Reprinted from The San Francisco Chronicle by Beatrice Verhoeven on April 26, 2017.
The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and nonfiction TV writers-producers testified on workers’ rights on Tuesday at a public hearing, describing labor on reality television as “high-status sweatshops.”
“This is how the gig economy works, a system of high-status sweatshops,” said Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, in submitted testimony. “Perhaps worst of all, there is plenty of money in this industry to solve the problems of long hours, low pay, and scant benefits. The television networks that distribute these shows make enormous amounts of money from advertising and from fees they negotiate with cable companies. Unfortunately, audiences and elected officials are simply unaware of the awful working conditions and therefore the TV networks have felt no pressure to make changes.”
Peterson added, “The pressure to deliver the shows on-time and on-budget to the TV networks makes it extremely difficult even to think about taking sick days, or to put in for overtime, or to complain about unsafe working conditions. The freelance, gig-to-gig nature of employment also scares APs into keeping their heads down and their mouths shut; after all, if you get a reputation as someone who stands up for your basic rights, you simply won’t get hired for the next gig.” …