Lowell Peterson, exec director of the Writers Guild of America East, has been tapped to testify before the New York City Council on allegations of unpaid overtime and illegal working conditions in reality TV shows.
The council has scheduled the hearing for June 25.
The WGA East alleged in November that writers and producers on TV’s reality shows were losing $40 million annually in unpaid overtime, based on a survey of WGA East members. The union singled out History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” A&E’s “The First 48,” Discovery’s “Fatal Encounters” and National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” as violators.
At that point, the union called for government officials to investigate, adding, “Companies that choose to break the law and mistreat their employees should not gain unfair competitive advantage.”
The survey, sent to 1,266 nonfiction TV writers and producers, generated a 25% response rate with 315 completing the survey. The survey found that 84% of respondents work more than 40 hours a week almost every week; 60% work more than 8 hours a day, every day; 85% never receive overtime pay; and over 50% said that they have had to work 80 hours or more in a week.
The WGA East announced Monday that the National Labor Relations Board has set a unionization election for writer-producers employed by Original Media on such shows as “Ink Master” and “BBQ Pitmasters.”
The WGA East has been attempting to unionize writer-producers in nonfiction television since 2009. The guild reached three-year master contract agreements with Lion Television and Optomen Prods. in 2012 and successfully unionized about 150 writer-producers at Sharp Entertainment (“Doomsday Preppers”) in February.