|Writers at Tyler Perry Studio to Take Strike Action – Will Picket Grand Opening and Ask Invited Guests Not To Attend
LOS ANGELES -- The Writers Guild of America, West is taking on the fight for justice of writers who were fired when they tried to get a union contract with Tyler Perry’s production company, House of Payne, LLC. The Guild today filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that House of Payne unlawfully fired four writers in retaliation for their union activity. The charge also alleges that the company bargained in bad faith with the Guild, which is seeking to negotiate a contract covering the writers on Perry’s cable television series House of Payne and Meet the Browns.
The four writers, Kellie Griffin, Christopher Moore, Teri Brown-Jackson, and Lamont Ferrell, as well as supporters from the Writers Guild and the community, will be picketing during Saturday’s opening of Perry’s new studio and they’re asking invited guests to respect their picket line. Together, these writers have written over one hundred episodes of House of Payne. Since April of this year they have been involved in a union organizing campaign with the Writers Guild of America, West so that their work on that show and the upcoming Meet the Browns would be covered by a Guild contract. Despite the enormous success of House of Payne, Perry has refused to agree to a contract that would give the writers health care, pensions, and residuals. On Tuesday of this week he fired the writers, after warning them some weeks ago that they should “be careful about pushing the WGA deal or you could be replaced.”
“We’re asking all those who had planned to attend the opening of Tyler Perry’s new studio not to cross our picket line,” said writer Christopher Moore. “It’s very disheartening considering that this is a studio run by African Americans. What Tyler Perry is essentially saying to us is that ‘you’re black and there’s not a lot of opportunities for you so you’ll take what I give you’ – whether it’s fair or not.”
“I feel like I was slapped in the face, like we were used” said writer and WGAW member Teri Brown-Jackson. “We were good enough to create over a hundred episodes, but now when it comes to reaping the benefits of the show being syndicated and having other spin-offs from it, he decides to let us go unless we accept a horrible offer.”
“Disrespected, betrayed, saddened…it’s hard to describe,” said writer and WGAW member Lamont Ferrell. “The actors and a majority of the production crew on the show were working under union contracts and they received the pay and benefits that you need to survive on in this business. But after all those episodes and success when it came time for us to get a fair contract, we’re told on a conference call ‘sorry, you’re fired.’”
The show’s head writer, Kellie Griffin, added, “A lot of people who fought for civil rights and social justice never really saw what eventually came out of their work. While I’d like to see something positive come out of this for us, if this fight helps future black writers get what they deserve, that’s a good thing.”
The writers and their supporters will be picketing at the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios on Saturday, October 4, starting at 4 pm, and on Sunday, October 5, starting at 9 am.
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, and new media industries in entertainment and news. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and enforces the contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers and their craft and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international level. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.