'Fashion Police' Protest: Writers Chant 'Joan Rivers, Can We Talk?'

12:05 PM PST 05/23/2013 by Jonathan Handel
Jessica Chou

Writers Guild members are rallying to support striking writers on the E! talk show

About 150 protesters gathered outside E! headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard Thursday at 11:30 to support striking writers on the network's talk show Fashion Police.The hour-long rally was boisterous and featured speeches by about half a dozen writers from the show and elsewhere.

Chanting "Joan Rivers, can we talk?" and "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!” the protestors are asking for both increased wages and benefits. The rally was organized by the WGA.

Writers on Fashion Police have been on strike since April 17 seeking a WGA contract, with the support of both the WGA East and WGA West. They’ve also filed claims for a total of about $1.5 million in unpaid wages and overtime with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement against E! and against Rivers' production company, Rugby Productions. The show is hosted by Rivers, Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne and George Kotsiopoulos.

E! has maintained that the network will negotiate only if a National Labor Relations Board election occurs first. An E! rep told THR earlier this week: “Thursday’s stunt does not move us any closer to a resolution. We again ask the Fashion Police writers to reconsider striking over something as democratic as an election, which is a fair and important part of the process prior to collective bargaining.”

At the protest, striking Fashion Police writer Bryan Cook told THR:  "We're not on strike for an election; we're on strike for a contract." WGA West VP Howard Rodman called the company’s position a stalling tactic that would provide it with the opportunity to file a host of delaying motions with the National Labor Relations Board and in the courts.

That’s an argument the WGA has made before, and it’s vigorously disputed by E!. On the contrary, an E! statement yesterday said that an election “could accelerate bringing everyone to the negotiating table.”

In a letter to the Fashion Police writers last week, E! President Suzanne Kolb said that Rivers’ company does not produce the show or set the compensation of its writers. “I want to make it clear that E! is not anti-WGA,” she added. “We have other WGA shows, and we will negotiate with the guild should you formally elect them as your representative.”

The letter also said that Rivers “emphatically support(s) the writers.” However, Todd Masterson, one of the show’s writers, told THR that a meeting with Rivers had gone badly. “We wanted to get a contract, we wanted to talk about it and when we approached Joan and the producers and stuff, we were completely shot down. Just completely shot down. It was at a meeting one day, and Joan just blew up, and there was cussing and throwing things and -- it was bad.”

Writer Katherine Fugate told the crowd, “This is not about the Fashion Police writers getting more than any other writer. This is about them getting the same as any other writer.”

A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson told THR “We support our sister union in their attempt to achieve a fair contract on this production.” The DGA and IATSE had no comment. The show is not covered by the DGA.

Listen to Fashion Police writer and drag queen Jackie Beat address the protesters. 

Austin Siegemund-Broka contributed reporting to this article.

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