UPDATE, 5:56 PM: Original Prods in a statement this afternoon has countered claims that the company was stingy when it came to benefits and worker safety on the show. “Original Productions has always offered competitive wages and excellent working conditions,” it read. “It is the reason Original Productions attracts the kind of talent that has been successfully developed into award-winning crafts people with impeccable industry reputations. Additionally, Original Productions follows a strict Injury/Illness Prevention Program policy for all of its productions with healthy and safe working conditions as a priority for all production crews.”
The statement said neither IATSE or the Teamsters have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for certification and that for now “it is the company’s position that it is not obligated to recognize these two unions as bargaining representatives.”
PREVIOUS, 1:01 PM: About 100 people turned up outside the Burbank compound of 1000 Ways To Die producer Original Productions on a chilly Monday morning. Sympathizers including reps from WGA West as well as SAG and AFTRA joined the picket line, which got underway at 8:30 AM, chanting their call for a union contract for the Spike TV show. Today’s action comes after Original fired two-dozen workers after they voted to seek union representation; production has been stopped for more than a week, and Friday the unions called for a strike. “This is a successful television series and this company refuses to work with unions,” Steve Dayan, an organizer at Teamsters Local 399, told Deadline in front of the well-barricaded Original facility. “This company is non-union for all the unions — non-SAG, non-AFTRA, non-Teamster, non-DGA. These guys have a successful television series and they’re not willing to pay their crew their benefits.”
Dayan added that Spike should step in to pressure Original to give benefits as attempts to negotiate with the production company — which also produces reality shows Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch for Discovery — have gone unanswered. “Spike TV has a lot of other stuff that’s shot union and have pulled off good shows that work union,” said Peter Marley, international representative at IATSE. “I’d like them to ask these guys to do the same thing.”
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Original claims unions never made attempts to meet with the company prior to the picket line announcement. “IATSE and Teamsters have not filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for certification, nor have they demonstrated a majority of the crew signed cards,” said Original. “At this time, it is the company’s position that it is not obligated to recognize these two unions as bargaining representatives.” It went on to add its own version of events, saying IATSE and Teamsters union representatives approached crew members asking them to sign union cards and walk off the job, which some did. The company claims that some workers were confused by what they were doing and asked to return to work and Original has welcomed them back.
WGAW president Christopher Keyser joined picketers today and said companies succeed when benefits are offered to their workers. But he feared that Original’s refusal to negotiate is an all-too-pervasive trend across the U.S. “I know how hard people work and the time they dedicate on these shows,” he said. “Asking for [health and a pension] should be the bare minimum. The industry is successful when there is a stable workforce. There is a strain of this move in the wrong direction in the country right now and that concerns me. There’s no reason we should be turning against each other.”