New Organizing in Nonfiction
The top priority for the Nonfiction Campaign is new organizing at more production companies—especially those companies that work on programming for streaming platforms like Netflix.
Unlike many other sectors of the entertainment industry—such as feature films and scripted television—there isn’t a national contract for the producers, APs, and other titles that make nonfiction television. Since each production company is unique, there is no one size fits all contract in nonfiction—but each contract still counts as a major contribution toward a unionized nonfiction industry.
This means that, once we win union recognition for workers at a specific production company, we bargain a union contract with that company. A nonfiction union contract addresses both company-specific demands, like better wages and hours, as well as industry-wide ones like portable healthcare.
Every contract we negotiate is based on the demands of the workers at the shop itself, as well as the demands and issues of the nonfiction campaign as whole.
The Film and TV production industry in the US is largely unionized, and we’re fighting for the nonfiction TV industry to follow suit.
To do this, we must first fight for initial union contracts at individual production companies. This is a difficult but vital step: winning union contracts is the cornerstone of our power.
Second, we want to make demands on the networks and streaming services more broadly in order to secure larger contracts that include portable health care and other priorities, such as fair minimums, safety standards, and creative and legal protections.
By organizing new shops, we will develop the strength we need in order to set – and raise – standards across the entire industry.
Supporting Nonfiction Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In early Summer 2020, we delivered our petition demanding economic relief to the networks and streaming services which was reported in the LA Times. We will continue to push the networks to provide economic relief. We are also working alongside production companies to help them push networks to do more—and do better—on behalf of their employees. We already have some ideas of which production companies may be sympathetic to such efforts, but we encourage you to get in touch if you would like to be part of this organizing.
When it comes to returning to work, safety standards will be the next big challenge for nonfiction organizing. As a union, this means that we’ll work to set and enforce safety standards.
Portable Healthcare (the Flex Plan)
Portable Health Care is one such standard, and is another one of the WGA East Nonfiction Campaign’s top organizing priorities. Many Guild Nonfiction shops participate in a portable health care plan known as the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan. Our goal is to win portable health care at all nonfiction TV companies, so that a change of employment does not mean a change of coverage.
Under the Flex Plan, anyone working at a union shop—including people who are currently opting out of insurance—would receive a employer contribution for health care which could be used by the employee in a variety of ways.
The contribution could be used to purchase primary insurance through the Flex Plan; to purchase supplemental (e.g., dental, vision, disability) insurance if you already have primary insurance; or it could be used to pay for other eligible expenses, such as a spouse’s group plan.
The Flex spending plan is a truly portable healthcare plan designed for the entertainment industry. This means that it would allow nonfiction employees to keep their insurance without interruption as they move from one union employer to another.
The more production companies that sign on to the Flex spending plan, the more useful the portable benefit becomes.
What’s the relationship between organizing individual shops and organizing the nonfiction industry?
As a union, we can use our collective bargaining rights and power to propose and push for the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan in contract negotiations. This represents an industry-wide push for portable health benefits. Nonfiction workers could move from employer to employer with no interruption in health benefits.