New York movie shoot parking workers sue studios over pay

NEW YORK (AP) — Workers who secure street parking for movie and TV shoots in the city are suing major studios, saying the studios often underpaid them for working long hours in trying conditions.

The workers, called parking production assistants, play the unglamorous role of keeping parking spaces clear for movie trucks and trailers and watching over the film vehicles in 12-hour shifts at the sets of such films as "American Hustle" and "The Bourne Legacy," according to their federal labor law suits.

"We're always overlooked and underpaid," parking assistant Christian Pellot said at a news conference Wednesday. "We're subjected to sleeping in our cars and using the bathroom in buckets ... when these billion-dollar companies have the money to at least give us a Porta-Potty."

Pellot and several other workers sued Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and others on Tuesday.

Lionsgate is based in Santa Monica, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia. NBCUniversal is based in New York. Sony Pictures Entertainment is based in Culver City, California. And Warner Bros. is based in Burbank, California. They declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuits, which follow similar suits in recent years.

The parking coordinators get paid a flat rate, commonly $150, for a 12-hour shift, according to their lawyer, James Vagnini.

"It should be a job that's exciting. Who wouldn't want to work on a set with celebrities and all these great crews?" Vagnini said, but the parking assistants have "been ignored, subjected to horrible conditions and, now, unfairly underpaid."

The workers say they often aren't paid for all their hours and don't get overtime while sometimes working 80 or even more than 100 hours a week. Many use their own cars to hold parking spots and to try to stay warm or cool.

"I've had co-workers who have lost toes" because they couldn't afford to idle their engines for hours, said Pellot, who has worked in the field for five years.

With no access to set restrooms unless filming is active, the parking workers have to try to use restrooms at local businesses or resort to using buckets or bottles in their cars, according to the lawsuits, which seek class action status and unspecified damages.

Meanwhile, local residents sometimes get angry with the parking assistants, said Corey Leach, who has worked in the job for eight years.

Leach settled a similar wage suit against The Weinstein Co. and others in 2012, for terms not disclosed in court documents. He said he's now suing again in hopes of making broader changes.

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