Terence Long/WGA – Writers picket Tyler Perry Studios, October 4, 2008
Super-successful independent producer and now studio owner, Tyler Perry, has reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America-West to allow his writers to work under a WGA contract. The settlement was reached with the aid of the NAACP-Hollywood Bureau and was announced on the WGA-West website Wednesday, November 26.
It was a hard fought, bitter battle, which cost a handful of writers on the Perry produced TV shows, “House of Payne” their jobs. Frequently, some of the brave souls who lead a just fight for labor or civil rights end up sacrificing greatly for the benefit of the majority.
The battle over unionizing the writers at Tyler Perry Studios began several months ago. In a news release dated October 2, the WGA declared it had filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging four writers had been fired from their jobs on “House of Payne” because of their union activities. The four writers are Kellie Griffin, Christopher Moore, Teri Brown-Jackson and Lamont Ferrell. Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily website has been following the dispute and it says a fifth writer quit in solidarity with the four fired scribes.
“I feel like I was slapped in the face, like we were used,” said writer and Member Teri Brown-Jackson in that October 2 press release. “We were good enough to create over a hundred episodes, but now when it comes to reaping the benefits of the show being syndicated and having other spin-offs from it, he decides to let us go unless we accept a horrible offer.”
A lot of folks are struggling in this bad economy, but Tyler Perry is not one of them. Last month, Perry opened his own movie and TV studios in Atlanta with a major star-studded bash. Recently, Perry signed a new three-year first look movie distribution deal with Lionsgate. Forbes magazine estimates Perry banked $125 million last year alone.
So it’s truly a sad shame Perry has refused to share his success and wealth with some writers who help him prosper. I don’t think this sends a positive message to the black community he’s allegedly trying to uplift and inspire.