Tim Lea wrote an email which Mike Royce and Steve Skrovan made us aware of. We’ve excerpted his analysis of the strike to highlight his truly inspired perceptions.
Hey all --
So the AMPTP has responded. Four days of 'meetings', and the resulting offer is a strange hybrid of calculated low-balling, contempt and picaresque fantasy that would better become a Voltaire novel than an early 21st-century labor negotiation.The AMPTP and the studios and corporations they represent are not yet ready to negotiate. They calculate that they have time before this year's TV season is irrevocably damaged...and they want to create fatal divisions within our membership.
There is nothing irrational or random about any of this. The first entry in a Google search of the term Union Busting provides a link to the home page of a union-busting firm. They're quite up front: "It's about winning," they say:
"Since 1987, Adams, Nash, Haskell & Sheridan has
assisted hundreds of employers in thousands of engagements always protecting the employers' rights to continue to manage…unobstructed by unions or other outside third parties that can destroy productivity, profitability, and the joy of the direct relationship between an employer and its employees."
The point is clear: there is an entire industry devoted to union-busting with refined strategies for dealing with union activity.
The AMPTP strategy…is to gain control over 'New Media' by breaking the unions. First us, then the rest. Then the Internet will be a non-union town.
In his book Confessions of a Union Buster, Martin Jay Levitt details the techniques he learned in his many years attacking unions. A key element is the demoralization of the union members during any industrial action against the company. Taking away people's hopes, their aspirations for a quick resolution to any labor dispute – that was Levitt's job. "If you can, make the union fight drag on long enough, workers...lose faith, lose interest, lose hope."According to Robert Muehlenkamp, an SEIU Local 1199 organizer at Harper Grace hospital in the 70's, where Levitt was hired to consult management:
"Union busters wield great power through a program of terror and manipulation – people don't, can't possibly know what's going on and who's telling the truth.... The first time this happens to regular people, they're terrified."And terror is the goal. The union buster hopes to control employees by employing terror.
This is, of course, precisely the situation we find ourselves in today. We are the example that is being used to intimidate the other unions. The studios want the actors, the directors, the Teamsters, IATSE, all to look at our struggle and see us lose. See us fractured and divided. With the hope that they will be frightened by what they see, and accept whatever deal the studios offer.
The idea is also to make us appear demoralized, then divided. To the public, and to ourselves. Diminish the pickets (LA Times: the "relentless picketing" which was one element in bringing the AMPTP back to the table); split off core groups (oh no! Carlton Cuse has gone back to work! The Showrunners are all abandoning us!); fragment the internal leadership (the Captain's meeting Friday, although generally cordial, did show signs of strain as one writer, concerned for his laid-off production team asked "What do I tell them?" to be admonished by another member that "We are on strike!"); and create a sense that our strike is useless.
The most powerful tactic in strike-breaking is propagandistic. The union (and particularly the leadership) is portrayed as power-hungry, control-seeking, strike-happy, aloof. Leadership is described as detached from the membership and inaccessible to their demands (Patric responded to over 500 e-mails over the Thanksgiving break.) The strike is described as rudderless and futile, with declining numbers on the picket lines. The creation of a Strike Rules committee is described as fascistic. The companies are portrayed as avuncular and concerned: "We're just trying to get everyone back to work."
Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer. That's the union buster's strategy.
But unions have their own strategy. At the SEIU rally on Thursday, the marchers began and ended with a prayer. They bowed their heads and prayed for direction and guidance and thanked their God for the opportunity, the voice, the courage, the belief, to express themselves in their struggle.
They connect their struggle with their belief. They believe, and we must believe.
There is the obvious physical expression of the belief of the membership in being out in force, vocally, on the picket lines, and there is the emotional power of belief that underpins the leadership's work. The leadership can focus on the exhausting work of facing down the employers at the negotiating table because they are sustained by the knowledge that the membership is behind them.
While we may all have notions of tactics or strategy or choices of which gate to picket or whether to have Christmas lunch on Peter Chernin's front lawn, it all boils down to this:
What are we striking for? What do we believe? Is our purpose singular and clear?
These are the questions that will decide whether we win or lose. Do we believe that this struggle, this sacrifice we are all making, is worthy? Are we of one heart? One mind? Do we look at each other on the picket lines and see brothers and sisters? Is our belief strong enough to carry us through to the end?
Only we can know. The companies hope the answer is no, and they will wage a psychological war to make us think the answer is no. The companies will try to convince us that we do not believe. And each of us, as individuals, must decide. Because if the answer is no, we have already lost.
Belief is victory.
In peace and solidarity,