November/December 2014

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10 CINEMONTAGE / NOV-DEC 14 GET TING ORGANIZED working in reality TV could come to expect the same benefits and safeguards long taken for granted by those crafting scripted fare. As a group, they overwhelmingly decided to take action to make Shahs — a fourth- season docu-soap produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions for Bravo — a union show. On September 10, after Ryan Seacrest Productions failed to respond promptly to a letter requesting contract negotiations, the post crewmembers halted their work on the show. They were joined later that day by members of the show's production crew. With post and production both shut down and much work remaining to be done on the show before its scheduled October 13 premiere, the crew appeared to be in a strong position to attain a timely deal. At first, weather seemed to present the only unusually difficult factor in the Shahs strike. A mid- September heat wave drove up temperatures for our picketers outside of Ryan Seacrest Productions' offices on LA's Wilshire Boulevard. Folks were scorched and sweaty as they walked the picket line, but spirits remained high. The executives may have been indoors enjoying air conditioning, but they had no show without the crew. The sun's glare notwithstanding, we were the ones turning up the heat. As the strike neared the end of its second day, Bravo made a move signaling that this would prove an unusual ordeal. The network announced it would indefinitely postpone the season premiere — a declaration that revealed its willingness to incur significant losses in advertising sales in order to remove the pressure of a looming airdate. Viewed in the limited context of just a single show, Bravo's move made little sense. The cost of returning the crew to work under a union contract with health and retirement benefits was relatively trivial, while the cost of scuttling a scheduled premiere date was considerable. But just as the striking crew was motivated by big-picture considerations, so too were Bravo and its corporate parents taking into account larger trends within the industry. This particular domino mattered less to the companies than all those that might fall after it. So began a difficult struggle that would stretch on for an entire month. Though our union remained confident that our resolve would ultimately prove greater than the employer's recalcitrance, the outcome of the fight was never certain. We braved many dark days under the brazen LA sun. Local 700 offers modest strike relief benefits for folks who miss multiple paydays during organizing campaigns, but crew members still made huge sacrifices in terms of lost wages. For many strikers, increasing doubt over what the future held for them proved as painful as the interruption of their paychecks. Would their strike succeed? Would Bravo cancel Shahs? Would scabs replace them to finish the season? The longer the strike dragged on with no substantive negotiations, the more anxieties mounted. On September 25, the employer illegally declared that the strikers no longer had jobs to which they could return. Then the battle for Shahs became a war over employees' fundamental right to stand up and stand together to demand better of their employers. "If Bravo or Ryan Seacrest thinks that their problems go away because they announce that our editors have been fired, they're sorely mistaken," declared Editors Guild President Alan Heim, ACE. "This is no longer just a fight about whether this crew gets health and retirement benefits; it's an unabashed attack on the right to organize. We will fight back and we will win. No self-respecting editors are going to cut this show after this show cut their colleagues." Had our adversaries thought they could wear us down with their intractability, they miscalculated. Over the span of 30 days, hundreds of picketers walked more than 3,000 miles collectively. We carried the fight from Miracle Mile to Rockefeller Center, where scores of New York union members and allies rallied outside the corporate headquarters of Bravo and NBCUniversal. Hundreds more converged on Universal Studios to make clear that the entire company would be held accountable for its subsidiary's attack upon employees' basic rights under the law. With each day's delay, the community rallying to the support of our strikers only grew angrier and more committed. Facing a barrage of bad publicity, skewering on social media, pending charges before the National Labor Relations Board, pressure on the network's advertisers, promises of escalation and, ultimately, CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7 CONTINUED ON PAGE 73 Editors Guild President Alan Heim, ACE, addresses at- tendees of a rally in support of the striking Shahs of Sunset crew held in South Weddington Park, across the street from Universal Studios. Photo by Sara Terry

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