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'Biggest Loser' crew members go on strike

Seeking union representation on the hit NBC reality show, members of the production crew walked out Monday night. Producers and NBC decline to comment.

November 11, 2010|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

In a dispute over union representation, crew members on the hit reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" have gone on strike.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents more than 110,000 workers in the entertainment industry, confirmed Wednesday that it was leading a strike against the show after crew members sought to join the union.

"This is a top-rated prime-time television show, and the crew remains unified," IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said in a statement. "The strike is the result of a unanimous decision by members of the production crew that they get a contract similar to others covering these types of productions, and we are resolute in getting it for them."

Representatives of Reveille Productions, 25/7 Productions and 3Ball Productions, which produce "The Biggest Loser," declined to comment. A spokeswoman for NBC also declined to comment.

The dispute erupted Monday night when crew members walked off the set of the show, which is filmed on a ranch in Calabasas.

The union said in a statement that the strike follows a "vote by 100% of the production crew members to support the IA," but declined to specify how many workers were involved.

IATSE said the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Directors Guild of America already have agreements with the production.

The demand that the workers be recognized as union members was rebuffed by the show's producers, who were surprised by the walk-off, said a person familiar with the dispute but not authorized to comment on it.

The standoff halted production Tuesday and no filming was scheduled for Wednesday. It is not clear when it will resume, although representatives on both sides were attempting to resolve the dispute.

The strike marks the latest effort by IATSE and other Hollywood unions to represent and bring union benefits to workers in the burgeoning reality-TV sector, which has become a big moneymaker for networks. In 2006, the Writers Guild of America, West waged a strike against the producers of the reality-TV show "America's Next Top Model."

Now in its 10th season, "The Biggest Loser" is a mainstay of NBC's lineup. The show challenges and encourages overweight contestants to shed pounds in a safe manner through comprehensive diet and exercise as they compete for a grand prize of $250,000. The show has become a worldwide hit, appearing in more than 90 countries and produced in 25 countries.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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