An internal IATSE memo circulated late last night suggesting that NBC’s Biggest Loser producers may have moved up the call time, originally scheduled for 5 AM, so that their replacement workers would avoid facing IATSE picketers. “Do we have them on the run?” the memo said. “Don’t let their scheming work. Let’s get their [there] and inform the brothers and sisters that are crossing the line that there is a better way to get work. Let’s give them the chance to show their dedication to keeping our industry one of responsible professionals. Call Time for Biggest Loser is now 4:00 AM. Please Please Please, meet us on the line at: King Gillette Ranch.” Strikers did indeed gather at 4 AM and have been picketing ever since in Calabasas where filming of the long-running reality series was scheduled to resume today with replacement workers in for striking crew members. IATSE called the strike following a walkout by crew members a week ago. Here is an early photo from the picket lines which CBS 2 reporter Suraya Fadel posted via Twitter.
IATSE says the strike followed a 100% vote by the Biggest Loser crew to support IA, but other insiders say that a little less than half of the reality series’ 100 crew members walked out on last Monday night and have been striking. (About 40 crew members on the show are IATSE members.) According to CBS2’s report from the picket line this morning, all 100 Biggest Losers crew members are picketing. The labor action recently picked up an endorsement by AFTRA. (The Biggest Loser has deals with AFTRA for its talent and DGA for its directing teams.) In addition to disrupting Season 11, which is now filming, the strike also threatens the upcoming live finale of Season 10, which employs many IATSE members. IATSE has tried to organize the show at least on one previous occasion, during Season 4 when Biggest Loser went DGA.
Insiders say this strike came without a warning by the union and may be a part of an effort by IATSE to unionize all major independent reality producers. The action on Biggest Loser came after the show’s co-producer Reveille approached the union about signing a deal for its upcoming CBS reality competition series Live to Dance starring Paula Abdul. “The two sides were in the middle of that conversation when IATSE decided to hit The Biggest Loser,” a source said. The union stopped the negotiations and asked to do a deal that covers every show Reveille ever does as the only way to get reasonable rates, insiders say. Word is other major reality companies have been approached about similar deals too.