Biggest Loser strike ends; crew unionizes, host and trainers supported crew with auctions

The Biggest Loser strike is over, after producers and the union representing crew members came to an agreement two weeks after the crew walked out and production shut down. Among those who didn’t work were host Alison Sweeney and trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, who not only refused to cross picket lines but actually raised money for striking workers.

IATSE announced it had reached a tentative agreement [PDF] to end the strike. Its VP, Mike Miller, said in a statement, “This agreement is a positive step forward for the crew of ‘The Biggest Loser,’ especially in the area of health benefits. We are pleased to see them go back to
work.” Production company Reveille’s Lee Rierson said, “We have reached a fair agreement with the IA while managing to avoid significant disruption to the production, and are happy to see our entire crew working together again.”

That agreement says that “crew members on the show will be eligible to count their work hours toward their health insurance benefits, which had been a primary goal of the union,” according to the Los Angeles Times.” Starting next summer, IATSE members must work 400 hours every six months in order to secure or retain their health insurance coverage. The current minimum is 300 hours.”

Deadline reported that producers “had resisted going union with IATSE because of the steep price tag involved, between a half million dollars and $2 million, depending on who you talk to, noting that they paid the crew wages substantially higher than the the union minimum to make up for the lack of benefits.”

Jillian Michaels told me she wouldn’t cross picket lines, and Bob Harper joined her, as did Alison Sweeney–meaning that the show really was crippled, even though it hired scabs to continue production. It’s unclear what was filmed during that time, or how the strike and picketing affected contestants.

The auction listings said the proceeds would go to the strike relief fund, which raised $6,902. A one-hour training session with Jillian was auctioned for $4,100, while the one hour with Bob went for $3,150. Alas, it appears that no one bid on a lunch date with Alison.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.