NY television workers and producers lobby for better wages

Posted at 6:25 AM, Jun 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-25 05:18:56-04

NEW YORK (PIX11)– They are used to covering the drama, but now they are the drama.

Seventy-nine shows are shot in New York and thousands of workers who create viewers’ favorite shows, like the Real Housewives of New York and series on National Geographic and History Channel, say they are not getting paid.

The NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment issued permits for 79 reality TV projects that employs about 130,000 workers.

Big networks such as the History Channel, Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel hire production companies to produce these reality series are accused of mistreating their workers.

The companies use freelancers to work within their budget. They are making money but allegedly not sharing the wealth.

Workers say they get no health benefits, no paid sick time or paid vacation time and earn between $850 and $1,000 for 75-hour weeks.

TV shows set in New York City will be the subject of a City Council hearing later Wednesday, overseen by Labor Committee Chair Daneek Miller (D-Queens).

Ultimately, he says, Miller is hoping that they can come up with industry codes that address this alleged problem.

The Writers Guild of America East, which is seeking to unionize the freelance workers, surveyed about 1,200 producers and writers working on reality TV sets and found that they were losing, on average, $30,000 in unpaid overtime and benefits.

The best protection is a union contract, but at a minimum, the city shining light on these production practices might persuade some of the companies and networks to consider a code of conduct.