast pilot season by representing about 90% of the pilots. Of the 79 pilots ordered by the 5 broadcast nets, 69 are being covered by AFTRA, with one other still TBD.
Those that I have confirmed to be SAG-affiliated are NBC’s Wonder Woman reboot from David E. Kelley, the network’s Broadway-centric Smash, period Western The Crossing and the untitled Whitney Cummings comedy. Also SAG-represented are ABC’s comedy Suburgatory and Fox’s drama Exit Strategy, which has strong feature pedigree – director Antoine Fuqua and star Ethan Hawke. Also in the SAG column are 2 other drama pilots directed by big-name feature directors, ABC’s Phillip Noyce-helmed Revenge and CBS’ untitled Susannah Grant medical drama directed by Jonathan Demme. And, because Fox’s dramedy Bones is done under a SAG agreement, its planted spinoff The Finder automatically goes with SAG.
Once again Sony Pictures TV went 100% AFTRA, with the other studios doing only a handful projects with SAG: UMS (3), Warner Bros. TV & 20th Century Fox TV (2), ABC Studios & CBS TV Studios (1).
The shift from SAG, once the dominant actors union in broadcast primetime, to AFTRA started 2 years ago with the threat of a SAG strike. A strike was avoided and a more moderate leadership of SAG was elected but TV studios stayed with AFTRA, something that has been made possible by the proliferation of digital technology. Only series shot on 35mm have to go with SAG; digitally filmed shows can be SAG- or AFTRA-affiliated. Because the decision on filming equipment is made mainly by the pilot director, it’s often pilots helmed by feature directors who insist on using 35 mm film that get a SAG representation.
AFTRA’s dominant performance during broadcast pilots season in the past 2 years led to a fundamental primetime shift last fall when for the first time AFTRA overtook SAG as the top actors union representing 45 series on the broadcast networks this season vs. 38 for SAG. Of course, with the growing movement for unification within both unions, such separation could soon be rendered irrelevant.
Here is a list of the AFTRA-affiliated broadcast pilots this season: Read More »
WGAW Board Members Chip Johannessen and Patric Verrone have issued a strongly worded message of support the Comcast writers wanting WGA representation:
To Our Fellow Members,
“If the Writers Guild didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.” — Legendary Hollywood executive Sid Sheinberg said that back in 1988 when he was president of Universal Studios. Mr. Sheinberg didn’t say it out of some great love of the Guild. The fact is we were on strike at the time and, if there had been some way to do without us, any self-respecting studio head would have jumped at the chance. But Mr. Sheinberg understood the role that our Guild, and all the other guilds and unions, play in this industry. A role that Universal’s latest owner, Comcast, seems not to understand.
Hollywood runs on a talented pool of what is essentially freelance labor. The guilds, every bit as much as the companies, make this talent pool possible by ensuring two things: First, that when you work, you’ll be fairly compensated. And second, that your pension and health benefits follow you from job to job. Projects and shows come and go, but fair compensation and portable benefits ensure that talented people remain. This guild-based ecosystem works to everyone’s advantage, including the companies. It makes our industry possible. Because talented people won’t follow their dreams here if, after 20 years of working, they’ve got nothing to show for it. And without the talent pool,
… Read More »
UPDATE: Insiders are telling me that, contrary to this WGAE announcement (below), the WGA has not won this election — yet. One of my sources says, “Both sides are a long way from being in a position to legitimately claim a victory. A number of votes have been challenged by either LionTV or the WGA, thus they have not yet been counted. There will be a process in which the NLRB will decide which of these challenged votes to allow and which to reject. This process will take 2-3 months, at a minimum.”
When I asked the WGAE about the above, a spokeswoman emailed back: “The WGAE has won the vote — but the NLRB has not yet certified the election. That is common. Certification always comes after. There are several vote challenges. As part of its anti-union strategy, LionTV has been manipulating the voter list for several months and is now challenging some votes for reasons such as unreadable signatures. This tactic is a delaying tactic and one that is also meant to disenfranchise unit members. The WGAE did challenge votes from people, we believe, were not eligible to vote but were put on the list by Lion TV. These people include interns, supervisors, and people working offsite and not part of the bargaining unit. While we are challenging these votes, we do not believe our challenges will change the outcome of the election – that
Lion TV writers and producers have voted to join the WGAE.”
Here is the … Read More »
Not so fast! Shortly after the L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti announced that the writers on shows for the Comcast Entertainment Networks have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a WGA representation, Comcast struck back, dismissing the vote as a “non-binding poll” and asking again for a NLRB-sanctioned election, which is a lengthy procedure.
Yesterday the WGAW conducted a non-binding poll with some of our employees purporting that it was an “election,” and this morning L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti announced the results. We want to make it very clear to our employees, the press and the interested public that union elections are governed by federal law, and overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, the government agency officially charged with such oversight for the past 75 years. This was not an NLRB-sanctioned election and has no binding effect. This non-binding poll was in direct conflict with the NLRB-sanctioned process for union organizing which ensures that all eligible employees are permitted to vote on such an important matter as union representation.
Read More »
Comcast vs WGA: Latest Guild Battleground
LA City Council President Eric Garcetti tomorrow will announce the results of a “secret ballot union representation election” conducted for writers on Comcast’s E!, Style, and G4 entertainment networks. The writers voted today whether to designate the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) as their bargaining rep. Garcetti’s office monitored the election and will tally and certify the results.
I had predicted Hollywood could most likely expect quick and easy negotiations. And the DGA’s took just three weeks and change. And why not when your Hollywood Guilds are just rubber-stamping what crumbs the studios and networks are feeding SAG/AFTRA and DGA members despite this rapidly improving economy? The Directors Guild Of America leaders made it plain early on that they weren’t going for big wages or even a substantially better New Media deal (despite promising it would during the last bargaining go-round). Instead the DGA negotiators were focusing on increased Health Plan and Pension contributions, just like they were for SAG and AFTRA. The AMPTP’s current contributions are at 14% for the DGA, and probably go to 16.5% on the new contract if ratified. So that’s three big Guilds down, and only the Writers Guild of America still to go.
No date for the start of negotiations has yet been set for the WGA, whose contract ends May 1, 2011. But the moguls behind the AMPTP always intended to negotiate with the writers last (even though their pact was expiring sooner) to ensure there’s the most Hollywood antagonism towards them. Although SAG/AFTRA and the DGA traded information during their talks, they’ve left the WGA out in the cold. Now you can expect a lot of silly trade stories filled with false rumors about WGA “strike talk” in order to scare the Industry which in turn will pressure the writers to settle quickly. Don’t get me wrong: no one wants another strike so soon. But that also doesn’t mean that the WGA has to wimp out like the other Guilds. Excuse me, but wasn’t this year when all the Hollywood Guilds were going to join together and fight, fight, fight, for what is rightfully their share of the money pie? Anyone? Anyone?
The following statement was issued today by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP):
The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have successfully concluded a tentative agreement on a new TV/Theatrical contract, again demonstrating the benefits of an early deal for the entire entertainment industry. These early talks allowed us to bridge the gaps created by uncertain economic times and deliver increases in areas critical to DGA members.
The DGA’s chief negotiator Gil Cates said the following:
Los Angeles – The Directors Guild of America today announced that it has concluded a tentative agreement on the terms of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Negotiations, which began on November 16, concluded this afternoon. Details of the tentative agreement will be released once the agreement has been submitted to the Guild’s National Board for approval at a special board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 8.
The DGA’s current contracts expire on June 30, 2011.
Read More »
This afternoon, there was an unexpected development in the battle over union organizing by the writers of Comcast Entertainment Group who’ve engaged the Writers’ Guild of America West for the purposes of collective bargaining with their employer. (CEG includes the E!, Style!, and G4 networks, as well as Versus, Sprout, and Fear Net.) U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer decided to take an active role in the impasse between Comcast and the Writers’ Guild:
EXCLUSIVE: Comcast and the Writers Guild of America are battling over union organizing. Over the last several months the writers of Comcast Entertainment Group have quietly engaged the Writers’ Guild of America West for the purposes of collective bargaining with their employer. CEG is the cable entertainment wing of Comcast: it includes the E!, Style!, and G4 networks, as well as Versus, Sprout, and Fear Net. Here’s what we’re told is happening:
Inside the company our title is Script Consultant, Story Editor, Producer or anything other than Writer. We decided to send this note to Deadline.com to let you know that collectively we write countless hours of television across E!, Style, & G4. This is scripted television work that deserves the benefits of coverage by WGA contracts.
Instead of honoring our request for recognition, Comcast has chosen to stall and push this off until they feel it is convenient to them, [which is] long past the time they expect the merger with NBC Universal to close. While they work to reorganize their executive staff as if the merger were a fait accompli, we sit and wait for what is, by law, our right. Now, rather than adhering to their promises of good labor relations they made to the WGA, the U.S. Congress and other Hollywood unions and their acknowledgement that Hollywood is a union town, they have chosen to ask for an election with a lengthy hearing process —
… Read More »
IATSE took the strike against NBC’s reality series The Biggest Loser to NBC. Representatives for the union tonight hung a banner about the labor dispute in front of the NBC compound in Burbank. (photo via Twitter) The strike began last Monday night when Biggest Loser crew members, joined by IATSE representatives, walked off the set of the show. The walkout was endorsed yesterday by AFL-CIO. Striking crew members have been picketing in front of the Biggest Loser Ranch in Calabasas where the reality series is filmed.
The crowd on the picket line at The Biggest Loser ranch is expected to be significantly larger tomorrow after the LA County AFL-CIO affiliate today endorsed the IATSE-led strike by the reality series’ crew and vowed to send picketers from some of the 350 unions and more than 800,000 unions it represents. There won’t be much to picket though as Biggest Loser is not scheduled to be filming on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the show’s AFTRA-represented talent, trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper and host Alison Sweeney are yet to cross the picket line despite having no-strike clauses in their contracts. What’s more, the three are auctioning off a training session (Michaels/Harper) and a lunch date (Sweeney) on Ebay to support the relief fund established for the striking crew.
As you know, Deadline TV Editor Nellie Andreeva has been keeping you up-to-date on every development of this breaking labor story. (‘Biggest Loser’ Production To Resume On Monday With Replacements) Now here’s my opinion: NBC needs to put an immediate stop to this disgusting situation before someone gets hurt. Shame on the broadcast network for embracing a show that’s now bringing in scab workers on Monday to replace striking IATSE members. NBC can and should put its foot down after 10 seasons of airing The Biggest Loser and use its influence with Shine Group’s Reveille Productions and 25/7 Productions, and JD Roth’s and Todd Nelson’s Eyeworks-owned 3 Ball Productions, to stop the confrontation. And I’m calling on NBC Universal Television Group President/COO Jeff Gaspin to get personally involved. I’m also calling on Shine’s Elizabeth Murdoch to consider her prominence in the entertainment biz and do the right thing. Read More »