The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is holding simultaneous protests today outside of NBCUniversal facilities on the east and west coasts to protest the firing of editors on Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset, who went on strike Sept. 10 seeking a union contract.
The union erected giant inflatable rats, frequently used in labor disputes to symbolize union-busting employers, outside of NBCUniversal headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York and outside of the gates to Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif.
“This NBCUniversal network calls itself Bravo, but nobody is applauding,” said Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700). “This fight is no longer a simple dispute about health insurance or other contractual terms. It’s about employees’ fundamental right to organize, free from their employer’s retaliation. That right has been enshrined in federal law for the better part of a century, but Bravo has now demonstrated its thorough contempt for its crew members and those employees’ rights.”
Today’s bicoastal protests come two days after the union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board in response to Bravo Media’s termination of 16 Shahs of Sunset postproduction employees on strike for a union contract.
Shahs of Sunset postproduction and production workers walked off the job on Sept. 10, shutting down work on the fourth season of the successful reality television show to demand health and retirement benefits. On Sept. 26, shortly after preliminary contract negotiations had begun with Ryan Seacrest Productions, the production company announced that the network had intervened and that the employer would therefore “be unable to continue working with the editors that were previously engaged on this production.”
On Sept. 29 the IATSE charged Bravo with illegally retaliating against employees exercising their right to engage in concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Federal law protects employees’ right to organize, including their right to strike.
Due to the work stoppage, Bravo has indefinitely postponed the scheduled Oct. 13 premiere of the show’s fourth season. Heim, whose many editorial credits include the 1976 feature Network, which anticipated the advent of reality television, vowed that Shahs would not complete its season with scab labor. “No self-respecting editor is going to cut this show after this show cut their colleagues,” Heim declared.
The campaign to organize Shahs of Sunset follows several IATSE efforts to organize crews on unscripted television productions in recent years. Most recently, a one-day strike of the editorial crew of CBS‘s Survivor in August resulted in that crew’s winning a union contract with health benefits, pensions and eight-hour workdays.