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Unions

Crew Members on Spike TV's 1,000 Ways to Die Fired for Trying to Unionize

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Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 2:52 PM

click to enlarge One of the 1,000 Ways to Die. - SPIKE TV
  • Spike TV
  • One of the 1,000 Ways to Die.
Former employees and union groups have set up a picket line outside the Burbank headquarters of Original Productions, the company behind the shows 'Deadliest Catch,' 'Ice Road Truckers,' and 'Storage Wars.'

The picket comes after the production company dismissed the entire crew of the show '1,000 Ways to Die' for attempting to unionize last Thursday, Feb. 23.

'1,000 Ways to Die' is a scripted show broadcast on Spike TV that stages reenactments of particularly macabre deaths. One recent episode, for example, featured a storyline in which a sculptor attempts to have sex with his marble creation, becomes stuck and dies trying to extricate himself.

About 30 members of the show's crew were fired for signing union cards with the collective bargaining group International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Marcella Brennan, art department coordinator for '1,000 Ways to Die,' signed a union card on Wednesday, Feb. 22. She and other crew members who signed cards were fired the next day.

"I called them and I said, 'Hey guys, I signed one of those,' and they said 'Oh, OK, well you should go grab all your stuff right now--cause you're fired," she explains from the picket line.

Brennan joined the crew in November at the start of the show's fourth season. She was paid a flat rate of $900 per week, during which time she says she would regularly put in 80 to 90 hours of work.

Jonathan Hanrahan, transportation captain on the show, has worked in non-union shows for over seven years. He is hopeful the production company will agree to meet with union leaders. "There really isn't a descent future in non-union film work," he says.

Pressure may be increasing on Original Productions--yesterday, Variety reported that Spike TV had prematurely stopped production on the show amidst the picketing.

Crew members say when they were fired there were still five episodes left to shoot in order to fulfill the season for Spike TV. David Schwartz, representative for Spike TV, would only confirm that shooting had indeed wrapped and the network had not yet made a decision on whether or not to renew the show for a fifth run.

Representatives for Original Productions, who could not be reached for comment, released a statement earlier this week asserting that the company offers "competitive wages and excellent working conditions," and suggesting that unions approached crew members and asked them to walk off the job.

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