For over a year, the Writers Guild of America East has been working to unionize those considered the "sweatshop workers" of the television writing profession -- the writers and producers of scripted reality television shows. On the East Coast, many of the best known shows are produced by a handful of British companies, including industry giant ITV Studios.
Last Friday morning, more than two dozen Writers Guild members and their counterparts from affiliate Guilds in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, Canada, France, India, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa protested outside of ITV Studios' New York Headquarters to deliver a simple message -- Give your American writers the same rights as you afford your British writers, who are unionized.
Remarkably, ITV is fighting efforts by American writers to unionize and be represented by the Writers Guild of America East. The company would rather waste precious time and money to deprive American writers and producers of the same rights as their UK counterparts.
In December 2010 the National Labor Relations Board conducted an election in which ITV employees voted for the WGAE as their representative, a vote ITV refuses to honor. Last week the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds passed a resolution calling upon ITV Studios and its U.S. subsidiary to honor the results of the election and to and recognize the WGAE and to negotiate in good faith.
As I said at Friday's protest, "We are here today for a simple reason. And that is to demand that ITV give its employees in New York the same rights enjoyed by its employees in Britain. ITV has tried legal maneuver after legal maneuver to avoid bargaining with the WGAE; all of those maneuvers have failed. The time for legal games is over. Come to table and start negotiating."
And while the top brass at ITV Studios continue to stick their heads in the sand on this issue, I am heartened by the immediate and unequivocal support we have received from our Guild colleagues from across the globe, who were town last week for an international conference.
These writers and their representatives instantly recognized the injustice being perpetrated and despite a long week of meetings (and nights) they added their fervor to our protest line Friday morning.
Amidst the marching, handing out flyers to ITV employees and executives, the international guild members began chiming in with Union chants in their native languages, teaching us how it's done in their countries. It was a morning of true global solidarity.
We look forward to when ITV Studios and the other scripted reality production companies heed the wishes of their employees and come to the negotiating table. To learn more about our on-going campaign to unionize scripted reality television writers, go to: http://nonfictionunited.org/.