Leftfield Entertainment, producer of such shows as Pawn Stars, Tiny House Nation and Counting Cars, blasted the Writers Guild of America East for an "unprofessional attempt to garner attention" stemming from a lack of business knowledge, after the union picketed in New York Tuesday at the headquarters of A&E, owner of the History and FYI channels on which Leftfield shows air.
The guild said that Leftfield, which it described as the largest reality/nonfiction production company on the East Coast, had "laid blame squarely on television networks for controlling the economics of making nonfiction shows and for making it necessary to propose poverty-level pay rates for Leftfield's writer-producers."
"Where to begin with the number of falsities in the November 15 press release issued by the WGAE?" fired back Leftfield and Loud TV in a statement to THR. "Starting with the most egregious, the statement claiming that Leftfield and Loud TV have proposed 'poverty-level pay rates' - $11,770 a year for a single person household - is categorically untrue and pure propaganda."
Added the statement, "The WGAE has acknowledged on multiple occasions during the negotiations that Leftfield and Loud pay well above the 'minimums' the Guild has negotiated with other production companies."
"What Leftfield tells us at the bargaining table is that cable network budgets force the company to propose poverty-level pay rates - literally less than $15/hour in many cases," said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson. "This is less than the new minimum wage for fast food workers in New York. In an industry that's earning supersized profits, writer-producers should be able to build sustainable careers and not struggle to make ends meet."
Leftfield said it has "led the charge ensuring lawful and fair compensation, paid time off, health benefits and a safe working environment."
But the guild feels otherwise and wants to know if "A&E, as Leftfield asserts, is the cause of race-to-the-bottom labor conditions, including poverty-level pay proposals."
"Nonfiction production companies often say their hands are tied by their network contracts, which is why we feel it is important that the networks know what we're demanding," said David Van Taylor, a veteran nonfiction writer-producer. "We're not asking for the moon - just for reasonable working conditions and fair pay."
The Guild said it also delivered to A&E a petition signed by nearly 900 nonfiction television writer-producers calling for fair minimum pay rates, safety and scheduling standards, paid time off and healthcare benefits.
According to the guild, Leftfield writer-producers voted nearly 2-1 in October 2015 to unionize. The producer complained that in an email to its members earlier this month, the WGAE has also claimed that Leftfield/Loud TV are at a stalemate in their negotiations and added, "that is 100% . … We expect the WGAE to continue to meet its lawful obligations to negotiate in good faith with Leftfield and Loud TV."
A&E declined to comment.