Modest Proposal: CEOs Go First

Our latest modest proposal was submitted by Michael "Mose" Schur, a producer of "The Office." -JA

Now that my job has shifted from writing jokes in a dumpy office in Van Nuys to walking in a circle for four hours a day, I find that I have a lot of time to think about “greed.” It’s sometimes hard to explain to people that we are not striking to make sure Aaron Sorkin doesn’t have to fall out of escrow on his eleventh vacation home, but rather for the vast majority of our union who work sporadically, who average $62,000 a year, and who often find themselves undesirable hirees around age 40 if they never managed to land a job on a hit show.

So how do we get our point across, to people who don’t understand why we’re doing this? The best way I have found, is to say: everything on the internet? We get zero. They get everything. They get millions and millions and eventually billions and billions, and we get zero. And the “they,” here, is basically six of the biggest baddest companies in the world, run by men who annually receive salaries and compensation well north of 50 million dollars.

This attempt on their part to lock down the internet for free... this is just good old-fashioned corporate greed, is what this is. This is old-timey Rockefeller union-busting land-grab stuff. In a weird way I admire it. It’s been a long time since something as potentially valuable as the internet was invented – in fact, it was probably television itself. And every time something like this comes along – railroads, oil drilling, oceanic shipping – a very small group of men get together and wring their hands with glee and plot and scheme, and try to squeeze out every single cent they can. The representatives of these six companies are only doing what their corporate fathers did before them – collude, wield power, screw workers, doubletalk, and hide behind lawyers. (I particularly admire the badass way they publicly announce to their shareholders how valuable the internet already is to their bottom lines, while pleading ignorance on the same subject at the negotiating table. It takes guts to be that disingenuous. God bless ’em.)

But I’m not just going to complain. I’m here to offer a solution. If they want to offer me absolutely nothing when they stream my show on-line, (NBC shows were streamed 50 million times in October alone, according to Jeff Zucker), and further offer the comically-low 0.3% residual rate on things like iTunes downloads (“The Office” was downloaded millions of times from iTunes, and then NBC pulled its content off iTunes because they wanted more money), well, over time they will end up reducing my salary by something like 85%. That seems like a pretty drastic paycut. But, according to these guys, there is simply no money to pay out, they’re not making anything! The cost of shows is rising, everything is so expensive now, and they honestly have no idea what we could possibly be thinking when we zzzzzzzzzz.

If they’re right, and there needs to be some belt-tightening, and we should take the 0.00% rate on everything we ever write or act in, then I say: sure. I will take that rate, as long as you take it with me. If every one of you studio mogul types takes the same 85% reduction in your salaries, I will accept your terms. The good news is, you will still be grossly rich. Sumner Redstone of Viacom made about $52 million in cash and stock last year, so he’d still have close to $8 million a year. Peter Chernin of Fox made about $61 million, so he’s good. Sadly, Les Moonves of CBS only made about $35.3 million, so taking the paycut barely leaves him $5 million a year. Maybe he can get a bridge loan or something.

Taking these reductions in pay would certainly send the message that you guys are trying so hard to send – that there is just no money to go around, and that we must all take pay cuts in order to keep television and movies a viable money-making industry. (A quick non sequitur-style congrats to Disney, by the way, who last week announced net profits of $877 million for their last fiscal quarter, on revenue of $8.93 billion.) And the good news is, if it doesn’t work out, and you’re fired, maybe you’ll get one of those sweet $190 million Mike Ovitz severance packages.

I say, let’s all make this sacrifice together. If you eight guys take 15% of what you make now, I will be back at work tomorrow. I will write like the wind, buoyed by the inspiring knowledge that my corporate brothers stand beside me in this crucial time of belt-tightening for our industry. We will all make the necessary economic sacrifices to keep the eleventy-trillion dollar entertainment industry afloat, while you have the crucial three years you claim you need to “study” the internet to see if anyone can make any money off this confusing new invention. Lord knows Google hasn’t figured it out yet.

Together, we will get through this. Together, writers, actors, and absurdly-paid businessmen will sacrifice our salaries in order to save American entertainment as we know it. Now who’s with me?

In solidarity,
Michael Schur


Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer or in the entertainment business or anything, but I do have a question:

Eight cents? How did they come up with that number? What, was it too OCD to go for a nice, round dime? You folks are worth at least that much.

Jayce yea thats my name said...

I too am not a writer in the entertainment buisness, just a high schooler who looks at it as a career option (any sugestions???)

anyway I find what you are saying 100% true. If there are going to be pay cuts the big guys need to cut their pay as well.

I love The Offica and am dissapointed in its temporary removal but I totally support you guys.

Good Luck

Pam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moxie said...

Pay cuts for the suits?? Michael, clearly all that fresh air has made you dizzy. How in the world could the executives afford to live on 15% of their current income? They might have to start shopping at Aldi's and summering at KOAs like the rest of us shlumps.

Think of the children, please! (Oh wait....you already are.)

Hang in there guys - we're behind you 1,000,000% - even if we are dying to see that dinner party episode!

Kimberly Michelle said...

There's no money to go around? They seriously think anyone's going to believe that? Their idiocy astounds me.

Keep fighting, guys! You're my heroes.

Anonymous said...

The brilliantly sardonic Michael Schur everyone!

Amy Rose said...

You are amazing.

and I am with all of you wonderful, beautiful lovely writers 238918312% :)

Melody said...

In this spirit of everyone pitching in, I will vow to watch 85% more "Office." That is my pledge to all of you. It's the least I can do. It would be a tragedy if the children of the poor, selfless network executives had to go without food or health insurance or their very own pony just because their daddy took a chance on this crazy interwebs thing and then discovered that no one would buy into it.

A Leigh B. said...

Great =) I've already written my letter...

Anonymous said...

Haha, that was hilarious. I mentioned a lot of the internet thing in my letter. It's posted over at officetally.com!

James Layne said...

i'm writing my letter tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

There may be lots of people out there who have the wrong impression about the WGA strike - but there also seem to be a lot of TV addicted fans who are 100% behind your decision to strike. I know I am. Here's hoping you guys get what you deserve and get back to writing (like the wind, please).

Anonymous said...

As one of those over-40 writers who hasn't landed on a hit show but somehow seems to keep working, I say "Amen, brother Michael!" I am the face of this strike. I live in a 3bd, 1 bth home, I have two boys who go to public school and I drive a '95 Acura. Are you willing to live like that, Mr. Chernin?

C.E. Downes said...

Wannabe Solidarity

As someone who'd like to be a member of the Guild one day, I support the writers 100%. I know I increasingly rely on the internet for my television when I miss it (as I'd rather watch a few ads than pay for Tivo), so I know it's absurd that they call it "promotional." Especially since every network is running TV ads for their respective streaming services (promotions for promotions?), and then making money off the online content. It's a vicious moneymaking cycle the networks have created. It's only fair they cut in the people supplying that cycle with content.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Chelsea said...

First off, meeting you on Friday was one of the highlights of my life. Because, Oh, my god, the writers mean something. To hell with the suits. Stay strong. We love you guys and are on your side!


P.S. Your wife is adorable.

Emma said...

Michael "Mose" Schur, you are my hero.

As everyone's saying, us fans are behind you and the rest of the writers 100% - if it wasn't for you guys TV (and ultimately the internet) would just be a black screen. A pretty black ornament sitting in the living room.

You guys deserve the best and I hope you get it.

I'm so excited for Michael's dinner party, so I hope these damn suits take the sticks out of their asses and do what's right, so we can all witness this wonderful occasion in the land of The Office.

(The writing people that is).

The CineManiac said...

I would love to post this over at my blog, I was wondering if you'd rather just have me link to it or if I can post it in full while giving full credit to you guys. I just don't want to swipe it without permission.

Mindy said...

The level of corporate greed on display is truly staggering. I know it shouldn't surprise me, but it does. The fact that a company can post an $877 million dollar profit in one quarter and not want to give up $.08 a DVD or 2% of the internet revenues is an outrage. I mean, even if they aren't making money on this interwebs idea, 2% of nothing is nothing, right?

Granted, I am just a viewer, so what do I know? Perhaps I should just keep quiet and watch all my television on the internet without complaint. Sorry, studios. But, that isn't going to happen.

Creators deserve to be paid whenever their work is distributed.

Noah said...

Michael: You're fighting the good fight. You're a prime example of the underdog that simply wants for everyone the compensation that each deserves for the monumental work that is thrown into your heartfelt passion--writing, in this case.

Don't back down, as I know you won't. We're with you all the way. Stick with this, you guys will win in the end. Ultimately, they can't afford to lose you, or any of the other writers whose actions are supremely justified.

You're instilling hope to every aspiring dreamer with a passion for what he does. We can crack a smile and wipe away some of that despair, that myth that no one is willing to put up a fight against the bigwigs.

Keep going. Don't stop.

We're all proud of what you guys are doing.

Just Wondering said...

"(A quick non sequitur-style congrats to Disney, by the way, who last week announced net profits of $877 million for their last fiscal quarter, on revenue of $8.93 billion.)"

Forgive me for pointing this out, but a profit margin of $877 million on $8.93 billion is a profit margin of 9.8% on revenue flow. The WGA residual proposal for new media is that writers would get 2.5% of the revenue flow. When you factor in the pattern bargaining from other guilds (1x for DGA, and 3x for the SAG residual pool), that totals to 12.5% of revenue flow going to reisudals.

In other words, the WGA is suggesting a deal by which the new media revenue-to-talent-residuals flow *exceeds* the revenue-to-profits flow of the entire corporation.

Doesn't that suggest that 2.5% is maybe too high?

Anonymous said...

I know people are writing letters to studio heads in support of the writers-- what about writing letters to major advertisers as well? Has this been started yet? Let's actually pressure them where it counts.

jenny said...

Wait a minute...Jeff Zucker only made $50 million last year? Well, now I feel bad that I supported the writers. I think Jeff deserves much more than that for, you know...saving the cheerleader?

And yes, I will be sending out postcards today to advertisers. MasterCard and careerbuilder.com had ads before The Office deleted scenes on NBC.com this week. [I know because a friend had to watch them before reposting them illegally so we could all see them on a non-network Web site. Take that, NBC.com!] Also, I sat through way too many FedExKinkos ads last summer before the brilliantly written Office webisodes that ran on NBC.com. They'll be getting a postcard from me too.

Elisabeth said...

So...are we going to eat them or not?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, the writers are underpaid anyway!!!! The Office fans are all behind you 100% Mike! We love The Office, but you create it, and you deserve to be compensated for online content, b/c Lord knows they're making money!

IronicArt said...

I'm not all that up on the whole situation, but I know the whole viewer comunity is with you! It might be a good idea to organize a boycot against these online viewing to show the control and support of the viewers.

also it might be a good idea to work with a boycot of dundermiflininfinity.com as well.. i know office viewers would much rather have the show, then give nbc.com more money through that site

VerdureVision said...

@just wondering:

You're not forgiven, and no, 2.5% is not "too high."

When is the last time anyone could actually trust what a corporation has to say publicly about its earnings? (Once upon a time, there was a bright, shiny infinitely profitable corporation called Enron...) I would suggest that 9.8% is the part Disney hasn't managed to write-off or otherwise cover up somehow with creative bookkeeping.

Look, 2.5% of nothing is still nothing, if we believe the Producers that "oh, this New Media is to neeeeeeeeew, so we can't pay anyone anything for it, since we don't know if it even makes money."

(Ad nauseum...)

Until the AMPTP actually sits down and talks to the WGA about a deal, nothing is pretty much what's on the table, anyway...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant. So proud of you!

Just Wondering said...


But that's just the thing-- the higher the profit-to-revenue level, the better for the company's stock-- and boosting stock price is what publicly-held corporations want to do above anything else. So if studios are lying about these figures, which they may well be, that means that the profit-to-revenue stream at Disney is probably *less* than the 9.8% it's claiming, not more.

So I'm still wondering if a 12.5% residual pool on gross income from new media isn't way too high.

Anonymous said...

I remember in the 2002 when the economy downturned there was a employee layoff at Viacom and someone figured out that Summer Redstone's bonus that year was more than the amount saved by the layoff

"Office" Fan said...


I have two words for you ... you rock!

A Fan of "The Office"

Anonymous said...

justwondering... I'm not sure how you address your actual point (don't know enough) but where exactly are you getting 12.5? Three guilds x 2.5 = 7.5, from where I'm sitting. What's this 3x SAG thing you mention? Are all the residual rates for TV currently the same for all guilds? Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: The SAG residual pool is always 3x the DGA or WGA residual rate. Which makes sense because it is split more ways (since more actors on a project get residuals than writers or directors.

So when thinking about the overall impact of whatever deal the WGA gets, you gotta multiply the percentage by 5.

Anonymous said...


Yes the financial statements that companies release must be accurate, after Enron, due to the Robinson-Patnam Act. So what you see the companies releasing regarding their income statements are 100% true.

If its true that the total amount of residuals that media companies pay out due to these guilds total 12.5% including the WGA, that's a high amount for the companies to have to pay out.

As Just Wondering said, that total exceeds Disney's net profit, which is bad business.

All you guys who are seemingly blindly supporting the WGA need to look at the facts and analyze it, not just supporting the strike because of a post from a writer. Look at a article showing the media company's side, and then make a judgement.

I love how after someone posts clearcut numbers that show how the WGA's proposal would hurt company's bottom line, there's still numerous responses saying: "I support you guys!"

I'm probably one of the biggest Office fans, and I'm pissed that after this Thursday we're going into rerun mode already for the time being, but get both sides point of view first.

Anonymous said...

I saw this article linked on OfficeTally.Com, and just though I'd let you know that the 10000000000s of Office fans are pushing for you guys.

It sucks to know that cooperate America is just as greedy and heartless as people think they are >_>

Roger Wilko said...

I hope you stole enough paper products from Dunder Mifflin before the strike! I would hate to see the cost of paper drain your rally! Fight the fight!

You will win!

Amil said...

Suits Suck

Anonymous said...

well, it sounds good and all, but in the same sense aren't you the "big guys" to the grips and drivers and others who just lost their jobs because of YOUR strike?

in the end, YOU chose to be in this business. it was your passion for what you do that led you to take the risks involved with writing in hollywood. now it seems like you're pissed off because one of those risks didn't pan out like you wanted, and so you're crying to get your way.

i love the show, but c'mon. this is how the world works. if it wasn't for those "old suits," your show would still be on radio.

AndyW said...

Unions were formed for the purpose of helping secure rights for the poor & uneducated workers who were being exploited. The writer here is in the top 5% of income earners in the US, and he has the gall to lecture us about the poor plight of the helpless writers...please.

You write jokes for a living and get paid well for doing it. Get back to work.

Moxie said...

I don't understand why people who don't have the facts about the situation waste everyone's time by posting gibberish.

Yeah, I'm talking to you AndyW.

Anonymous said...

I am a studio electrician in Hollywood. I make a little over $30.00 an hour. While I agree that the writers need to be paid for the content they create, I find it difficult to sympathize with their pleas for more money when they have put thousands of other people out of work for their own financial gain. It's difficult to listen to them talk about how greedy the studios and producers are until they get the pay raises that they feel they deserve. What about the rest of us? We don't get residuals every time something airs. We below-the-liners are paid hourly, which means when we're not shooting, we're not getting paid. There is no system in place for us to earn money on work we've already completed and been compensated for. Everyone is making it out like the writers are working for free...that's not the case. Writers HAVE ALREADY BEEN PAID for their scripts once! Everything above and beyond that is icing on the cake. So again, I agree with the plight of the writers, but for them to whine about not making extra money and putting the rest of us out of work until they get it is just as greedy and selfish as they are accusing the studios as being.

AndyW said...

Ahhh Moxie. Typical union reponse. Whenever someone has an opposing viewpoint they are simply uninformed. I guess you get myopia from martching around in circles all day chanting silly slogans. What exactly did I say that was gibberish?

Unions were formed for the purpose of helping secure rights for the poor & uneducated workers who were being exploited.


The writer here is in the top 5% of income earners in the US, and he has the gall to lecture us about the poor plight of the helpless writers...please.

I don't have access to Mr Schur's W2, but I'm confident that he makes more than $154,120, which puts him in the top 5% of earners in the US.

You write jokes for a living and get paid well for doing it.

If the $62K amount give by Mr Schur is accurate, that would put the average writer in the top 30% of earners in the US.

The problem you have is that you are surrounded by people (actors, directors) who make more than you, naturally you are going to be jealous. Well not everyone makes more than you, the grips, set-dressers, caterers who are not working because of your strike make less. Way to stick it to the man!

Jayce yea thats my name said...

Heres the thing the writers aren't getting paid for some of their work, thats wrong. The corporations have done nothing to give the writers what they have deserved, this looks like the only way they can get it done. In addition to this many people are forgetting the unemployment rate of some writers so many actually depend on the royalties for their families. A boost in royalties is a boost in family life for some of these people.

It sucks that people get laid off but they can find other jobs, and I've read (doesnt mean its necessarily true) that many of these workers are supporting these writers.

To anyone who says look at both sides I completely agree with you. On one side you get writers who live from show to show not getting what they are entitled to. Yes some may be wealthy but many writers arent exactly living the high life. They need those royalties.

Lets face it, the companies are either greedy or actually worried about the money made on the internet. The writers arent getting paid for anything on the internet, the result is this strike. Unfortunatly this had to happen and I wish the best of luck to the writers and to the laid off workers.

Steve B said...

Just Wondering, you're forgetting that we're only asking for 12.5% (if pattern bargaining works as normal) of *internet revenue.*

Internet revenue is a very small percentage of the overall earnings of the whole company. The 12.5% of internet earnings would be less than 0.01% of total earnings. I'm pretty sure they can survive a <0.01% cut into their 9.8% revenue flow.

For the studio electrician, you may not know it (because Tom Short has conveniently neglected to tell you), but you and ALL of the IA and Basic Crafts crew DO get residuals.

Residuals are what fund your pension and health care programs.

And because of that, the WGA is the front line in YOUR residual battle. If the studios can cut our legs out from under us, guess who they'll come after next? The IA and BC stand to lose just as much as we do. We are the tip of the spear on this issue - if we win, you guys will have a great bargaining position. If we lose, you guys won't have a leg to stand on.

And once residuals are gone (and with them, your P&W funds), the studios will go after jurisdiction next.

Would you allow the studios to demand huge rollbacks in your wages and jurisdiction, without a fight? I don't think you would -- and if you fought the rollbacks I would refuse to cross your picket line. That's all we're asking from you.

I got my 'big break' this year, after ten years of working for free. We don't have 'on the job training.'

I would bet you anything that, over the course of your career, you will earn a higher hourly wage than I do. Even factoring in whatever residuals I'll make over my lifetime. I'm not some greedy effete snob with a mansion and a yacht; I'm a working dude who lives in a dinky little condo in Glendale. Residuals don't pay for hookers and cocaine -- they pay for our mortgages and our kids' braces.


Steve Barr

Anonymous said...

teve B said...

Just Wondering, you're forgetting that we're only asking for 12.5% (if pattern bargaining works as normal) of *internet revenue.*

Internet revenue is a very small percentage of the overall earnings of the whole company. The 12.5% of internet earnings would be less than 0.01% of total earnings. I'm pretty sure they can survive a <0.01% cut into their 9.8% revenue flow.


Yeah, but the one thing that both sides seem to agree on right now is that within the medium-term time-frame, the internet will supplant broadcast TV, Even now, broadcast is hemorraging viewers, and ad revenue is sinking. Most shows (though not hits like the office- of which there are maybe ten on the air right now, out of 65) don't come anywhere near recouping, and the deficit between the budget, paid by the studio, and the licensing fee paid by the network, is about a million bucks.

So, really, what we're asking for is 12.5% of something that won't be a secondary market much longer. Pretty soon, it'll be the primary market. (Maybe not for movies- I'm talking about TV here, since everyone else is.)

If studios have to give up 12.5% of gross in what will more or less be the primary market for scripted episodic shows right off the top, do you really think they'll still invest the huge amount of capital it takes to make them?

Anonymous said...

I've been a below-the-line crew member for the last seven years. I spent five years before that taking off work from waiting tables to work for free where I could in order to get my foot into the industry door. We have all earned our keep, and I agree that the writers should be paid for their work, royalties and residuals and all that good stuff. What I can't stand in this whole thing is the "poor me" mentality that the writers are conveying to the media. Writers know going into it that maybe their career will have lags, maybe it won't. That's part of it. That's part of it for all of us. If you don't like it, get another job. When I don't have work for a month or two, I get other jobs that I am qualified for. That's my choice in life and profession, and I don't expect anybody other than myself to get me by during the slow periods. I question your sincerity as to whether you would cross our picket lines. Of course, since we work under a no-strike clause, you will not have to make that decision because we will not strike. We are told by the studios to either cross the picket line or lose our jobs. You know, the friendliest writers I've ever met were the ones picketing my show on day 1 of the strike. They were all smiles and hellos and politeness. Prior to that they wouldn't even make eye contact with the crew. These times have been revealing indeed...

Anonymous said...

As someone who is in college majoring in Writing for Film and Television, I can wholeheartedly affirm that if the CEOs take the pay cut, I will be down.

Jayce yea thats my name said...

to the last poster....

What college are you in? I'm looking to go in the same study (Film and Television). I'm just curious as to what kind of classes a film major can take.


Anonymous said...

You know, I'd have a lot more respect for your arguments if you didn't make the issue into old-fashioned Marxist class warfare. There is no class warfare going on here. These companies are looking out for their bottom lines - to make as much money as possible. You and every other writer are looking out for your bottom lines - as you should! The companies need you and you need the companies. As long as that holds true, negotiations will carry on and a compromise will eventually be met. When you're out of work, they're out of work, and they don't like that.

So, let's get real. I believe that you're striking for writers who haven't been as successful as you, but you and everybody else know that you're concerned about your wallet, too. That's not wrong. It's not wrong when your bosses do the same, either. As much as you want to say that you're asking for fairness, that's a subjective term that can't be easily applied to any situation. Your definition of fair is most certainly not the same definition one of the big corporate guys holds. Ultimately, you have to understand that each player in this battle is looking out for his own interest. Stop idealizing and romanticizing your 'struggle' with the corporations. I WISH I made $62,000 a year. (Yes, I live in an expensive part of California.)

I think you should get a bigger cut of new media, but you lose my sympathy and support when you use unionist/class warfare language. Ugh.

I continue to be a loyal fan of the show. It's my favorite on TV. I hope this all gets resolved soon so that I can continue to enjoy it. Please, though - when you talk about politics, you ruin the illusion for me. I have actually stopped watching shows when the writers and actors publicly broadcasted idiotic political views. I just can't pretend you're Mose when you write crap like this. Sorry, man.

jonothon said...

I will stand with you Mike Schur, I will.

Jessica said...

Is it me or did the CEOs completely forget fan presence on the Internet in the form of letter writing, blogging, and mad organizational skills? Guess they missed that corner of the Web market. This is 2007, not 1985, and today's fans are far more invested in TV that is worth our time. Also: our favorite writers keep us informed...through said Internet. Mysterious technology is biting CEOs in the ass. Again.

Viva the WGA!