Some good news for writers on the labor front today: two lawsuits against several studios and networks over unpaid overtime and other practices that allegedly violated California labor laws has been settled in favor of the writers, who will collectively receive over $4 million in compensation. All of these writers worked on reality programming that the AMPTP companies insist don't have writers or writing-like jobs and so refuse to cede jurisdiction for reality to the WGA. The Writers Guild has been fighting for reality organization for a couple of years now and has had little success to show for its efforts. In fact, this settlement doesn't solve that problem at all. WGA spokesperson Jeff Hermanson pointed out that these writers do "not receive overtime and meal breaks, they don't have health insurance or pensions, credits or residuals."
This settlement addresses previous instances of behavior covered by the first two issues -- but is not guaranteed to stop it from happening in the future -- but the rest is still up in the air.
This lawsuit really only addressed past working conditions that were illegal in California and were common place on these shows, and probably on a majority of reality shows including the big ones. On a related note, another lawsuit over age discrimination that was settled for roughly the same amount of money has gone final. Here's the WGA press release on that matter:
Final Approval Granted of ICM/Broder Settlement
On January 6. 2009, the Los Angeles Superior Court granted final approval to a Consent Decree resolving age discrimination claims brought against defendants International Creative Management, Inc., ("ICM") and Broder Kurland Webb Agency, Inc., ("BKW"). The Consent Decree represents a full and final settlement of the law suits against these two defendants. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, Defendants ICM and BKW ("Defendants") have paid the sum of Four and One-Half Million Dollars ($4,500,000.00) into a settlement fund.
Approximately 500 WGA members have filed claims seeking payment from the settlement fund. The Guild is working closely with the plainitffs' counsel to supply the information necessary to review and substantiate the individual claims. Additional information, including the final Consent Decree, may be viewed or downloaded from the litigation website, http://www.writerscase.com/index.php?page=icm