UPDATE: The WGA announced on Aug. 2 that the "ONN" writers have joined their union. Read more here.
The writers behind the "Onion News Network" show may go on strike if their demands are not met by Monday.
The Onion, Inc -- the parent company which produces both The Onion newspaper and "ONN" -- is in negotiations with the Writers Guild of America-East regarding compensation and benefits for the writing staff of "ONN," the acclaimed television series that airs on IFC, The Comic's Comic reports. The Huffington Post has also obtained emails confirming that The Onion and the WGA have not yet reached an agreement.
Unless a deal is met between The Onion and the WGA, which represents film, television and radio writers, ONN's writers may strike on Monday, Aug. 1, according to an email published on The Comic's Comic.
According to the WGA, "Onion News Network" is currently the only scripted, live-action television show that employs non-union writers. The union has sent pleas to current and former writers and contributors of The Onion's other outposts (such as The Onion print edition and pre-television ONN web series) to pledge support of the current "ONN" writers.
While The Onion, Inc. is a nationally recognized brand known for cutting-edge humor since the late 1980s, each of its properties (namely its famous print edition, its TV shows "ONN" and the canceled "Onion SportsDome" as well as its sister arts and entertainment publication, The A.V. Club) are autonomous units with little personnel crossover. With such stark lines drawn between The Onion's sections, it is not altogether unusual for the WGA to seek support from The Onion's writers who do not work for "ONN."
This is not the first time The Onion, Inc. has come under fire for its company benefits. Last month, the paper's Philadelphia city editor Emily Guendelsberger was the victim of a random attack, and according to The Philadelphia Daily News, her job did not provide health insurance to cover the hospital bills. A statement from the company seemed to indicate that she was not covered.
(It should be noted that The Onion's national features editor, Joe Garden, auctioned off original joke books in order to help cover Guendelsberger's medical costs.)
The WGA's plea to The Onion's writers to support unionizing "ONN" writers is reprinted below. We will update as the story develops.
As you may already know, for the past several weeks the staff writers at the Onion News Network for IFC have been working to form a union in order to receive the same wages and benefits that all other professional comedy writers working in TV already receive. Together with the Writers Guild of America, the writers asked Onion to negotiate a contract with them that would provide these benefits. So far, this has not happened.
Now their colleagues are coming forward to support them. So far 23 current and former staff writers and headline contributors for the Onion Newspaper, web site and television projects have already begun voicing support for their colleagues by adding their names to the statement below. Now we are asking you. This strong statement of support will demonstrate to the the Onion that the outstanding professional writers they have come to rely on to deliver such a high quality product stand together in their belief that they should be treated as just that - professional writers. Adding your name will also strengthen the position of your colleagues that have already signed and will go a long way in boosting morale among those currently organizing for a Guild contract at ONN. Please respond to add your name. And of course, if you have questions or concerns please feel free to be in touch by email or phone. The statement is below. Thank you in advance for your support.
Onion Writers Past and Present Support the Writers of ONN
Over the years we the undersigned have worked at the Onion in various capacities. We’ve produced content for the newspaper, for television shows and the website and are proud to have contributed to the excellent comedy writing that is a signature of the Onion brand. Currently the writers for the Onion News Network show on IFC are working to get a Guild contract that would provide fair compensation, benefits and a set term of employment. We believe that a fair contract for ONN writers will contribute to the quality of that show – not detract from it. Many of us are already WGA members and all of us support our colleagues effort to build a union at ONN.