Writer-producers for Original Media vote to join union

‘Swamp People’
Glenn and Mitchell Guist from “Swamp People” on the History Channel.
(Zach Dilgard / History Channel)

The writer-producers behind such reality TV shows as “Storm Chasers,” “Ink Master” and “Swamp People” have voted to unionize.

The Writers Guild of America East on Friday said that a majority of writer-producers at New York-based reality TV production company Original Media voted overwhelmingly to join the guild in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was 42 to 9, the guild said.

The vote is part of a campaign by the union to organize writers in the fast-growing reality TV sector and pressure producers to offer the kind of benefits and working conditions that writers receive on scripted television shows. The guild has alleged that writers working on such shows put in long hours without extra pay and are denied insurance and other benefits enjoyed by their peers.

“The men and women who work so hard to create nonfiction [reality] TV shows have demonstrated that they want WGAE representation to help them improve their working conditions and to build sustainable careers,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America East, said in a statement. “We look forward to sitting down with the company and negotiating a contract that will provide health benefits, paid time off, minimum compensation levels, and other basic union protections.”


A spokesperson for Original Media was not immediately available for comment.

The Writers Guild has negotiated collective bargaining agreements with three nonfiction television production companies -- Optomen Productions, Lion TV and Sharp Entertainment -- and has been negotiating with a fourth company, ITV. The union also has been in a standoff with Peacock Productions, affiliated with NBC Universal.

The union recently commissioned a report showing that New York City’s reality TV sector grew 20% over the last 10 years and accounts for 12,000 jobs.

In June, the New York City Council held a hearing that looked into conditions in the growing industry. 



Get our daily Envelope newsletter