|Reality TV Workers Demand Fair Pay
Workers from Top Shows Take Legal Action to Collect Unpaid Overtime
LOS ANGELES -- A dozen workers from some of TV's top reality shows, including American Idol, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, and American Inventor, today filed a total of 21 claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), alleging that producers of these shows owe them unpaid overtime that could total over $500,000. The majority of the workers filing had worked for FremantleMedia, the international conglomerate that produces American Idol.
“When I got a job on one of the top shows on TV, I knew the hours were going to be long, but I wasn't ready for the level of exploitation that exists in reality TV,” said Justin Buckles, a former production coordinator who worked on American Idol for three years. “We are asking to be respected as workers, and that the production companies that are making so much money off these shows stop violating our rights and treat us fairly.”
Analysts estimate that American Idol has earned over $200 million in profits for the Fox broadcast network. Despite these huge profits, many of the workers - including writers, production assistants, contestant coordinators, craft services personnel, and office workers - work long hours without receiving overtime or being allowed to take proper breaks.
Next, a meeting between the claimants and the companies will be scheduled by the DLSE to determine if each case will receive an official hearing.
“Hopefully the bravery of these people who have taken a stand today will encourage more reality TV workers to come forward and call attention to practices that the entertainment industry can no longer ignore,” said Paul Nawrocki, Assistant Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, West.
According to Harsh Reality, a study released last fall by the Writers Guild of America, West, reality TV workers report widespread violations of wage and hour laws, including the failure of production companies to pay overtime, provide meal breaks and maintain accurate payroll records. The study found that 88 percent of reality writers work more than 40 hours a week, yet 91% receive no overtime pay. The study also revealed that 73% of respondents work through their meal break at least once a week. Most of the workers polled did not receive any form of health care or pension benefits.
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) represents writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, and new media industries in both entertainment and news. The union conducts numerous programs, seminars, and events throughout the world on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. For more information, please visit: www.wga.org.