The writers for Joan Rivers on her E! series, Fashion Police, went on strike today.

With the support of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the writers already had filed complaints over the past month against both E! and Rugby Productions, the production company run by Rivers, claiming they were owed more than $1.5 million in back wages.

“This is very simple,” said Fashion Police writer Ned Rice. “We have earned the right to be a Guild show, we deserve to be a Guild show, and we want to be a Guild show. The ball is clearly in E! and Rugby’s court right now and we’re ready to go back to work on Fashion Police just as soon as they sign a WGA contract.”

Fashion Police is one of the network’s top-rated shows. Its writers are an integral part of that success,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser and WGAE President Michael Winship in a joint statement. “To deny them the basic guarantees that are the right of all writers is not only unjust, it is also a counterproductive business practice. All WGA members are now prohibited from working on Fashion Police. This order will remain in effect until E! and Rugby do what is right.”

Fashion Police writer Jackie Beat posted this video on Facebook early Wednesday morning.

In short:

The writers claim that their show, Fashion Police, broke the law by not paying them as hourly employees for overtime past eight hours in a day and 40 hours per week. California’s DLSE (Division of Labor Standards Enforcement) already will hold hearings on the complaint.

Today’s strike action aims to resolve it.

Writer Eliza Skinner asked her friends — as well as fellow TV writers — to support her and the WGA on this matter. Here’s what Skinner wrote on Tumblr today regarding the E! Fashion Police strike:

I just went on strike from my job writing for a highly rated cable TV show. That might mean the brilliant comedians I know here online or in real life will be asked to come in and replace the striking workers. There are tons of people that are so funny, and I’d LOVE to have you write on our show – I’ve even recommended some of you for the job in the past. And who knows – they might ask you to do it. 

But while we strike you really shouldn’t work my job. Really really really.

DO NOT SCAB FOR FASHION POLICE.

Here is why:

1) Cable pay rates are F’d. The more shows that stand up and fight, the better the situation is going to get for everyone. If companies think they can get away with it (and they have) they will keep doing it. If you work the jobs when we’re on strike the company has no reason to fix the situation. We’re fighting not just for our jobs, but for future writers too. That is you, future writer.

2) It’s not worth it. The whole point is we get paid shit. If you are good enough to work the job now, you’ll be good enough in a month. By that time, the pay rate for the exact same job could be 6 times as much. If you don’t wait, it might never get there. This is a high turnover job – people burn out or get other gigs. Hold off and you’ll still get it, just under better circumstances.

3) Working Rule 8. If working rule 8 is invoked, no WGA writers are allowed to work on a show. If you are not in the guild but hope to someday be, you should want to stand by them. They can and do ban people from ever joining for crossing a picket line.

4) Writers hire & writers remember. In most of the jobs I’ve gotten I’ve been recommended by other writers and hired by showrunners (people who used to just be writers). It’s in your best interest to create a reputation for standing WITH writers, and for being part of the team. 

5) This is a union town. The few times I’ve been hired by non-writers, I’ve been hired by producers – who have their own union. Standing up for a union gains you respect from everyone. Even if you are someone who is distrustful of the inside organization of a union, the group of people that they represent are worth standing up for. Comcast is currently embroilled in fights with all kinds of unions – from the WGA to Communications workers. Don’t help them out.

Solidarity. 

The WGA emailed its membership today with a letter echoing those sentiments.

Please support the Fashion Police writers and spread the word to non-members who might be approached to write for the show. If the stand-up and comedy-variety writing communities support this strike, the show cannot go on, at least with its current format and quality.   Strongly encourage non-members to respect the strike and support these writers, who are taking a stand against substandard wages and conditions.  Any non-Guild writer who chooses to undercut this strike by taking a striker’s job could jeopardize future Writers Guild membership.
The Fashion Police writers are united, strong, and determined. We stand with them.