Reality TV company Atlas Media has withdrawn recognition from the Writers Guild of America as the bargaining agent for producers on its shows, triggering an unfair labor practices filing by the WGA.
Atlas said it moved to withdraw recognition following a petition by the covered employees. The guild fired back with accusations of union-busting, asserting that Atlas has been intimidating workers.
Atlas Media exec VP-general manager Jeanne McHale-Waite said in a statement: “Based on the petition presented to us, it is crystal clear that the vast majority of Atlas Media producers, associate producers and coordinating producers want the freedom to bargain directly with Atlas Media when it comes to terms and conditions of employment.”
The WGA unionized Atlas Media producers two years ago and began negotiations last year with Atlas, which produces shows including “Hotel Impossible” for Travel Channel.
“Atlas Media has been negotiating in good faith with the union for a collective bargaining agreement for the last 18 months — but no agreement had been reached, and no contract was signed,” the company said.
Justin Molito, the WGA’s organizing director, said in response, “Atlas Media Corp. is operating as if labor law does not exist in NYC. They have repeatedly violated laws, including misclassifying employees as independent contractors and neglecting to pay overtime. Now, they are continuing this pattern of lawbreaking by coercing and intimidating employees in order to try and bust their union.”
Molito said the company has proposed limited subsidies for a health benefit plan that “falls far below what creative professionals deserve.”
Atlas Media brushed off the unfair labor practice charge, filed with region two of the National Labor Relations Board.
“Atlas Media is confident that this administrative charge, which contains no specific factual allegations, is entirely without merit,” the company said.
Atlas was organized as part of a WGA East organizing drive dating back to 2010. That effort targeted 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 reached three-year master contract agreements in July with Lion Television and Optomen Prods. after more than a year of negotiations with the reality TV companies.