The noon-time action featured chants such as “Fashion Police, you’re under arrest” and “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? Now.”
A trio of the strikers — Todd Masterson, Bryan Cook and Jackie Beat — spoke to the crowd and disclosed details of not being paid overtime or having to work for free. Beat thanked host Joan Rivers for helping him raise funds for a recent hip replacement procedure, but noted that his “begfest” would have not been necessary had he been covered by a WGA contract.
Cook admitted that it may be difficult to understand the complaints of the writers. “Its not like were working in a coal mine,” he told the crowd. “You can’t get black lung from writing jokes, but rest assured — E! will try to find a way”.
The stoppage started April 17 after writers filed complaints with the state of California alleging that E! and Rivers’ Rugby Prods., which jointly employ the scribes, had not paid $1.5 million in wages and overtime. The WGA, which assisted in the filing of the claims, is sanctioning the strike and has told the 12,000 members not to work on the show until the matter is settled.
In response, E! issued a statement earlier in the week brushing off the rally and indicating that it will not grant the writers union recognition without an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. It also said striking is unnecessary for the writers to gain a union contract; that E! will negotiate with the guild if the writers elect them as their representative; requiring an election administered by the NLRB is a “fair and important” part of the process; and that E! is not anti-WGA and has other WGA shows (“The Soup” and “Chelsea Lately”) that participated in NLRB elections.
WGA West VP Howard Rodman, who also spoke at the rally, said that the requirement of an NLRB election is a stalling tactic. “It’s a slow-walking tactic that’s designed to delay this until the show is off the air,” he added.
The rally was the largest organized by the WGA West since the 2007-08 strike, which saw hundreds of similar events during the 100-day work stoppage in 2007-08. The “Fashion Police” event featured picket signs, the signature red shirts and former WGA West president Patric Verrone — the key public voice of the guild during the strike.