Some Thoughts on the WGA Leadership

(From WGA Member Red Sox Fan)

"Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are." --Henry Fielding , The History of Tom Jones

Ever noticed how so many critics demand perfection from everyone but themselves? They sit outside the arena, claiming facts not in evidence, and render their (almost always biased) judgments. Some critics would have you believe that every mistake the WGA leadership has made is completely their fault, while everything they've done right is either dumb luck or someone else's doing.

Back in July, I had no bias about the WGA leadership. I'd heard them say some things I wasn't thrilled by, and I'd heard some things I liked. As someone who falls into the category of "average working writer," I did not want to strike, but I was willing to in order to protect my future livelihood.

Seven months later, I am biased in favor of the WGA leadership. Not rah-rah, but I'm liking most of what I see. Have they made mistakes? Of course. They got bamboozled by the companies on the DVD thing. They got suckered into an argument over seating arrangements. Other errors, or perceived errors, have been picked over on other websites in nauseating detail, to no positive effect.

One thing I have never heard any critic talk about is the enormous courage and self-sacrifice being shown by Patric Verrone, John Bowman, and the rest of our board and negotiating committee. These people have real balls. They have essentially given up two years of their lives in order to get a fair deal for the rest of us. They are operating under enormous pressure, days/nights/weekends, nonstop. With a few exceptions, they are all going broke as quickly as the rest of us.

I have been a member of the WGA for twelve years, and during that time I have watched our membership incrementally lose its bargaining power due to a devastating combination of industry consolidation and poor union leadership (not just the WGA).

It takes a hell of a lot to turn that around. To keep a diverse, fundamentally angry group of 7,000 people together for three cold, hard months. To be the target of media smear campaigns (taking the bullet for the rest of us), yet help to get 80% of the American people to say they support our cause. To recognize that when the congloms left the table, the strike turned into a writing contest -- which our membership won in a rout.

It's not luck when you build a new, incredibly strong bridge to SAG, without whom we would have had to settle long ago.

It takes fortitude and integrity to endure the wrath and second-guessing of everyone with a keyboard, but at the same time listen to valid criticisms and adjust accordingly.

You have to have real balls to go before the membership and talk candidly about the risks of trying to turn the divide and conquer strategy back on the companies -- as the leadership did in Santa Monica in December -- and then go for it, because the potential upside is so significant.

And it's not someone else's doing when that strategy yields tangible dividends.

As to our present situation, I'm glad the leadership has been quiet and reserved since the DGA deal was announced. Instead of grabbing a microphone and waving their gun (the Oscars) around, they have been studying the deal, talking to the companies, and listening to the membership and each other. In other words, they have been representing us, not themselves.

That's why I'm biased for them. They're biased for me.

See you at Paramount.

Red Sox Fan


Michael Seitzman said...

Yes, I also am biased toward the leadership, even though I wrote a piece yesterday here and on HuffingtonPost which criticized the relative silence in the aftermath of the DGA announcement. I still stand by that criticism, even as I stand by Patrick, David, John and the rest for many of the reasons you cite.

On another note entirely, I do want to mention here that I find it a bit perplexing that people will write things such as your thoughtful and articulate piece and not actually sign their names to it. And I think that when people post comments on these boards they should also sign their names. If you're certain enough about your opinion to announce it to the world then you should be willing to own up to that opinion.

Thomas said...

i agree. I've been on the WGA's side since day one. I think what they're doing is smart, and, as an aspiring writer myself, who hopes to someday be an active member of the WGA, I appreciate everything they're trying to do.


Bonnie said...

Well said. I am so sick of hearing people diss the leadership. Usually they are people sitting on their asses and contributing nothing. They use their disagreements with leadership as a reason for sitting it out. I have plenty of "disagreements" or opinions as well. I'm one of the most over opinionated person I know. Yet I am willing to instill my confidence in them because I believe they are doing their best to look out for all of our interests. Are they perfect? No? But to all the David Milch's etc. if you don't like the leadership, then you run for office next election. And if you don't want to do that or picket but just elect to bitch, then drop out of the WGA. It's a Guild. If we're not in it together than get out. That is a lot different than "drinking the Kool-Aid". It's called solidarity. There is something larger at stake in this strike. It's not just our careers...it's of all those unions that will follow us. We don't want to leave them a legacy of failure either. If we don't get what we deserve then neither will they when it is their turn at bat.

hotline said...

When you sit in a writers' room with the same people month after month, for sometimes up to fifteen hours a day, you eventually see the true character of each individual. Due to sometimes stress, sometimes exhaustion the tightly tethered character flaws of people unravel. And you're no longer business associates, you become more like a dysfunctional family as the mask of social graces cracks and everybody becomes their true selves.

Years ago when I was first starting out, I worked with Patric Verrone. Spent a sliver of my life in the same room with him. A room where true personalities and character flaws were outed. And you know the big gossip I'd tell you about Patric? Patric is crazy. Crazy level-headed. Crazy honest. Crazy intelligent. That's it. That's all I got.

So... I have absolutely zero doubt in Patric Verrone's leadership or his negotiating skills. In fact, I am relieved that he is the commander and chief of our guild. Can you imagine if we still had AMPTP kiss-ass John Wells? Or if we truly did have a crazy hothead in that position (like myself, for example)? We'd get nothing but rollbacks and this union's reputation would be damaged forever, and most likely split apart.

I am absolutely grateful for our leadership. We are in the best case scenario. There's nobody else who could have gotten us this far or kept us this united. Nobody. Thank you, leadership.

Proud to be WGA said...

Thanks you for this post. This is exactly what I've been say in the picket lines for the past three months. While most of us are hiding behind the veil of unsigned emails and anonymous blogs, Patrick and John (and the other outspoken board members) are out in front taking the bullet. They all have my deepest respect and gratitude.
-- feature writer

Not An said...

This is not meant to be a personal slam against anyone in the leadership nor their tactics, they have certainly taken on big, powerful forces; however, I'm not sure words like courage or self-sacrifice apply. Talk to me about the people who went out with very little savings, lots of bills and stayed on the line every day: that's self sacrifice. Courage, well, my dad landed at Normandy so you have to go pretty far to impress me with courage. As for balls at the meeting in December, they were preaching to the choir.

This is righteous fight with far reaching implications, giving cred for that is saying something; let's not turn it into Dr. King and the Civil Rights struggle or the Battle of Britain. We're writers, surely we can come up with praise that salutes our leaders without being so far over the top.

Please feel free to call me a shill, a troll, a plant - if you can't make an argument other than calling me names, I don't even hear you.

Respect to all.

Alexander Chow-Stuart said...

Great piece, and much needed. So much mud has been slung at Patric and our other leaders, when they seem in every sense to have done nothing but fight hard and carefully for our collective futures. I also had no strong feelings about our leaders when the strike began, but the experience of this strike has reinforced my commitment to the Guild and its leadership, and my gratitude for the protection the Guild offers, by 100% (of distributors gross, not producer's).

The bridge to SAG has been a cornerstone of our strength in this dispute, and I hope the result is an agreement that we can all live with in confidence that we got the best deal that we could - with terms that SAG can reasonably accept, when the time comes.

stuiec said...

Patric Verrone and David Young (maybe especially David Young) deserve all credit and respect for their willingness to remove reality and animation jurisdiction from the contract demands. I say that because both have very personal reasons for wanting to see those writers organized into the WGA, given the backgrounds of the two leaders (one, an animation writer and the other, a career-long union organizer).

Once the new contract is settled, the WGA certainly should invest the time and resources to organize the reality and animation sectors through traditional means -- that would be the best expression of gratitude you could give Verrone and Young.

dp said...

How come David Young's name never comes up anymore? Anyone else notice? It's now Verrone and Bowman. Now we will all say we never voted for the war and Scooter Libby was a statesmen.

I have always said I support the WGA, but, I have no support for Young's tactics.

hotline said...

dp - What are Young's tactics? Be specific. I have no idea what you mean. Educate me.

Captain Obvious said...

Michael Seitzman:

Consider the use of nicknames nothing more than a manifestation of internet nostalgia or mystique.

...or in my case: assuming an alter-ego for the sake of the cause.

dp said...


I will not re-report the entire strike for you but the most egregious mistake was in 2006, when he decided not to take the offer to engage in informal talks, instead he chose to wait to the last minute to use a strike threat as leverage.

War is used when all else fails. He never tried diplomacy. It's his M.O. look it up. I guess thats the "new" american way. I can see its working wonders across the globe.

I want no part of it.

hotline said...

Hey dp - Is that all ya got? Cause July 2007 is NOT the last minute.

And by the way, Young was not acting alone. The other members of the negotiating team I have no doubt carefully weighed the pros and cons of every step of this thing.

I see absolutely zero outrageous moves on our leaders part other than trusting these sleazy snakes more than they should.

It's so easy to be a backseat negotiator. Enlighten us - what would you have done differently to make sure the AMPTP behaved like human beings?

dp said...


"Hey dp - Is that all ya got?"

c'mon you really want to bait people into a fight? I said I wasn't going to re-report the entire strike. I've seen your type before, you're the kind that flips people off while driving and feel macho about it. When faced with the same person standing in front of you without the protection of your car speeding away you suddenly get polite. If you want to nut up and stand toe to toe, then I am your guy. If not, then leave your antagonist tone to yourself in your locked car speeding away.

The point is that Young did not meet early enough and he was asked to do so. Every other union has taken that opportunity except the WGA. That is an undisputed fact. The precedence of protocol(every union has early and informal talks) for early talks in these negotiations is also an undisputed fact.

Do you see the difference between FACTS and your conjecture and opinion? A backseat negotiator is one who does not know the facts but relies on his opinion to set his course. If you can discredit the facts, then do so. Until then I will laugh at your paper courage speeding by in a locked car.

buzzearl said...

I think that Patric Verrone, David Young, and the current WGA Leadership deserve enormous praise and support for their courage alone and the tremendous work which the have put into reversing the tremendously compromised position to which the WGA and the WGA-MBA has been reduced.

If you remember the last 2 WGA-MBA negotiations (2001, 2004) the leadership was quibbling over "a film by" credit . . . which, although not insignificant, doesn't compare to issues of jurisdiction, new media, residuals, and other nightmares (have you ever seen the millions denied writers in profit participation statements, the idiocy of $50 upset prices (for the entired separated rights to a successful franchise) or the conflict of interest inherent within agency packaging) that threaten every writer within the entertainment industry on a daily basis.

Needless to say, it's easy to criticize the tremendously difficult work which it takes to make real change--but very hard to do the actual work.


Lou D. said...

Hey Not An (if that is your real name) - Normandy and the writer's strike? Are you drinking the new AMPTP sugar free Kool-aid? As far as giving our leadership the props in the letter we're all responding to here - I agree 100 percent with it. Especially in this town - replete with the most spineless, backstabbing, self interested (see the late night hosts) people in any business anywhere. That's what's so hard for a lot of you to understand - the WGA leadership is for real, they're actually sacrificing for the good of others and the future - in Hollywood! Now that's a fucking story! But like every other aspect of this strike you'll never hear it. And that, under the circumstances demonstrates some serious cajones as well as heart.

By the way, and may I be struck dead if this isn't true - my Dad jumped into Normandy with the 101st Airborne. I never throw that around unless someone misuses the magnitude of that incredible act of BALLS - as you have.

With all due respect,

Lou DiMaggio
strike captain

PS - what's your name?

hotline said...

dp -

So instead of going into detail of what you don't like about David Young's negotiation tactics you attack me. And that's fine. It's what I expected. It just goes to show that you really don't have much to complain about. Again a fact... the AMPTP were the ones not willing to negotiate starting from July of 2007.

And in your original post all you said was that you "have no support for Young's tactics." I keep reading or personally coming across people who make these generalized criticisms of our guild or the leadership, and when I call them on it they can't seem to be specific. Just yesterday a guy said to me he supported us, but thought our guild was a bit "elitist." I said, "Oh, yeah. How so?" He could not give me one specific example. He made two other generalized criticisms and again could not give me one example.

See... I'm the type that plays devils advocate. If I'm in my car and cut off by someone, I say to myself, "Okay, maybe that guy just got a call that his mom is in the hospital."

I've been trying to see both sides. I've been trying to see how our leadership fucked up. I really don't believe that if they started informally negotiating in 2006 that the AMPTP would have behaved any better. I don't think it would have prevented them from lying and deceiving our leadership into dropping DVDs. And by the way, on that, if our leadership always wanted to strike as Tom Short has stated - why would they have dropped DVDs the night before the strike? I also don't believe negotiating in 2006 would have prevented the AMPTP from using the DGA as a tool against us, or of raging a massive media campaign against our union and leadership (which is truly the most frightening of all how owned the media is). I honestly don't believe there is much our leadership could have done differently to prevent these mega-conglomerates from trying to squash us. I really don't. I'm trying to see what you see, dp, but I really don't.

Not An said...

Hey, Lou -

Yeah, sure, not an is my real name. my mother had an uncle named not and my father changed his name to an from annapolist after coming from the old country - of course, not an is not my name and in this forum there is no reason I have to post my name. Call that spineless if you like but posts of this sort have a long and storied history throughout American and other history; plus, I'm not an A lister and despite the fact that in this strike the biggest physical injury one can expect is a broken pencil, I still choose to post - as is my right - with any name I choose that doesn't imply I am someone one I'm not or don't post slander; newsflash, having an opinion that doesn't agree with yours is not slander, nor is it right or wrong, it is just my opinion.

Now to my point - I give the leadership their due props. I do not think that the negotiators nor people who have gone back to work under side deals nor those who have a lot of other resources to fall back on should be called out for specific praise above those who have nothing to fall back on but who went out anyway and have stayed out.

As for bringing up the comparisons to Normandy and the like, I didn't, they and outsize comparisons like them are all over the WGA blogs. My dad did land at Normandy and like yours he was a brave common man who did his duty in an event that changed history. I am enormously offended by anyone comparing that bravery and those sacrifices to this one and to others made during the Civil Rights movement and, most especially, to the Holocaust which I have also seen posted. That being said most of those posts were on another blog so it may have been off point for me to have brought them in but I found this post so over the top that I may have matched it.

Finally, if - on both sides - there weren't so many people worried about showing their cajones and being praised for them, this might have been settled long ago.

All due respect but no undue hero worship.

dp said...


Did you not read my posts? You asked for a specific example and I gave you one, more than once. Young did not pursue early negotiations, instead he tried to use a stalling tactic to leverage the deadline. That's it. That's the facts Jack. Now say it out loud.

July is not early enough, its only 3 1/2 months before your contract ends. The AMPTP wanted to start 15 months earlier. The DGA wanted 9 months earlier, but held off just for the WGA. I have said it over and over and yet you still ask for an example. What is wrong with you?

These are undisputed facts versus your opinions. Your psychosis has grown so that now you believe that your opinions are facts. They are not. They are just opinions. Here you say, " I really don't believe that if they started informally negotiating in 2006 that the AMPTP would have behaved any better." See the use of the word "believe", that's an opinion.

I am not attacking you, but I will not be baited by your cantankerous attitude. My first post stated that I didn't like Young's tactics, which is my opinion about the Fact(his tactics-past tense and verifiable). Your opinions on the other hand are based on conjecture, " I really don't believe that if they started informally negotiating in 2006 that the AMPTP would have behaved any better." There is nothing factual or verifiable about this sentence other than You are the one who said it, and it is solely based on conjecture and the opinions held by You.

I asked you to discredit the facts. You have failed to do so.

I would discuss this further with you but I'd be bored and you'd be confused.

just a thought said...

This strike really showed me how elitist the writers really are. You only have to look over all the blogs on United Hollywood to bear this out.Just look at the words that were blogged. Uniting with actors only showed me that those two guild have the cornerstone of talent in the movie business. I think not.
I've heard on a set more than once from a actor saying "who wrote this shit" All you have to do is recall the stories about David Caruso fight with writers on all his various shows. Ask Paul Haggis.
You banner United Hollywood should be renamed Hollywood Disconnected because there's a re disconnect in this town.
Yes I agree tom short's letter was uncalled for. He's a stupid man. You never pull a guys pants down in a fight.I think your Neg Com expected the producers to roll over and give in. Producers are heartless.They don't care about any of us.
We at a point now where it's us against them and all of us against each other. There's a big riff in this town, and don't if it will ever be repaired.
Thanks for listening

hotline said...

tactics - with an "s"

dp - your original post suggested there's more than one thing David Young did to upset you.

Yes, after I asked you said you didn't like that he didn't negotiate early. I defended that "fact." Yes, that was my opinion.

Again, if that's all you're going to include in "tactics" with an s, then I stand by my "you got got nothing." The fact that we didn't negotiate early doesn't mean a thing would have been different if we did.

Yeah, I'm tired of this, too. I don't get your point of view at all.

Young and the rest have done great by all the "facts" I know.