"You're Going to Hollywood! Hope You Don't Like Health Care!" The First Picket On American Idol

Today a group of picketers showed their support for the writers of American Idol by hoisting their picket signs and passing leaflets out to people entering and exiting the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, where the reality show was holding their narrow-down-the-ones-who-made-it-to-Hollywood auditions.

Yes, indeed, reality shows have writers. And, those writers are not granted WGA union contracts by the AMPTP. Unfortunately, this means they are not protected and, as revealed in a new study commissioned by the WGAw, "overwhelmingly work long hours without receiving overtime pay, health insurance, and other benefits..."

Not fair you say? We agree. And, so does the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), whom:

recently ruled that a reality TV story producer was improperly classified as an exempt employee and should have been paid overtime, the results of the [new] study “indicate that the total overtime liability for employers could reach almost $100 million..."

Unfortunately, corporations like Fremantle Media (the producers of American Idol), find any loophole they can to get out of fair pay and health insurance for their employees.

To write, or call Fremantle to let them know you are a viewer and would like to see them change their policies, contact them at:

FremantleMedia Ltd
1 Stephen Street

T +44 (0)20 7691 6000

You can also visit their website to see a list of their programs and properties.


Rick Schmee said...


I think it'd be hard for people to deny that this year was one of, if not the greatest year for movies ever. This being the sheer amount of great films that came out this year to the point where little more than 2 weeks could go by without a great film coming out this year. The summer schedule was probably the strongest ever for a year in my opinion.

That being said, I don't think the studios want to end this strike anytime soon simply because of that fact. A massive amount of the great films this year didn't necessarily make a lot in theaters, but they were critically accepted. That in turns pushes forward DVD and new media traffic.

The studios don't want to negotiate immediately, because they don't want to give away a piece of the most potentially lucrative summer in movie history. They'll wait until all the summer movies have made it to DVD and especially until after the Christmas season to protect this gold mine that is about to erupt. Once that money is shoveled in by them, they'll politely sit down with the WGA and say, alright we're ready to share...on everything after this.

taggie2b said...

person above me, please at least be creative enough to reword your post instead of just cutting and pasting. That being said, How do issues of jurisdiction like this usually get solved? It seems clear to me that people involved in reality shows need some sort of union protection, so I hope the AMPTP is forced to allow the writers to join the WGA. I'm not exactly sure what should be done to protect the contestants, but I think the companies should be more liable when people are put in dangerous situations, even if they did sign up for it.l

toriaweber said...

I am confused. I always thought it was the WGA that didn't allow reality show writers into the union.

Is it actually the AMPTP that won't allow them to be covered by a union?

Can someone explain how this works?

VDOVault said...

I love this idea UH

Check out your follow on post at wga_supporters



Justin said...

Considering that the reality tv shows are breaking the law when it comes to wage and hour regulation, it sounds like more of their employees will have to come forward with claims.

Beyond that, WGA protection should be extended.

Rach said...

Producers don't WANT unionized workers. It's way better for them. They get to treat them like slaves. They don't have to hire WGA unionized workers for reality tv, so they often search out writers who aren't in the WGA.

Without a union, the writers have no bargaining power and have to cater to high demands at low pay. THis probably affects their work, because when you are paid little and working a lot of unpaid overtime, your work is bound to get sloppy. Which is probably why reality tv is in the state it is currently in.

I was under the impression the WGA wanted reality tv writers to be unionized.

Anonymous said...

FORCE MAJUER. I told you guys. Seriously, learn already. I know what I’m talking about. You keep picketing while the producers get the letters ready. Some writers are going to lose shows before this is done.

Anonymous said...

I am a reality writer who isn't in the WGA and I would LOOOOVE to be in the union because what is reported is very very true.

I have worked in reality for 7 years and can count on my fingers how many jobs I had that I didnt work 60+ hours a week.

My personal opinion is if the WGA had kept us at the top of the list in the bargaining agreement than we would have gone on strike with the WGA as well, thus hurting the networks even more with no one to do reality for them.

Unfortunately we fell far far down the ladder (I think we arent even mentioned anymore) and so we have no choice but to work even with the same crappy slave working conditions.

Ideefixe said...

Reality is cheap to produce or cheaper than scripted, because of non-union contracts, but the DGA was able to get reality companies to sign. But the WGA really screwed up the effort to organize at ANTM, and plenty of writers (read the comments at Artful Writer) think reality workers are lower than low.

I know a number of Guild members who work on reality shows, because that's where the jobs are. All those HGTV/Food Network/DIY etc. and Discovery/TLC/Travel shows are pretty much non-union.

But why picket at Idol? I don't see how this helps the cause.

shanna said...


Picketing at Idol is significant because it is the show that FOX and other companies have pointed to as the show that will sink the writer's strike because it will continue to have high ratings and make money for the network.

I think it's great that they are acknowledging the writers of reality television and I agree if the WGA had really rallied and supported the reality writers (prompting them to support the WGA strike) it would have made an even bigger impact.

tlperl said...

Yes, the Guild didn't get what they or anyone wanted out of the Top Model strike. Yes, we should be disappointed and angry -- but nothing in the history of the labor movement in this country has come without a struggle or without significant personal cost.

My personal opinion, as a longtime Guild member and non-fiction basic cable writer, is that the story producers should stop whining about what the Guild (basically an all-volunteer organization) did or didn't do for them or to them. Stop holding on to this ridiculous grudge! We're trying to get you fair wages and health insurance!

Reality jurisdiction IS still on the table, but now the WGA is being criticized cause it's not on the "top of the list"! Grow up, people! If you showed some kind of support, and got your asses on the picket lines instead of whining about what the Guild has or hasn't done for you, believe me, you'd be seeing some action. The membership is willing to stand up for you on this issue, why won't you do the same for them?

BTW, may I mention that the story producer that recently won the back wage claim had lawyers that were paid for by the WGA, even though he wasn't a member.

There's a reality rally next Friday. The WGA strikers will be there. So show up and tell them you want to be covered.