Tyler Perry Studios, WGA Reach Agreement

Deal covers residuals, other benefits for guild writers

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Tyler Perry Studios reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America on the terms of a contract for writers of television shows House of Payne (Perry and cast, above) and Meet the Browns. (Photo courtesy of TBS)

After more than five months of negotiations over writers’ contracts that included residuals and other benefits, Tyler Perry Studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA)-West announced last week that they had come to an agreement.

“We are pleased to have come to a resolution with the WGA, and thank the NAACP for their support during negotiations,” said Tyler Perry in a statement. “We look forward to many years working with the talented writers who are members of the Guild.”

The contract with the WGA was the last outstanding union agreement for Tyler Perry Studios, which had previously brokered deals with the Teamsters; the IATSE, a professional stagehands union; the Screen Actors Guild (SAG); the Directors Guild of America (DGA); and others. Perry is a member of the DGA.

Ben Jealous, NAACP national president, Vic Bulluck, executive director of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, and Clayola Brown, national president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, were instrumental in settling the terms of the agreement.

“The NAACP is a staunch advocate for workers rights and for nearly one hundred years has fought for greater minority representation and inclusion in Hollywood. We applaud Tyler Perry’s efforts to not only promote, but to also provide work for people of color in the entertainment industry,” Jealous said in a statement.

Despite the accomplishment, some of the writers on Perry’s TBS series House of Payne and Meet the Browns will not be returning. Last October, when Perry welcomed Will Smith, Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, and Ruby Dee, among others, to celebrate with him as he unveiled his film and television studio in Atlanta, the A-listers had to cross a picket line of writers who said they were unfairly fired from Perry’s critically acclaimed sitcom House of Payne. The writers were accompanied by supporters from the Writers Guild of America-West.

Earlier in the year, seven writers entered into negotiations with Tyler Perry Studios about residuals on the soon–to-debut sitcom Meet the Browns. The WGA said in a news release that the writers—Kellie Griffin, Christopher Moore, Teri Brown-Jackson, and Lamont Ferrell—were warned against unionizing and told that they could be “replaced.”

Before the NAACP got involved to find a resolution, the WGA alleged that Tyler Perry’s House of Payne L.L.C. unlawfully fired four writers in retaliation for their union activity, and the union subsequently filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Matt Johnson, who negotiated the deal for Tyler Perry Studios, said in an October statement that the four writers were terminated because of the quality of their work and denied that they were fired for attempting to unionize.

“If that were the case, they would not have allowed us to write over 100 episodes of a sitcom

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  • B. Taylor

    Perry is looking more and more like BET’s Bob Johnson. It’s great that Perry’s employing black people–what’s he going to do, hire white writers for HOP?–but that doesn’t give him license to exploit black people by not paying them what they are worth. Instead, Perry still clings to his chitlin’ circuit theater negotiating style (jus’ be happy you workin’), which will only lead his career in the same direction as Bob Johnson’s: a rich black man who is a pariah in his own community, and whose legacy will be a footnote in black history.

  • vclark

    Perry may be an inspiration for many but I am beginning to wonder if some of the bad press about Perry is true. Other than SAG writers last year, Perry’s new President did background checks on staff and right before the swearing in of Barack Obama, they fired them. Many worked for Perry for years and thought they had gotten a clean start working there. One broke down and cried. No, I don’t think I will buy or tell friends to buy his anything. I don’t however wish him any bad luck. He is just not smelling “holy” to me. It is something about his soul that bothers some.

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