Saturday, November 20, 2010

IATSE Strike Heats Up Outside 'Biggest Loser' Set

Production crew members picket outside of King Gillette Ranch early Monday as the program's producers and replacement workers arrive on set.

Striking crew members of the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser" continued their protest outside of the program's Calabasas set early Monday, demanding the right to join a union, receive fair wages and benefits.

100 percent of the crew signed cards asking forInternational Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) representation, but the producers refused to negotiate. The crew - union and non-union alike - walked out and went on a fully-sanctioned IATSE strike. But rather than do the right thing and come to an agreement, the producers are trying to recruit scab crews through a staffing website called

The crew walked off the set last week after producers denied them the right to sign a contract with a union so the hours they accrue would count toward health benefits and pensions.

"All we are asking for is a contract that gives us health benefits and a pension," said Paul Breakfield, who works in the show's art department. "Most of us have worked for the show for years."

Vanessa Holtgrewe, the show's director of photography, who is a union member, was protesting for her coworkers.

"We have had a fair amount of replacement crew come in, but not a ton and also some blacked out vehicles with probably some of the talent go in," she said. "The show had to get a replacement crew for wardrobe, grip electric, art, camera and makeup those are the people standing out here today."

Holtgrewe said that she is really hopeful that both parties can sit down and talk and that it would mean a lot to the crew if that were to happen.

Bill Essling, a key grip on the show, said there have not been any negotiations since last Tuesday.

"We are hoping that NBC can get on the horn and turn this thing around for us," he said. "If this show would turn and I was able to provide health care for my family, I would retire here."

IATSE Local 600 National President, Steven Poster, ASC said; "Last Monday at 4am, IATSE came out strong with a picket line to block that replacement crew. Despite the producers moving to a pre-dawn call time to avoid that line, more than 120 union members turned out in the dark to block the scabs."

President Poster continued; " TV crews, radio and reporters from all the major papers were there as well, and when the producers and about a half-dozen of the replacement crew turned up, we let them know in no uncertain terms that crossing a picket line hurts every professional in this industry. Media are reporting that one of the stars of the show, Jillian Michaels, is saying she won't cross the line. We thank her for that support. The producers are still holding out, but this IATSE picket line will continue - which means we need the support of every Local 600 member. If you have time, join the picket line even if it's only for a few hours. Our strength is in our numbers and we need to keep the pressure on and support these striking workers."

Support the striking workers of The Biggest Loser and keep the pressure on!

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