As It Happens

NYC workers who save parking spots for film crews sue over poor working conditions

Their job is to save parking spots for big-budget film crews in New York. Now, these 'parking production assistants' are suing, over what they allege are low wages and exploitation.
The afternoon traffic is seen at the intersection of 52nd Street and the Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan on Nov. 04, 2014 in New York. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

It's probably the least glamorous job in the movie industry.

Across New York, so-called "parking production assistants" sit in their cars for days at a time to save spots for film crews. Not only are the conditions grueling, and hours long — workers say they are being illegally underpaid.

Now, more than 100 parking assistants have filed a class action lawsuit against several major studios. Christian Pellot is a worker who shared his experience with As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation.

Parking production assistant Christian Pellot speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, New York. Workers who secure street parking for movie and TV shoots in New York City are suing major studios, saying the studios often underpaid them for a job that involves long hours and trying conditions. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Carol Off: Christian, what's the longest stretch you've had to sit in a car saving a spot for film crews in New York?

Christian Pellot: I'm at each location for at least 24 hours and then after that location I head straight to the next location, to the following location to do the same thing for another 24 hours and so and so on. It just goes on like that the whole week. We're not told we can take a break or go home. We take it upon ourselves sometimes to make a pit stop, risking to lose my job of course, but sometimes I'll stop if I'm close to home. If not, I just have to go straight to the next location.

CO: What do you do if you've got to use the toilet?

CP: Well we try, often we try to use the bathrooms in the nearby business, whatever businesses are around. But of course, most of the businesses won't let us use their bathrooms so we have to use the bathroom in our vehicles. We use buckets to defecate in or if we have to urinate we use bottles. It's just horrible.

CO: And this is how you live for a week at a stretch?

CP: Yes, over 100 hours a week. I usually work about 120 hours a week. One of my co-workers even lost some toes. He had to have his toes amputated because he couldn't afford to idle and run his car all night in the below zero weather. He caught frostbite and had his toes amputated.

We don't have a union where we can go to a union rep and somebody with some sort of power that can speak up for us. We're at the bottom of the pole. No one listens to us. No one cares about us.- Christian Pellot

CO: But surely your employers know that this is inhuman —  it's not possible to live this way or work this way…

CP: Obviously they know but they don't care obviously. We're not considered important I guess, even though I say, we're pretty much the most important people on the production because we hold the location for them. Without us there's no location to shoot at.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.


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