The AMPTP walked away on Friday. The WGA never left the table.
The Guild has made itself crystal clear: Specific proposals have been detailed, compromises have been made, the leadership continues to be engaged in a constructive dialogue to quickly resolve the strike. The AMPTP is as clear about its position: You can't talk to writers because they're emotional and don't understand business.
With the AMPTP away from the table, the negotiation is playing out in the press. If you read Dave McNary in Variety today, there's only one answer to the impasse: the WGA has to accept the companies' demands and get back to work. The companies are too powerful, with their deep pockets and experienced PR resources. The writers' are too emotional, which is great when they're writing screenplays, but not good when you're engaged in a difficult labor negotiation.
Patrick Goldstein's "The Studios Play to Win," Los Angeles Times (12/11/07), tells a different story about the break off of negotiations. From Goldstein's point of view the AMPTP is playing a hardball game and anyone who didn't expect that was simply kidding themselves. Like McNary, Goldstein sees the WGA as vulnerable because the AMPTP is ruthless, willing to create as much collateral damage as necessary to get its way.
Sure the studios can stonewall and prolong the strike. They have deep pockets and employ the damage-control wizards Fabiani and Lehane who know how to play "bare-knuckled" politics. But Goldstein doesn't see writers as helpless.
"For the writers, their best defense now is a good offense." He wants writers to strike deals with internet companies and show the studios that they may own the old sandbox, but they can't control the new worlds of Google and Yahoo.So how will the impasse be broken?
Goldstein talks about a scenario where the magic of Marvin Miller solved a labor dispute in baseball. Maybe Brian Lourd will be the new Lew Wasserman and lead the waring parties to a middle ground. If the DGA joins in the negotiation, will their talks be more friendly and so ease the overall tension?
The only thing certain is that stakes are too high not to find a resolution. Every day the AMPTP refuses to talk, more families get hurt. And though they're loathe to admit it, it hurts the companies' bottom lines as well.