The War of Words: No Substitute for Real Negotiating

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.


Geo Rule said...

Can I ask why you guys are demanding jurisdiction over Animated and Reality? They're trying to paint you as meglomaniacs over it. Shouldn't the demand be for a free and fair union organization election for those positions you (rightly, in my view) claim are writers positions in those niches? Then let the studios be the bad guys who aren't willing to let a majority vote decide it.

Right now by allowing yourself to be painted as the studios getting to decide this is like demanding of George Bush that he give up Austria. He doesn't own Austria to give it up in the first place. Tho, please, someone don't go demand that of George Bush, or I'm liable to find myself apologizing to the Austrians for an invasion. That'd be so embarrassing!

Captain Obvious said...

Geo Rule: It's because the AMPTP refused to discuss residuals while stalling with their imaginary "second half of our proposal" and so the writers had to move on to other issues to keep the negotiations going because that's what you do during those, you talk about things that matter.

It was just meant as a talking point, not as a hard-line deal or no deal, to keep negotiations going. The AMPTP, however, decided it was their convenient lightning rod to walk away and attempt to spin everything against the writers and that's what ultimately happened; just as I predicted weeks ago.

The AMPTP attempted to do this same thing with the initial DVD issue and were sure the writers would never budge on that. When the writers did budge in an attempt to keep the AMPTP negotiating they huffed and puffed instead. Why? Because this wasn't on the AMPTP's playbook. It wasn't pre-approved. They're afraid to do anything without consulting all the corporations. It's a mess. With so much conglomeration these days even one corporation can decide to shut off the American media. The AMPTP is truly someone's bitch, to put it bluntly.

They have some illusion that they're playing this smart. Wrong. Don't listen to what your fellow corporate behemoth mouthpieces tell you. Who knows, maybe the AMPTP will bust itself in all this.

Funny, and fitting; especially if writers decide to strike out on their own as a result.

ChuckT said...

Funny. You're quoting EVERYTHING I have said all along and in my two previous posts on this website (especially in regards to the ruthless power of the studios and the too emotion, non-business-minded writers). I also said that until the writers define their OWN identity and revenue on the internet, THEY WILL NEVER GET THE MONEY OR RESPECT THEY ARE EXPECTING IN NEW MEDIA. Additionally, everything I have predicted in each of my posts on Nikki Fink's website has happened almost exactly as I said it would.

But... let's see... I've been called a studio shill (the old standby when people can think of a substantial rebuttal to valid statements) and told that I am trying to break your spirits. I suppose the writers of those two articles are studio shills too, as is everyone else who tries to shine a light of REALITY on the WGA, the writers and the entire scenario -- oh, and you know who ELSE is a shill? Jesus Christ. Yup.

You know... a person cannot fault the writers for being emotional. But when your emotions cause you to be in denial of the reality of your own probable demise (at the negotiation table) and FURTHER causes you to lash out at anyone who doesn't jump on board your pity party train, and causes you to pump up your chest with pride that is not warranted or constructive in this situation, then it can be said that you are your own worst enemy, not the AMPTP.

Captain Obvious said...

ChuckT is that even on-topic? Or did you write that in Notepad and paste it into the first blog entry you saw when you loaded UH?

Scooter said...

Seems to me that if I was the AMPTP I would be doing all I could to make sure that a deal is not made until after the christmas buying season is over. I'd wait until the buying frenzy has slowed down, in February at least.

I'd even be making all the excuses I could to make it seem to be the other persons fault.

Think of all the money I would have to share otherwise...

Rocky said...

Chuck T, I will not call you a studio shill just a Jack-Ass who uses the word, I, far too much. You're the loud guy at the cocktail party. The one who takes six coconut shrimp and no napkin; the one who shouts when he talks and makes other people at the party roll their eyes and sigh. And you are never wrong, ever. I have you pegged as a disgruntled IATSE guy. I'm thinking hair and make-up. Keep the predictions coming.

Carrie said...

Geo rule, the reason they're trying to get animation and reality covered under the Minimum Basic Agreement now is so they don't end up in a whack a mole scenario trying to organize one show at a time. This tactic is a weak one as it allows studios to delay unionization of a show until a season ends when the producers can hire on a whole new group of people and the WGA has to start organizing from scratch. This is very tactic that led to the failed America's Next Top Model strike. Also, the AMPTP is refusing to recognize WGA or any union as the bargaining body for reality writers so now is the time to establish that precedent. And finally, reality writers and WGA writers are both better served by being joined together as a unit as it makes it less possible for studios and network to use the other genres as a threat in negotiations.

Your analogy of George Bush with more analogous to Puerto Rico. It's a territory of the United States, but both sides have to choose if it can become a full fledge state. The reality writers do, George Bush (AMPTP) does not and so uses congress (the labor board) to block it.

Geo Rule said...


Thanks, that's the answer I was looking for. Tho having said that, I do think those issues can be managed in the WGA's proposal. For instance, you propose to make the eligible voters the people in those positions as of a certain date in the recent past so that they can't play that kind of "fire the union guys before the vote" game with it. You also write into your proposal all the shows and positions on those shows that are eligible for the vote and which existed on that same recent date in the past.

Believe me, I do get that this is a strawman by AMPTP. My point is light their damn strawman on fire. :)

ChuckT said...

captain obvious, "is that on topic?" Well... let's see... I made a direct comment about the two articles mentioned in this post, the studios and the writers. On topic. What ISN'T on topic and is wholly irrelevant to this disccusion and your cause is your deep need to insult rather than engage in a meaningful dialogue or counter an argument intelligently without namecalling and insulting broad generalizations (which clearly comes from a lifetime of insecurities). By insulting my character as opposed to having a valid counter-argument, you have proven all of my points perfectly.

God help you if the people representing you at the negotiation table are as immature, unfocused, angry and inarticulate as you are.

Rocky, grow up.