IATSE 'Model' leaves WGA in the cold

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A new Teamsters pact and advanced talks with IATSE have execs boasting that production on "America's Next Top Model" is almost fully unionized, effectively freezing out the WGA for now from organizing efforts on the CW reality show.

"We're close to making an agreement with IATSE on certain positions," CW spokesman Paul McGuire said. "(So) almost the entire production is going to be unionized."

The IATSE negotiations would be for work at the heart of the WGA's organizing efforts, which involve 12 so-called storytellers on the show. Those employees walked off the production in July in an effort to join the WGA, with exec producer Ken Mok insisting the matter be referred to the National Labor Relations Board.

The strikers claim that they recently sought unsuccessfully to return to work on the show, and an NLRB decision is awaited on a related WGA charge that the storytellers' jobs were eliminated illegally. But IATSE, which already represents several editors on the show, argued in a separate labor hearing that the work once done by the striking employees comes under its existing jurisdiction (HR 11/8).

On Thursday, the CW announced an agreement covering about a half dozen or more drivers and location managers on "Top Model." Local 388 business agent Steve Dayan had suggested this week that the Teamsters would mount a job action against the show if Mok resisted its organizing efforts.

"We appreciate the professional manner and spirit of cooperation Local 399 demonstrated in working out this agreement," Mok said. "These employees play an integral role in the weekly production of our show, and we appreciate the contribution."

Said Dayan: "We're also very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement, and we thank (Mok's production company) Anisa for their professionalism in making an amicable deal. We hope to reach additional agreements covering other reality television series in the future."

Terms of the Teamsters' collective bargaining agreement weren't disclosed.

"Top Model" is the highest-rated program on the fledgling CW network. The show is hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks, whose Bankable Prods. is a co-producer.

The storyteller jobs involved in the WGA-IATSE tug of war are sometimes also referred to as writer-producer slots. Although "Top Model" is unscripted, such employees sort through reams of film and video to create story lines for the show.

The striking employees said they believe they qualify as WGA writers, but IATSE contends the work is essentially an editing function.
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