The Writers Guild has just issued a press release announcing that they're assisting twelve reality-TV writers in a lawsuit alleging that the networks and production companies underpaid them and are violating California labor laws:
Twelve reality-TV writers, assisted by the Writers Guild of America, west, filed a class-action suit in the Superior Court of California today charging eight television networks and production companies with gross violations of California's labor laws governing payment of overtime, wages, and meal periods.
"These violations of California law are no mere accounting errors," said WGAw president Daniel Petrie Jr. "They are deliberately designed to deny these writers the basic rights and legal protections of fair wages, overtime, and a meal break. Unfortunately, those cases are not unique. It is but one example of the pervasive conditions we have found in reality television productions–and it underscores why so many reality writers and editors have come to the Writers Guild seeking union representation."
The writers who brought the suit worked on such reality shows as The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Are You Hot?, The Two Timer, The Will, The Starlet, and The Real Gilligan's Island. They were given such various job titles as Assistant Story Editor, Story Assistant, Story Editor, Story Producer, Segment Producer, Supervising Story Producer, Producer, and Senior Producer.
In a nice multimedia flourish (who says the Guild is ignoring the internet?), the WGA has also posted sample paystubs that demonstrate the difference between what the non-union reality writers were paid for their 84 hour work week, and what they should've been paid* under California law (i.e., much more). But really, whatever writer put the words "Shut up and let me look at you" into Lorenzo Lamas' mouth on Are You Hot? is owed riches far beyond what even a strict interpretation of labor laws could possibly allow.
[*As anyone who's ever drawn a paycheck from a studio or network knows, this stuff can get mind-meltingly complicated.]
- Reality Writers Sue Major Networks [WGA.org]