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‘Transparent’ on Amazon isn’t tolerant when it comes to unions, musicians say

Jeffrey Tambor, right, and Amy Landecker appear in a scene from "Transparent."

Jeffrey Tambor, right, and Amy Landecker appear in a scene from “Transparent.”

(Beth Dubber / Amazon Studios)

“Transparent,” the critically acclaimed Amazon series about a transgender woman and her extended family, has built a loyal following of viewers on its message of tolerance and acceptance. But musicians in Los Angeles are saying that the show’s inclusive spirit stops short when it comes to their right to unionize.

The American Federation of Musicians’ Local 47 is arguing that while “Transparent’s” actors, writers, directors and crew members receive union wages and other benefits, musicians who work on the hit series are being shut out of a labor contract.

“Musicians are the only workers being treated differently, and we don’t think that’s right,” said Local 47 President John Acosta in a release Wednesday. “We aren’t asking for huge wage increases, or extravagant bonuses. All we want is to be offered a fair contract in line with the industry standard.”

Speaking by phone, Acosta said that the union tried repeatedly to reach the series. “At first they were very open,” he said. But as weeks passed, “the less responsive they became.”

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He said a lawyer representing “Transparent” eventually said that the show wouldn’t recognize the union.

A spokesman for Amazon Studios didn’t immediately provide a statement when reached for comment.

“Transparent” is scored by two composers who create much of the series’ soundtrack electronically, according to the AFM. The union said the composers sometimes hire musicians to supplement the score, and that the series has featured a number of scenes of bands playing in the background.

“They should also be covered,” said Acosta.

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The musicians union said its members recently leafleted outside a desert location shoot in Pearblossom, Calif., calling upon the show’s production company, Picrow, to recognize musicians’ right to a labor contract.

Picrow also works with Amazon on the comedy series “Mozart in the Jungle,” which is set in the classical music world. The AFM said it does have a musicians contract for “Mozart in the Jungle.”

“Transparent” began its second season in December and has been renewed for a third season. The series, which was created by Jill Soloway, focuses on Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a well-to-do family man who has recently come out to her family as transgender. The plot follows Maura’s interactions with her grown children and her ex-wife, Shelly.

Tambor has won several awards for his performance, including a Screen Actors Guild award in January.

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“It is unfortunate that a show that portrays the transgender community in such a welcoming and positive light would simultaneously treat a portion of its professional staff so unfairly,” said Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, a labor group affiliated with the AFL-CIO that focuses on gay and transgender issues, in a statement.

The L.A. chapter of the AFM has frequently voiced its objection to nonunion scoring sessions, including protesting outside Warner Bros. in December. In the past, the union has also protested the scoring of movies overseas by studios and production companies who accept tax breaks in the U.S.

MORE:

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Screen Actors Guild quietly adjusted actors union dues in 2011; drama ensued


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