About 100 members of the WGA West, AFTRA, SAG and Teamsters picketed FremantleMedia outside Tribune Studios in Hollywood on Thursday over the company's alleged refusal to negotiate with the guild for writers working on the game show "Temptation."
Last month, four WGAW writers walked off the show, claiming Fremantle ignored requests by the guild to negotiate a contract, WGAW president Patric Verrone said.
Game show writers are included in Appendix A of the guild's basic agreement with the studios, Verrone said. About half the game shows on TV employ members with a contract, according to the WGAW, including "Jeopardy," "The Singing Bee" and "1 vs. 100."
"Temptation," he said, is on an accelerated schedule to film 170 episodes over an eight-week period.
"We worked 14 to 18 hours a day on 'Temptation' for two months," said guild member Aaron Solomon, head writer for "Temptation" and one of the four who walked. "The fact that Fremantle wouldn't negotiate with the WGAW felt like a slap in the face."
Having a contract would provide health care and other benefits to the writers, including overtime, he said.
But Fremantle general counsel David Shall said that the WGAW's contentions are false.
The WGAW, he said, sent Fremantle's outside counsel, Ivy Kagan Bierman, a letter on Aug. 27 indicating that the writers authorized the guild to collective bargain for them and requested negotiations start as soon as possible.
Shall said that the same day, the WGA sent its four "Temptation" writers a letter indicating it had been in discussions with the game show's producers in the hopes of reaching a collective bargaining agreement, but unfortunately no deal had been reached. The letter, he said, directed the writers to "cease and desist" from working for Fremantle.
"We don't operate under those types of guerilla tactics," Shall said. "It's been one big propaganda campaign after another by the guild since that date. Our outside counsel tried several times via written letter, via phone calls, to reach the guild, and those calls were not returned."
Fremantle has offered to negotiate Oct. 9, which would be a week after production wraps on the game show.
"We are not anti-union," Shall said.
Solomon called that meeting date a stall tactic. If the show does not return for a second season, the issue will be moot.
"All we want to do is work on the show, and we want to write and want the show to succeed," Solomon said, surrounded by supporters wearing red WGA strike T-shirts and carrying signs reading "I AM a Writer," "Resist Temptation" and "Stop the Abuse, Respect Writers."
The picket and rally was similar to a strike last year by 12 writers for "America's Next Top Model," who the WGAW says were fired because they wanted the guild to represent them.
Leslie Simmons writes for The Hollywood Reporter.
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