February 19, 2009 / 4:30 AM / 10 years ago

Hollywood writers' union pickets "American Idol"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A year after the Writers Guild of America ended a major strike, members of the WGA West had picket signs out in Los Angeles. Their target? The biggest show on television: Fox’s “American Idol.”

By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, at least 150 red-shirted guild members were marching and chanting in front of CBS Television’s offices on Beverly Boulevard to protest working conditions in the reality and game-show sectors.

Carrying signs reading, “‘Idol’ gives back ... but not to its workers” and chanting, “Simon, Simon, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side!” the writers and their supporters were trying to pressure FremantleMedia North America, “Idol’s” producer, to provide its writers and other workers with standard industry health care and pension benefits.

“We’ve got men and women writing reality and game shows for a lot of very successful companies and not getting the basic protections — pension, health insurance, credits and things — that writers in this town routinely get,” WGAW president Patric Verrone said. “We’re hoping we can achieve that with Fremantle.”

The guild recently signed a contract with the Fremantle game show “Match Game.” But Fremantle claims that the guild’s ongoing allegations are without merit because the company does not have writers on all of its shows.

Wednesday’s action took place outside this season’s first live “Idol” broadcast. As a four-piece band of Professional Musicians Local 47 members played from the back of a flatbed truck, reality TV writers, WGA members, Teamsters Local 399 and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice showed support for the cause.

WGAW vice president David N. Weiss, guild member Wendy Calhoun, Rabbi Alison Abrams and Local 399 member Steve Dayan spoke at the rally.

The event followed similar protests outside “Idol” auditions last year during the WGA’s five-city American Idol Truth Tour.

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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