Last year, TV writers Liz Alper and Deirdre Mangan enlisted the help of media consultant Jamarah Hayner to create the #PayUpHollywood survey and town hall to allow entry-level workers at talent agencies and television studios in Hollywood to share their experiences with unfair wages, inadequate health care, and low job security. According to a New York Times story published today, over 100 of the survey’s 1,500 respondents “reported that a boss had thrown something at them, and the majority said they made $50,000 a year or less.” One TV writers’ production assistant said that during off weeks in the show’s production schedule, she filed for unemployment. Many assistants called it “common practice for them to file for unemployment when shows went dark.”
The Times story also revealed that there is no industry standard among various studios when it comes to providing benefits like health care for entry-level workers. According to Andi Royer, who accepted a $14.25-an-hour assistant position on the NBC series Bluff City Law “on the assumption that it would come with benefits similar to what she had received when she was a postproduction assistant on a Warner Bros. show.” The Times writes:
She also assumed that federal law required Universal to offer health coverage within her first 90 days of employment. According to Ms. Royer, the human resources department told her that Universal did not offer health coverage on shows that were in their first seasons, and that employees had to work for the company for one year to become eligible.
The article’s author, Rachel Abrams, also tweeted: “Universal Television – which signs 8-figure deals with top showrunners – told me that it doesn’t offer healthcare to assistants on first-season shows because it can exclude up to 5 percent of employees from its health insurance plan.”
In response to #PayUpHollywood, talent agency Verve announced
that they would be “increasing the pay of mailroom employees and assistants by 25 to 40 percent,” effective January 1. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Verve is the first major Hollywood company to make such a decision in response to #PayUpHollywood.