Amid the WGA strike, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon has gone dark. All the late-night shows have because there’s no one willing to write them. Nevertheless, two weeks ago, mere hours before the strike was announced, Fallon pledged support for his whole staff while walking the red carpet. “I wouldn’t have a show if it wasn’t for my writers. I support them all the way,” he told Variety. “I support my whole staff.” It’s the kind of thing that sounds great, but in fact, requires some follow through.
Earlier today, Huffington Post reported Fallon’s non-writing staff has been placed on “unpaid leave of absence,” with an anonymous source claiming it “felt a little like a classic layoff.” On Monday night, staffers received emails from HR, and the next day, they were told this would be their last paid week. “Our final paychecks will come in next week,” the source said.
The Tonight Show did not respond to the A.V. Club’s request for comment.
Sarah Kobos, a photo coordinator at The Tonight Show, was already tweeting about the issue, stating she heard “folks at Late Night With Seth Meyers and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will continue to be paid.“ In an email to the A.V. Club, Kobos said she “stands fully in solidarity with WGA” but noted how unfortunate it is when a company like Comcast continues to disregard the people who make NBC’s entertainment.
“Strikes are supposed to be disruptive!” Kobos said. “A win for them is a win for everyone in this industry. I think we all just had hopes that NBC, an incredibly rich company due in large part to the talent it employs, would do right by us. Instead, they are putting us on what they call an unpaid leave and expecting everyone to just hold tight.”
This has been an issue since the strike’s announcement. After the WGA ordered the strike, non-writing staff at The Tonight Show heard they would not be paid throughout and their health insurance would end in May. Ultimately, after some public pressure, the staff was given three weeks’ pay, with Fallon covering the third week and healthcare through September. However, it seems three weeks was all the support he could offer the whole staff.
“It’s well known this industry already underpays folks,” Kobos said. “It was also a bummer to hear that other late night shows, even at NBC, are continuing to pay their staff thanks to the generosity of their hosts. While I am happy for their workers, it certainly isn’t helping morale that the same isn’t happening here.”