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Producers of 'Biggest Loser' plan to bring in replacement workers this week, show's DP says [update]

[UPDATE: IATSE said Sunday the union and its various production locals planned to stage a large rally on Monday at the King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas where "The Bigest Loser" is produced to "face-strike breakers crossing their picket line."]


The labor dispute between crew members and producers involved in reality TV series "The Biggest Loser" could get ugly.

The producers plan to bring in replacement workers to resume production of the NBC series next week, according to the show's director of photography.

"The companies that produce Biggest Loser have decided to replace everyone with scabs and try and limp along as a non-union production," Vanessa Holtgrewe, director of photography for "The Biggest Loser," wrote in an e-mail circulated to colleagues and obtained by The Times. "These companies, 3Ball and Reveille, who have produced union shows in the past, are willing to fire 50 to 60 people that have worked for them for years."

Representatives of NBC and Reveille have declined to comment on the dispute and were not immediately available to respond to Holtgrewe's statement.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees announced Wednesday it was mounting a strike against the show, saying producers have resisted efforts by the union to secure union benefits for the show's crew members, from makeup artists to grips and camera operators. The crew walked off the job Monday, shutting down production of the popular NBC show.

The union, which this week picketed outside the Calabasas Ranch where the show is produced and outside production offices in Redondo Beach, plans further protests next week.

"Biggest Loser is the last big reality show standing that is not a union show," Holtgrewe continued in her widely circulated e-mail. "Survivor, The Bachelor, American Idol, Project Runway, Top Model...these are all union shows. We've been using union members' expertise, safety knowledge, and skill sets for many seasons, without paying the union for it. And now the check has come due."

Holtgrewe added that she hoped the dispute would end soon. "As the head of the camera department, I feel a responsibility to my crew, and I want us all to return to shooting overweight people sweating, crying, and shedding pounds. I believe in the change that this show can inspire within people, and right now it is very inspiring to me."

-- Richard Verrier



Comments () | Archives (12)

Go Biggest Loser crew! So many of these production companies and networks plead poverty, but I don't see their executives giving up their company Mercedes or their multi-million dollar houses in Malibu. This crew is asking for health benefits--not too much to ask, I say. The problem is not that unions are asking too much, but that management gives too little compensation to deserving, hardworking people.

Well I can tell you right now we are finished watching this program....treat your personnel with care and respect and the show will continue to succeed, pull stunt like this and your program will tank! Disappointed in the whole situation...

All the best crew! You deserve health care just like the fat cats making all the money. This is why unions are needed to fight for basics like health care.

Why am I surprised that a show about helping people get healthy is refusing to provide medical benefits to the people who make it?

1) "Replacement worker." Any other newspaper beside the Los Angeles Times which clings to its now century-old anti-union position would call these people "scabs."

2) There's no reason this show, which exploits its cast as much as it apparently exploits its workers, should be on the air anyway.


The fact is, that the majority of the Biggest Loser crew IS ALREADY UNION - they are working "Off the Card" on Biggest Loser.
They have been pocketing the Non-Union cash for years because the wages and steady work are better than most Union Employment available in town.

But NOW- after the horse has been out of the barn and they've been riding on it through town for years, they want a better saddle?

Here's the facts:
No SCAB UNION member who WILLINGLY crosses a line and works NON-Union for as long as they have can have ANY demands that the production company or show go union.

I AM UNION, and feel this is baloney.
The best way to make a show Union?

Not by working on the show for years, off the card, scabbing and pocketing the above scale pay (albeit without P+H) the whole time. And especially not by crying to your fellow Union members that your double dipping non-Union gig is suddenly cheating you.

Here's what I predict will happen:
BL will go Non-Union to finish the season if possible, and jobs will be cut.
If forced to go Union, they will cut the number of Episodes and the number of jobs eligible for union work. Immediately.

In Short: At least 15 Crew members just lost their jobs - whether or not this show goes Union.

Congrats, IATSE !

If IATSE were a REAL Union, these "Union Members" who have crossed the line and worked for Biggest Loser for years should be labeled and fined like the SCABS they are. Otherwise, where is the incentive to NOT CROSS THE LINE?

I've been around many movie shoots which use union crews. It takes 5 people to plug a light into an electrical extension cord. The majority of the crews just sit around 12 hours a day collecting over-time pay. Let the lazy fools get out and find a job in the real world.

What a bunch of cry-babies.

This is not the right economy for a labor action. There are 10 people waiting in the wings for each job that the Union workers are not willing to perform.

I hope that these Union workers will be able to feed their families while trying to make their point!

Strike breakers are pigs and companies who allow scab workers are the slop they feed from.

Take a few baseball bats to their heads.

["Strike breakers are pigs and companies who allow scab workers are the slop they feed from.

Take a few baseball bats to their heads."]

So this call to violence got approved, eh?

While I support the workers in this case, lets not forget that union activists can and have been murderous. A Union activist murdered the ex-governor of Idaho Frank Steunenberg by planting a bomb at his home. Appeals to violence should be condemned.

The producers have deals with AFTRA and DGA. Are these guilds showing unity with IATSE and not crossing the line or are they only looking out for themselves?

Honestly people, this isn't a Fellini film. It's the most flatly lit, cookie cutter, repetitive show on the air. What skilled union technician is required to make that? Just point your camera at the fat person and when they cry, PUSH IN!! Get over yourselves folks.


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