In a major organizing victory, the WGA East has won an NLRB-sanctioned election to unionize Leftfield Entertainment, the largest reality TV company on the East Coast whose shows include Pawn Stars, The Real Housewives Of New Jersey, Monster In-Laws and Counting Cars.
The union still has to negotiate a contract with Leftfield, however, and that may prove difficult, as the company shot back today that the guild’s organizing campaign was based on “lies” and “unrealistic promises.”
The vote to unionize the writer-producers at Leftfield carried by a 2-to-1 margin – 121 in favor to 67 against. “It’s time for production companies like Leftfield to recognize that unionization is here to stay in nonfiction TV,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “Writer-producers know how important collective bargaining is to improving their working conditions and to building sustainable careers.”
The victory is the biggest to date for the guild in the reality TV field, where the WGA East also represents writer-producers at Original Media, Sharp Entertainment, Lion TV, ITV-owned Kirkstall Road Enterprises, Optomen Prods., and Jane Street Entertainment.
A statement issued by Leftfield and its subsidiary, Loud TV, stated that “We are disappointed with the results of the vote, and the process, with the WGAE both lying and making unrealistic promises in an election environment that is beyond flawed. In its determination to win an election at Leftfield and Loud, the WGAE chose a voting pool that included production coordinators and casting – but not one writer – while implying to young voters that by joining the WGAE they could quickly become writers. Nearly 70% of the voting pool was made up of people who do not work here, and some of whom worked at Leftfield and/or Loud TV for as little as 2-3 weeks, whose vote counted as much as people who have worked here for five years plus.”
The statement went on to say that “As the WGAE membership and dues have steadily declined over the last decade, it now seems focused on leeching itself onto an industry it knows nothing about and did not help create. The WGAE rallying cry of health care, vacation days, sick days and other benefits rang hollow at Leftfield, where these have been provided for years; therefore, the Guild had to reposition this election as being a ‘movement.’ Yet, since they’ve never revealed what they’ve actually won from any of the three companies they’ve signed contracts with, it’s hard to imagine what the WGAE is planning to deliver against their promises. At this point, the reality is the WGAE simply will take any warm body that will pay dues.”
In response, the guild said that “Despite Leftfield’s vitriol, the men and women who create the shows for the company have spoken eloquently: collective-bargaining is the way forward.”