'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled
Producers and crew members of the reality TV series “The Biggest Loser” have settled a labor dispute, ending a high-profile strike that disrupted production of the NBC reality series.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reached an agreement this weekend with production companies Reveille, 3Ball and 25/7 to end a nearly two-week strike, said two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about the settlement.
The parties subsequently released a statement confirming the development. "The agreement is a positive step forward for the crew of the 'Biggest Loser,' especially in the area of health benefits,'' said Mike Miller, vice president of the IA. "We are pleased to see them go back to work."
Lee Rierson, managing director and head of business operations for Reveille said the sides had reached a "fair agreement" while "managing to avoid significant disruption to the production, and are happy to see our entire crew working together again."
About 50 crew members unanimously approved the agreement Monday morning. Under the deal, the crew members on the show will be eligible to count their work hours toward their health insurance benefits, which had been a primary goal of the union. Starting next summer, IATSE members must work 400 hours every six months in order to secure or retain their health insurance coverage. The current minimum is 300 hours.
Crew members walked off the job Nov. 8, saying producers had refused to have their work represented under an IATSE contract. The Directors Guild of America and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists already had contracts covering their workers on the show.
Production of the series resumed last week when producers recruited replacement workers, but it was disrupted by pickets organized by IATSE at the Calabasas ranch studio where "The Biggest Loser" is produced. Trainers on the show refused to cross picket lines and, with the host, pledged to auction themselves on EBay to raise money for the strikers.
The breakthrough occurred this weekend after marathon talks between producers and Matt Loeb, the head of IATSE. The union represents about 35,000 technical and crafts workers employed in the film and TV industry.
-- Richard Verrier
For the record: this post was updated at 3:30 p.m. to include a statement from IATSE.
Photo: Striking "Biggest Loser" production workers picket the NBC reality show's set at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas on Nov. 15. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times