Lion TV staffers vote to unionize

WGA East welcomes non-fiction writers, producers

The Writers Guild of America East has unionized about 100 writers, producers and researchers who work on non-fiction programming for Lion Television, pending certification by the Natl. Labor Relations Board.

The guild, which made the announcement Wednesday, said the shows include “Cash Cab” for Discovery Network, “Megadrive” for MTV and “History Detectives” and “America Revealed” for PBS.

The WGA East narrowly won the vote, 23-22, in an election conducted by the Natl. Labor Relations Board. It said the company had waged “a long aggressive anti-union campaign.”

The WGA East recently has won NLRB elections held at two other non-fiction TV production companies — Atlas Media (“Biography,” “Dr. G: Medical Examiner,” “American Eats”) and ITV Studios (“The First 48” and “Four Weddings”). (Daily Variety, Jan 10).

WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson said he hopes that Lion will begin negotiations for a contract “as soon as possible.”

WGA East president Michael Winship noted that the guild has long represented non-fiction writers at PBS, a Lion client.

“As a writer for public television myself I know how valuable Guild membership has been for my colleagues and me,” he added. “Among other great personal and professional benefits, it can be the difference between having health insurance and pension contributions or being out there entirely on your own.”

The WGA East reps about 100 writers and producers at Atlas and ITV — the first non-fiction basic cable shows under its jurisdiction. The WGA East representation drive took place over the past year, mostly targeting shows produced in New York City, with a focus on the issues of scribes working unpaid overtime and without employer-provided health-care benefits.

The WGA East noted Thursday that the NLRB has not yet certified the election and that there are several vote challenges from both sides.

“As part of its anti-union strategy, LionTV has been manipulating the voter list for several months and is now challenging some votes for reasons such as unreadable signatures,” the WGA East said. “This tactic is a delaying tactic and one that is also meant to disenfranchise unit members.”

The WGA East also said it challenged votes from allegedly ineligible voters put on the list by Lion TV.

“These people include interns, supervisors, and people working offsite and not part of the bargaining unit,” the WGA East said. “While we are challenging these votes, we do not

believe our challenges will change the outcome of the election – that Lion TV writers and producers have voted to join the WGAE.”

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