Writer-producers at the Leftfield Entertainment-owned Leftfield Pictures and Loud TV have voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE).
According to a release issued by WGAE, out of 189 ballots cast, 121 people voted for the guild to be their collective bargaining representatives at Leftfield Pictures and Loud TV. The New York-based shops produce such programs as Pawn Stars and Tiny House Nation, respectively. ITV acquired parent company Leftfield Entertainment in May of 2014.
The union, which first started organizing in nonfiction TV in 2010, also represents writer-producers at Original Media, Sharp Entertainment, ITV-owned Kirkstall Road Enterprises, Optomen Productions, Lion TV and Jane Street Entertainment.
“It’s time for production companies like Leftfield to recognize that unionization is here to stay in nonfiction TV,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGAE, in a statement. “Writer-producers know how important collective bargaining is to improving their working conditions and to building sustainable careers.”
In response to the vote, Leftfield Pictures and Loud TV issued a statement stating the companies were “disappointed” with the results of the vote and the voting process.
“In its determination to win an election at Leftfield and Loud, the WGAE chose a voting pool that included production coordinators and casting – but not one writer – while implying to young voters that by joining the WGAE they could quickly become writers,” reads the statement. “Nearly 70% of the voting pool was made up of people who do not work here, and some of whom worked at Leftfield and/or Loud TV for as little as two to three weeks, whose vote counted as much as people who have worked here for five years plus.”
The statement continues: “As the WGAE membership and dues have steadily declined over the last decade, it now seems focused on leeching itself onto an industry it knows nothing about and did not help create. The WGAE rallying cry of health care, vacation days, sick days and other benefits rang hollow at Leftfield, where these have been provided for years; therefore, the Guild had to re-position this election as being a ‘movement.’ Yet, since they’ve never revealed what they’ve actually won from any of the three companies they’ve signed contracts with, it’s hard to imagine what the WGAE is planning to deliver against their promises. At this point, the reality is the WGAE simply will take any warm body that will pay dues.”
Reacting to the comment from Leftfield, WGAE issued a second statement, calling for the company to respect employees’ vote to unionize under the guild.
“This was a NLRB-stipulated election where Leftfield agreed that all of the voters who participated were eligible to cast a ballot and to be represented by the WGAE,” it reads. “The company’s statement is an example of its failed strategy of hyperbole and vitriol. Now, it is time to move forward. We expect Leftfield to respect its employees’ overwhelming vote for WGAE representation.”
UPDATE: WGAE has confirmed to realscreen that the vote to unionize only applies to Leftfield Pictures of New York, LLC and Loud Television, LLC, rather than all subsidiaries of Leftfield Entertainment. This article has been amended accordingly.