11/02/2007

A Teamster's Letter & Union Solidarity

(Call for a strike -- tonight the WGA membership filled a giant convention hall to discuss the current state of our negotiations with the AMPTP (the Companies), and of our industry. The WGA leadership announced they would be meeting with the Companies tomorrow and are planning to call a strike -- either tomorrow, Friday the 2nd, or early next week. Of course, a strike can be averted if the Companies begin to negotiate in good faith. However, that seems unlikely considering they haven't seriously engaged us on any of our proposals to date.


There are many aspects in this fight, but it boils down to two very important ones.

1.) New Media – the Companies are trying to cut us out of the money they plan to make, off our content, on the internet.

2.) Union Solidarity – the Companies have turned Union Solidarity on its head – saying if the writers strike we are jeopardizing the livelihoods of all the people we work with, and therefore we are bad people and a bad union.

Yes, it true, we are jeopardizing the livelihoods of the people we work with. Yes, a strike will be painful. But, that doesn’t make us bad people or a bad union. The Teamsters have made a huge sacrifice by saying they will honor our picket lines to the best of their ability. That has not gone unnoticed, and it will not be forgotten. We are fighting tooth and nail to keep a proposal on the table that will allow us to honor the picket lines of other unions, because in this town we have to take care of our union brothers and sisters. We can’t let the Companies divide us - pit us against each other. We have to look out for each other, however we can.

If we all stand in this together, we all benefit.

How, you ask?

I received this letter from a Teamster. It lays out why New Media and Union Solidarity are both issues we need to stand up for right now.)

"I am a teamster. A location scout on a TV show. My small corner of Warner Brothers Television is far removed from the writers' offices. I make a fraction of what they do, work more hours, and my family's schedule is ruined every time they write "EXT: NIGHT." I've been on my current show for 10 weeks and I just met my first writer.

Yet if the next time I see him he's wearing a red shirt and carrying a placard, I will not cross his line.

Why?

I could just say "Teamsters don't cross picket lines." I could just say "I need a vacation." I could just say "I believe in the rights of the working man." While that is all true, the real reason is more complex. I believe this is the opening round of a long battle that every union member in Hollywood will have to face as our contracts expire.

The digital world is not in the future, it is here now. It is now possible to watch Television and Movies entirely on the internet, and the network sites, with ads galore, are proof. This is not a hypothetical. It is profit-making reality. If the writers are denied fair payment for reuse, I do not believe the Directors, Actors and the rest of us will fare any better when our turn comes.

Yes, I said the "rest of us." While I don't receive individual residual payments for my work as a teamster, my pension and health fund does. As the distribution stream goes digital those residual payments will slow to a trickle, and the fund will suffer. When the time comes I plan on being old, sick, and in need of Health Care. And the WB doesn't want me to have it.

So no, I will not be crossing any picket line. And I ask you to join me. Not for the writers. Not for Me. Not for my kids. Not even for you. For all of us. Because that's what it's going to take. All of us.

(The Teamsters are an amazing union who I highly admire. I understand that there are bills to pay and mouths to feed. I understand that some sacrifices for some people will be too big to make. In terms of the legality of what the Companies can do, and the letter threats Teamsters are receiving – reach out to your union’s legal department. They’ll be able to guide you.)

4 comments:

Jeff said...

What a bunch of whiny babies. My company employes me to create, if they chose to sell that creation that is their business. It comes with my job that my creations belong to the person I work for.
Writers are employed to create. Somewhere along the way they have forgotten that aspect of the job. They seem to think that what they write belongs to them and that they should be paid extra. Especially if the story, gets extra ad rev attached to it. They also seem to think that Americans are on their side. Wrong! America will turn to something else for entertainment and move on. Quit crying and do the job you were hired to do.

Min said...

Being a union member, I'm supporting the strike, as well. I've turned my TV off for the duration of the strike and notified the networks. I've also cancelled Showtime, and I won't be buying DVDs or downloading clips, until the strike is over.

If I was close enough to the action, I'd be walking a picket line, too.

Evelyn said...

Jeff-
A lot of people who have jobs where they create have contracts that give the intellectual property rights to their employers. If you work for GE (since we're talking about NBCUniversal) and you invent something, GE owns that patent. This is the way it works in a lot of industries, the idea being that you used the companies materials/facilities to do the work, and so they're entitled to it. Plus, they pay you a salary.
But in Hollywood there's a profit-sharing arrangement. The writers (and other creative contributors) get paid a portion of the profits their work earns for the companies that distribute it. Since there's a profit-sharing arrangement already, if there are new sources of profit, those arrangements need to be revisted.

coloradogirl said...

This Teamster's Letter/stance on the strike still sounds like an attempt to "spin" things and still cross the picket line. Let's put this in reverse and think about if the Teamsters were striking. If the Teamsters were striking, the WGA members would not have the luxury of "honoring picket lines to the best of their ability." If the Teamsters were striking, the WGA members that were, for some extenuating circumstance, unable to honor a Teamster picket line would be in need of voice activation software because the Teamsters would break their fingers.