The WGA East is urging the Nonfiction Producers Association to come to the bargaining table this month to hammer out an industrywide contract for writers and producers of TV reality shows. In an open letter to the year-old trade association, the guild said collective bargaining is the only way to ensure fair wages and working conditions for industry workers and to prevent individual companies from overworking and underpaying their employees in order to undercut the competition.
The invitation to meet comes just days after Rick Feldman stepped down as the NPA’s first executive director, having spurned guild leaders’ requests to meet. “We asked them to meet when they formed last year, and they never responded,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “Now that they’re in a transitional period, this would be a good time for them to sit down with us. We know the areas that writer-producers are interested in improving, which are exactly the same areas that the association says it wants to improve. So let’s meet. Let’s talk.”
Here’s the guild’s open letter to the NPA:
Now that the NPA’s executive director has resigned to “travel the world” – in his own words – this might be an opportune time to consider the NPA’s future,” the guild said in its letter. “We read your mission statement, which lists a number of ways in which your member companies’ employees could be treated better – better wages, better benefits, more reasonable hours, paid time off, companies complying with labor laws and wage and hour laws – and we wonder if you recognize that every single company that is a member of the NPA has the power, right now, to pay its employees better, to offer better benefits, to structure more reasonable work schedules, to give paid time off, to comply with the law. So what is the point of the NPA?
Clearly you have concluded that your member companies, acting alone, will not and cannot accomplish these goals. Although all of your member companies have the power to make these improvements, they simply are not doing so because they fear their competitors will try to undercut them. In other words, only collective action can bring real improvements to the men and women who work in the nonfiction television industry.
We actually agree with you on this. We just think it is time to acknowledge that the only effective and lawful form of collective action is that which the employees themselves undertake. NPA members can’t sit in an oak-paneled conference room and hammer out wages and benefits and terms and conditions. Even if these fierce competitors could somehow overcome their immediate self-interest, a unilateral, employer-generated solution would be a clear violation of anti-trust law (you can ask your law firm about this). Instead, negotiating basic minimum terms of employment – decent pay and benefits, reasonable working conditions, due process on the job – can be done best through collective bargaining. That’s what the law says, and it is what common sense says.
It is also what the men and women who write and produce your member companies’ shows say. They have been voting by ever-increasing margins to be represented by the WGAE. We have won every National Labor Relations Board-conducted election we have sought, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with three of your member companies. And we are in negotiations with several others.
As you consider the future of the NPA, as you try to recruit a new Executive Director, why not agree to a meeting with the WGAE? We communicate with your writer-producers – thousands of them – all the time, through meetings and phone calls and surveys and emails. We know what they want, what they deserve. Hear us out. Build a productive relationship with the union that your employees have turned to in their quest to build sustainable careers. Let’s meet this month.”