11/19/2007

Together We Bargain, Divided We Beg

Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler released this statement in the wake of IATSE president Tom Short's letter to Patric Verrone, president of the WGA. Wexler is a legend, and when he evaluates the state of our unions, he does so with authority. Without minimizing the difficult decisions that everyone faces in a strike, we found this note stirring and wanted to share it. -JA

I walked the WGA picket line along with 6000 film workers demonstrating in front of Fox Studios.

The spirit I saw in that demonstration is exciting to me, it gives me hope. These strikers are resisting further concessions, concessions which compromise all our futures.

I caught the eye of a couple of grips and electricians driving through the line. Although I understand why our guys go through the line, it saddens me.

Can it be because I am of a different generation? One IA official told me I should “get in touch with the way things are.”

Union people used to say: “Together we bargain, divided we beg.”

Employers speak with one voice of corporate solidarity. They represent major international corporations, of which entertainment is but one VERY profitable branch.

They count on this WGA strike-lockout to break what little solidarity exists between our guilds and unions.

Our Local President still signs letters “in solidarity.” But I ask, solidarity with whom? When we are told not to support our union brothers and sisters in this instance, what can we expect from them when we eventually need support ourselves?

It is in our practical interest to speak and act in solidarity with all union efforts.

I urge IA members to join the WGA picket line. SAG is well represented there.

SCAB used to be a dirty word.
It still is for me.

-- Haskell Wexler

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Teamsters -- TEAMSTERS -- are still working on the lots. If anyone should refuse to cross a picket line it's the Teamsters.

English Dave said...

Haskell Wexler is immense. Mulholland Falls, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Just immense.

Anon - from what I gather from the blogs some are refusing. But in all conscience how can you ask them to do it when WGA writer hyphenates [heroic showrunners apart] are working?

Seems to me this is a tough time for everyone. Ragging on Teamsters is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Haskell Wexler.
A True Artist.

Anonymous said...

English Dave - I'm not ragging the Teamsters, just expressing surprise (and, yes, disappointment) that they're crossing the lines. I can ask them not to because it's the right thing to do. Suggesting that it's okay for them to cross because others are is a flawed argument.

If the Teamsters stood with the writers, this strike would end overnight.

Jake Hollywood said...

Scab still is a dirty word. Even as an independent (I'm barely an associate WGA member), it means something to me. But in a world full of "I'm getting mine whatever way I can" and "me first" attitude, I'm not surprised about people crossing the line. And I'm amazed we haven't heard more about scabs (though I'm guessing there are writers who are secret scabs and writing at home either under assumed names or getting guarantees that their names won't be reveal for doing re-writes, etc.) breaking ranks and crossing over to work at studios and on sets.


I'd kill to work with a legend of Haskell Wexler's caliber.

David Grenier said...

Wexler's got it right. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's the SMART thing to do. If every Teamster and IA member walked out the strike would be over by the end of the week. As long as they engage in union-scabbing they are only undermining the writers which just prolongs the strike (and the resultant economic woes for all their brothers and sisters thrown out of work).

English Dave said...

Anon - ''English Dave - I'm not ragging the Teamsters, just expressing surprise (and, yes, disappointment) that they're crossing the lines. I can ask them not to because it's the right thing to do. Suggesting that it's okay for them to cross because others are is a flawed argument.

If the Teamsters stood with the writers, this strike would end overnight.''

I whole heartedly agree. But you can't expect other union members to risk their jobs when certain members of the WGA are happy to continue working. The likes of Craig Mazin for instance. If you look at his blog you'll see Patrick telling of a Teamster who got fired for not crossing a picket line.

Whether that is true or not I don't know. If it is, that guy is a hero in my eyes.

Maybe the WGA have to outreach more to convince Teamsters and other unions that their fight is everyones fight? I don't know. The Teamsters are in strange position in that they have a get out in their contracts viz not crossing picket lines. But that is a matter of personal conscience.

I would love if the Teamsters came out in force as a means to ending the strike. But I won't ever criticize them for not doing so.

I am based in the UK so anything I have to say has to be tempered with a whiff of second degree.

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Anonymous said...

The hottest parts of hell are reserved for those who so nothing in a time of great conflict. The IATSE is showing these cowardly stripes.
DON'T ROCK THE BOAT IS NOT WHAT I PAY 1600 in dues to the editor's guild for. Man up or stand back and let the warriors handle the situation. This is our industry. There is no business without us unless we allow ourselves to be divide.

Anonymous said...

And when one considers how the IATSE is snowing the NYC Theatre community to back the Local One - with all major unions standing with them...

It's amazing to me that Short is playing the opposite game with Hollywood.

Guess the theatre folks in NYC shouldn't expect Local One or IATSE to have their backs when the time comes.

Captain Obvious said...

anonymous @ 12:32 I love you...

Anonymous said...

Article 8B. No Strike – No Lockout

The producer will not discipline any employee covered by this Agreement because of his refusal as an individual to cross a picket line, providing that such picket line has been sanctioned by Joint Council of Teamsters, No. 42.


Real solidarity starts with YOU!!

Don't cross the lines...Jimmy Hoffa Sr. Never crossed a picket line.


~Gary Watts~ member of I.B.T. Local 399

Skyfleur said...

English Dave The Teamsters through Local 399 have expressed their support even before the strike started. Support that was confirmed by Teamsters Leader Jim Hoffa.
Teamsters start before picket lines are brought up because they start working very early. The WGA has started to picket much earlier so that when Teamsters arrive they just refuse to cross. However, the AMPTP has also stated when Local 399 said they were with the WGA that any teamster not crossing a line would be fired.
Those guys are taking huge risks for the writers. And there's a lot of teamsters who point blank refuse to cross once the pickets are set up. So even if most do cross because in reality the writers haven't started picketing when they get into the studios, they are with them.
I don't think anyone can fault them when they just do their jobs and respect the picket line when it's there.

English Dave said...

yep skyfleur.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I believe things have changed. The American people, as well as others in industialized countries, have been brainwashed over the past 25-30 years into believing they all have been playing a significant role in the movie "Global Economy". For most, however, their "role" has been little more than a walk-on, and there's a danger that they're going to be left on the cutting-room floor.

I just saw an episode of "Hotel Babylon" on BBC America, where the employees were expressing dismay over the fact that their annual Christmas party had been canceled by the higher-ups and they were trying to figure out a way to have it reinstated. One worker commented: "The days of trade unions are gone. We're corporatists now." If there was ever a line that summed up where we are right now, this is it.

English Dave said...

''We're corporatists now." If there was ever a line that summed up where we are right now, this is it.'''

Good job someome wrote it.

Anonymous said...

Thought this would be appreciated: a letter and illustration supporting the strike

Anonymous said...

new movie blog.

http://newmoviestosee.blogspot.com

thanks.

Anonymous said...

it seems like people like me who are only consumers of hollywood product should do something in addition to just sending letters to the studios in support of the writers. If I were a studio head I would not be too worried about public sentiment because when the strike is over we will go back to buying their product. What cost is there to the studios in low public approval? We should stop buying product and supplying ratings for shows that are airing. there has to be some cost to the studios that they can see now. as much as we want to see what happens the kids on "pushing dasies" mabey we should not watch or tivo untill the strike is over.

workerbee9 said...

Since some of our members have to work in order to keep their homes paid for and families fed, I don’t think they should be called out as SCABS for doing so by people who make enough to comfortably join the line.

Maybe Haskell wasn't aware of the following:

"The IATSE contracts contain provisions that require us to continue to honor our contracts. These “no strike” provisions require the IATSE to notify our members of their obligation to honor these contracts and continue working. Any individual member who chooses to honor any picket line is subject to permanent replacement."
- Tom Short

I have been supporting the WGA Strike Line by walking with them during my lunch hour, in the middle of my 15-hour day.

I don't appreciate the irresponsible posting of such anti-unity statements from wealthy individuals who have no concept of what it takes to live on the edge financially.

Way to promote a "united hollywood".

Think twice before posting more IATSE - bashing items.

Thanks.

English Dave said...

Workerbee - ''Haskell'' may not have thought about whatever you're blabbing on about. But ''Haskell'' is one of those talented guys who give you the opportunity to earn good money.

Does that make you wealthy? I hope it does. I really mean that.But consider for a moment that without the writer you wouldn't be earning all that overtime.

Dammit I resorted to troll speak. My apologies.

Marco said...

Unions are just a legalized form of extortion. You have to pay ridiculous union dues and for what? As an ex-union member, I hope that finally the corporations can bust these unions. The world has changed in the past fifty years and it is left unions behind. And I find it humorous that these writers, who consider themselves "elite" are suddenly so pro-union. On a set I was on recently (a popular TV show) the writers consistenly mocked and made fun of the below-the-line workers. And some of these same writers are now standing alongside the below-the-line folks as "united brothers and sisters". What total crap.

English Dave said...

marco - A dipshit troll is always just a dipshit troll and pretty easily identifiable.

max45 said...

Perhaps if WGA members, or, at least, some of the more wealthy members, of which there are many, offered to contribute a portion of their salaries to the support of those of us not making and never having made the thousands a week earned by the average successful writer, more would be willing to join the cause.

Cast and direct crew aside, there are many obscenely underpaid and highly disgruntled PAs working in this industry who wouldn't think twice about joining the cause, if only they were given a means to support themselves, myself especially included. It's not unreasonable to want hot food when hungry and a warm bed when tired, but not working will mean exactly that for many of us. Surely the wealthier of the lot can contribute, for the sake of the cause.

out of work IATSE member said...

These combined comments show precisely why there is a strike - two groups feuding! The writers seem to be on one side while a good amount of below the line, IATSE people are on the other. I am an IATSE member, and while I support the WGA efforts to get more for what they deserve, it is hard for me to understand the need to strike, at the extreme expense of all of us. Writers talk about the IATSE needing to support them, and strike with them, but I don't see a world where above the line and below the line will ever see "eye to eye". We don't share the same lifestyles and creative power you do. We don't see residual checks in the mail, we definitely don't see the $$ that writers get for their scripts, and we don't see most writers (or producers) sitting at the catering tables with us - we see our fellow union members, suffering because of another union's unhappiness. Saying that we should join your strike, give up our jobs, and not feed our children or pay or mortgage is just plain selfish. Have you guys attempted to show us the respect that you now want from us? If this strike was reversed, how many of you would walk a picket line during an IATSE strike, and give up your hard earned money?

Patrick Meighan said...

Hey all,

This was alluded to upthread, but, indeed, a Teamster was (illigally) fired for honoring our picket line on Friday morning, at the Fox lot.

Speaking as a writer, I really hope we go to bat for this guy (and that his own union does as well), ‘cause he’s gone to bat for us. If anyone has any ideas of something we can do to be helpful, I’d be up for participating.

In any event, the story follows, in the form of an email from one of the WGA strike captains.

Best,

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

------------
I have the most amazing story to tell you, about Mike Groom, a Teamster who refused to cross our truck gate line this morning.

And was fired by Fox for it.

Mike, who was driving the tractor and generator rig for a Fox show, attended the meeting a few weeks ago where WGA members asked for his support. He told me, “I made up my own mind: I’m not crossing.”

So when he saw our band at the truck gate at 6am, he sat there in the turn lane. And sat. And sat. FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Finally Fox sent out a second guy to drive the truck into the lot. Mike was left on the sidewalk with the picketers, waiting for a ride home. (For next time: Somebody offer the man a ride, would you???) Tommy Moran of House realized that the guy standing there was the driver and asked for his name. Thank God, otherwise I wouldn’t have known whom to thank.

Our Team Fox Teamster, Tom, gave me the number of the Local 399 Call Board so I could ask somebody for Mike’s number. I later talked to Mike, who has an aw-shucks demeanor and didn’t understand why I was so impressed with what he’d done. His puzzlement (and discomfort) increased when I became verklempt (sp? Bennet, help me here) and choked up when I told him how much his actions meant to me and everyone on Team Fox.

Mike was working on one Fox show today before he got “laid off,” and had been promised that after a couple of days that he’d start work on another Fox show. That’s all gone now.

I hope you share Mike’s story with everyone you know, and I hope everyone also notes that when Teamsters refuse to cross our lines, it is HUGE for them and fucking brave. I also hope that the Guild can do something to try to pay Mike back for today at least (Rebecca? Sarah?), and if any of you at Team Fox want to contribute something, let me know.

Sean said...

Maybe Haskell wasn't aware of the following:

I'm sure he is. After all, Haskell did try to run for the leadership of IA 600. He was also on the receiving end of a vicious reform busting drive by IATSE leadership, which threatened everything from expulsion, trusteeship, and other bits of nastiness in order to keep the "responsible labor leader" Short's vision of labor peace reigning.

and that his own union does as well),

I don't doubt they will. The Teamsters just won a recent victory against Fedex for firing people for union activity, and that took them some 2 years to sue the hell out of them for it. There's no reason to expect the leadership won't come down like a hammer on the studio (hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the firing was made by a junior HR staffer who didn't know what they were doing).

David Grenier said...

Actually, it turns out Short is against the Local 1 strike on Broadway. He just kept telling Local 1 to keep offering more and more concessions to avoid a strike. Local 1 members and leadership obviously have more courage than the leadership of their international.

It's pretty much the same thing that happened with TWU during the transit strike. Leaders of Local 100 faced jail time rather than let their members down, while the leadership of the International just called for "labor peace" (another term for rolling over and giving up).

Sean said...

David, you should read the latest NY Times write up about the Local 1 strike, which mentions that Short wants to give even more concessions to the League while the Local 1 President is in a similar situation to the WGA; giving up tons of issues but not getting anything in return. That's not negotiating, thats a railroading. Luckily, it seems the WGA leadership is more attune to its rank and file than others.

Ang Li Cru said...

As a working (for now, anyway) crew member, I appreciate the sentiments of Haskell Wexler and others.

But we simply can't blindly support a strike just because a strike was called.

Our contract requires us to work.

Beyond that, most of us below-the-line workers simply don't BELIEVE in this strike. It was called hastily and by negotiators who seem to be rank amateurs!

We support the Writers, but not the Strike! And yes, you can do both!

Anonymous said...

I support any Union's right to make demands on behalf of their members. Too bad SAG/AFTRA and WGA members DO cross IATSE pickets all the time...(Madonna concert at the Forum last year)Unless we unite we will be divided up and conquered.

m. weixler said...

not alot of public interest in non public figures. actors make alot of money. i dont see alot of them sticking by your side, dont want to get blacklisted i guess, but like i said, not alot of public interest in non public figures so they arent gonna risk it. right? theres your union solidarity for ya. like kroger, paying 7 bucks an hour, and yet they are forced into paying union dues. just a pyramid scheme. a ton of people who contribute to other peoples retirement who are 'in the know'. there is a reason people with publicly broadcasted shows dont sue, and its not because there isnt trademark infringement, or they need exposure, people are tired of crappy UAW assembled junk cars. union scandals (google union corruption index) this is a new generation, unions are mostly in 4 places, canada, then california, then new york, then detroit. unions are for elitest like dick cheney, i am sure halliburtons oil drillers are in some kind of union. to prove bribery still exists, look no further than a license plate fraternal order of police contributor tag, plate, or sticker. nowadays you can burn dvds at home, ship it by 1000 different distributors and truckload carriers, have it printed in the country of your choosing, yeah man, its a new generation, the small film fests are where its gonna be at, unions dont controll everything anymore. they cant hold the people not able to get union jobs down as much as they used to. and competition eliminates the needs for unions too. we need more anti monopoly laws for everyones own good, but you will never hear anyone say anything on a picket line about everyones own good.

Anonymous said...

The wga stand virtually alone as long as iatse and other unions are allowed to cross picket lines. Haskell and others make a great point. You cant win a battle with only part of the team going into fight. Not nearly as effective as an all out campaign. The fact that other unions are not allowed to strike in support of the wga should say it all. Who negotiated that at the table on behalf of there members? If you dont have that ability, what leverage do you have against the big guys?
good luck wga. we're with you in spirit

Anonymous said...

elitists not elitest, anyway, who neogeotiated? maybe it was the people who don't take bribes, no that wouldn't make sense.....
what leverage do you have against anyone when you charge prices only conglomerates can afford. none.
the writers supported a monopoly and the people followed.... what goes around comes around. the unions got too much power, the media giants have too much power. who gave em that power, you did genius.