Not “As Seen on TV”: Long Hours, Few Benefits for TV Writers
“The reality of freelance employment in nonfiction TV is that even creative professionals face grueling hours, no job security, no benefits, and no certainty about compensation,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America East. “Writers and producers in this industry find that, joining with the WGAE, it’s possible to change those conditions, but there is a lot of work to be done.”
In addition to Peterson, the panel – moderated by American Rights at Work and Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta – featured Lee Ellenberg, a writer for The Late Show with David Letterman.
Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, opened the event and detailed legislative efforts to protect contingent workers outlined in the Rebuild America Act (S.2252).
“As a member of three unions myself, I understand that all workers need to be fairly compensated for their hard work,” said Sen. Franken. “Unfortunately, today, too many professional television writers are forced into a system that does not always protect their interests in the workplace. I’m fighting alongside the Writers Guild to change that and ensure that these writers are rewarded properly for their work.”
Contingent workers are those not employed in traditional, full-time jobs that are expected to last. This term also covers workers who are subcontracted, employed by temp agencies, or work as independent contractors. While widely accepted as a standard business practice to enable flexibility in hiring, employers are increasingly exploiting workers through this business model by lowering labor standards and exposing more workers to poor job conditions.
“Job creation without economic security is a false promise. Without decent legal protections for this growing community of workers, exploitation abounds,” said Gupta. “Until lawmakers are able to modernize federal labor laws, employers will continue to abuse the contingent labor model and lower job standards to the detriment of us all.”