BSTV Entertainment Workers Unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East
NEW YORK, NY (March 20, 2023) – An overwhelming majority of writer-producers at BSTV Entertainment, the ten-time Emmy nominated nonfiction production company behind the Food Network series “The Kitchen” and “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” signed cards to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) for the purpose of collective bargaining. The Union has called on management to voluntarily recognize the union.
Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “Guild representation and a union contract are the best way to lift working standards for BSTV’s creative professionals, who want to build sustainable careers in a tough industry. We are excited to welcome BSTV to our growing list of nonfiction TV shops.”
The 19-member bargaining unit today delivered management a “Why We’re Organizing” letter that reads:
We are the dedicated, creative, and passionate workers who create the highly-rated, compelling, and entertaining programming for BSTV Entertainment. Today, we proudly announce that we have formed a union, BSTV Workers United, with the Writers Guild of America, East.
The workers at BSTV are among the best in the food and lifestyle entertainment industry. Our collective experience and labor have produced The Kitchen, one of the highest-rated, longest-running, and most-profitable shows on Food Network.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers of BSTV sacrificed and applied all of their creativity and skill to produce and shoot the show fully-remote, with no pause in premieres. Instead of being forced into hiatus, The Kitchen gained record ratings and continued to earn BSTV and the network consistent profits, as it has for the 8 years it has been on the air.
Unfortunately, the workers who produce the show have not shared in the security and profitability of that success. Our pay rates have been cut or frozen. We have lost our health insurance during a global pandemic. We have lost benefits. And due to a drastically reduced schedule, we are now asked to create the same innovative product in a fraction of the time, with fewer staff. Contrary to BSTV’s progressive and feminist public mission, women, specifically women of color, have faced pay and promotion discrimination.
For these reasons, we have decided to come together in a union to demand equitable compensation, security, and respect for the work we do through a fair contract and a seat at the table. The areas that we seek to improve include, but are not limited to, the following:
Fair Pay and an End to Pay Discrimination
In exchange for our highly-skilled labor, we expect pay rates that are fair and competitive with industry standards. Rate minimums and pay transparency are essential in combating pay discrimination. BSTV has used individual salary negotiations to under-compensate our expertise and pit us against one another. As a union, we stand in solidarity with the lowest paid workers, who include women of color, to demand fair rate minimums for all.
Health Care and Fair Compensation
We join other workers in the Writers Guild East in demanding the company participate in a portable health insurance program. As a union, we strongly believe that workers whose labor produces millions in profits should never be left without healthcare. As freelancers, BSTV has asked us to shoulder expenses which are necessary for the company to run like equipment and travel costs. We seek compensation for these costs that we have carried for BSTV.
Better Conditions, Transparency & Respect
We want to stop the seemingly endless compression of our production schedule. Staffing and schedule changes are implemented unilaterally without any communication. The workers at BSTV are the last to know about show developments, and when and if we will be re-hired. Enduring this uncertainty, paired with long furloughs, creates painful financial and mental hardship. All of this needs to change. With better scheduling, transparency, long-term contracts, and communication around network developments, BSTV management can give the same respect and commitment to us that we have given to them.
BSTV brands itself as a company that is progressive, feminist, and supports diversity and giving back. By recognizing BSTV Workers United and agreeing to a fair contract, BSTV can commit to those values and match its mission with its actions. By standing together and advocating for ourselves and our work, we the BSTV Workers fight for a more equitable and sustainable future. A future where all workers in the industry are treated with dignity and respect.
We urge the company to expeditiously recognize our union and begin bargaining for a fair contract.
In addition to the employees at BSTV, the Guild represents writer-producers at nonfiction television production companies Jigsaw Productions, Lion Television, NBC News Service, Sharp Entertainment, VICELAND, and Vox Entertainment.
ABOUT THE WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in film, television, broadcast and streaming news, podcasts, and online media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.