(We want to welcome Teamster Member John Jabaley as a regular contributor to United Hollywood, and we hope to continue to add voices and perspectives from all unions.)
Last night was a literary evening at my house. After "Go, Dog, Go!" and "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" we continued the Ingalls' family saga with a chapter of "Little Town on the Prairie." After my kids fell asleep I settled down to look at the AMPTP's latest proposal to the WGA.
I really should have stuck with P.D. Eastman & Dr. Seuss. A big dog party up there in the tree is something I can believe in. But $250.00 in residuals? For a whole year? Really?
I couldn't resist grabbing a paper towel and pen to try and figure out what this proposal means for those of us below the line.
In 2006 the AMPTP member companies contributed $339,000,000 in residuals to our P&H funds and made another $277,000,000 in direct contributions. That's a total employer contribution of $616,000,000.00 We employees contributed $0.00, and there was a surplus when it was all said and done.
Now the AMPTP is proposing to give writers a residual payment of $250.00 for an entire year of streaming reruns instead of the TV standard of $20,000.00 for the first rerun. What does that have to do with us? In terms of Dr. Seuss, is it a big fish or a little fish? It turns out it's almost all the fish. There are shows that already have no network rerun ("Lost" and "24" for example). They only stream on the Internet. Not only do the writers get nothing, our pension and health funds get nothing.
So what will this mean? I estimate $250.00 dollars to be one eightieth of $20,000.00. Now of course our P&H funds get several times 20,000.00, but the ratio of one eightieth is the one the AMPTP is offering, so that's what we're looking at. And one eightieth of $339,000,000.00 is $4,237,500.00. For the sake of my paper towel I have to assume all residuals payments to the plan are from content made for television. I also have to do that because the AMPTP is offering $0.00 for theatrical content streamed on the internet.
My paper towel got a little messy around here, as it's been a while since I've done long division and I frankly got a little fascinated by all the zeroes. But I wanted to know the worst case scenario, the one my kids will face if they disregard my advice and go into the industry. The one I will face before I retire. The one guys with 25 years and 48,000 hours will face when they're 72 and have their hip go out a 2nd time.
So here's where I ended up once I added the direct contributions and the reduced residual payments: $281,237,500.00. That's a lot less than $616,000,000.00 In fact, it's a shortfall of $8,000.00 for each and every one of the roughly 42,000 members of the health plan. I don't know how long it will be until all content is delivered over the internet vs. broadcast, but with savings like that I bet the process is going to speed up pretty quickly.
Now admittedly these are very rough numbers- Of course there will still be DVD sales and, if the companies get their way, downloads at the DVD rate, and we'll continue to get a few pennies for airplane and hotel movies. There will still be reruns on the airwaves, but they will become a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. People will still watch things on their TV screens, but those screens will be fed through the Internet.
The numbers paint a pretty bleak picture for the future of our pension and health funds. Retirees can pretty much kiss 13th and 14th checks goodbye, and we'll all be looking at large increases in deductibles, co-pays and yet unheard of ways to pay more for healthcare.
On a brighter note, Laura Ingalls and her family finally managed to raise enough money to send her sister Mary to a college for the blind. Of course scarlet fever wouldn't have made her blind if she'd had healthcare. But I digress.
IBT Local 399