Writer-Producers at Reality TV Hit Factory Vote to Unionize

Writers at Original Media, which produces “Miami Ink” and “Storm Chasers,” among others, join the WGA

The Writers’ Guild of America’s fight to unionize reality TV writers progressed on Friday, when employees at Original Media voted to join the guild by a 42-9 margin in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board.

Original Media, a subsidiary of Endemol USA, produces shows such as “Miami Ink” and its spinoffs, History Channel’s “Swamp People,” Discovery’s “Storm Chasers” and Spike’s “Ink Master.”

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“The men and women who work so hard to create nonfiction (reality) TV shows have demonstrated that they want WGAE representation to help them improve their working conditions and to build sustainable careers,” WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson said in a statement. “We look forward to sitting down with the company and negotiating a contract that will provide health benefits, paid time off, minimum compensation levels, and other basic union protections.”

The WGA has long worked to bring the writers of reality TV into the union fold, to both help those writers negotiate and give the guild more sway over the industry. In June, the New York City Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee held a public hearing to probe what the WGA called “sweatshop conditions” for freelance workers in the reality TV industry.

In April, the WGA ratified a new three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, solidifying their standing in film and scripted television.

Also read: Writers Guild Negotiators Detail New Contract, Rules on TV ‘Exclusivity’

The new contract calls for compensation increases over three years of 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent, as well as a .5 percent increase (to 8.5 percent) in the pension plan contributions.

Additionally, there will be an increase in residuals for Internet streaming and shorter free window, first-ever minimums for high-budget subscription VOD services like Netflix and Amazon, and a hike from $5,000 to $10,000 on the feature script publication fee.