More than 100 writer-producers picketed A&E Network’s offices in Manhattan this morning to protest “poverty-level pay rates” in the still largely non-union reality TV industry.
The WGA East says that in its ongoing negotiations for a first-ever contract with Leftfield Entertainment, the company blamed the networks for controlling the economics of reality TV, and that it’s networks like A&E that are responsible for poor wages and working conditions — even though they’re not the employers.
A&E owns several cable channels such as History and FYI that air Leftfield’s shows such as Pawn Stars, Counting Cars and Tiny House. So the guild put up an information picket at A&E, saying that “writer-producers are demanding to know if A&E, as Leftfield asserts, is the cause of race-to-the-bottom labor conditions, including poverty-level pay proposals.”
“What Leftfield tells us at the bargaining table is that cable network budgets force the company to propose poverty-level pay rates — literally less than $15/hour in many cases,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “This is less than the new minimum wage for fast food workers in New York. In an industry that’s earning supersized profits, writer-producers should be able to build sustainable careers and not struggle to make ends meet.”
“We’re not asking for the moon — just for reasonable working conditions and fair pay,” said David Van Horn, a veteran reality show writer-producer. “Nonfiction production companies often say their hands are tied by their network contracts, which is why we feel it is important that the networks know what we’re demanding.”