2/01/2008

Congressional Committee Urges CEOs to Make Fair Deal

The following letter was sent out today by three members of the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. (via Variety's Scribe Vibe blog) -JA

February 1, 2008

Mr. Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO
The Fox Group

Mr. Robert Iger, President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company

Dear Messrs. Chernin and Iger:

As Chairs and Members of the House Committee on Education and Labor, we have monitored the ongoing labor dispute between your company and the Writers Guild of America with particular interest and growing concern. We were pleased to see that, after suspension of formal negotiations, you and the other members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have convened informal discussions with Writers Guild representatives. The purpose of our letter is to encourage you to seek a fair, just, and swift resolution to this labor dispute.

The television and film industry is a significant part of our national economy. It provides thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, each year. It generates critical revenue to cities, counties, and states. Its products are among the country’s most valuable exports.

The entertainment industry not only supports writers, actors, and producers but is a major source of middle class jobs for California, New York, and the rest of the country. We appreciate that the issues at stake are critical to the future of your business. As the entertainment industry grows and changes, we hope that any new business models will allow for creative talent to grow with the industry.

Maintaining the middle class jobs that your industry provides is among our greatest concerns. The growing cost of this dispute is of increasing concern in the Congress. We understand that Los Angeles County, for example, has lost an estimated $1.6 billion in economic activity due to the strike. Given the House Education and Labor Committee’s jurisdiction, we are exploring the need for further Committee attention to this matter. The impact of this strike on workers, the industry, and our economy is simply too pronounced to ignore.

We urge you to work to resolve the dispute with a fair and just agreement for all parties as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER
Chairman
Committee on Education and Labor

LYNN C. WOOLSEY
Chairperson
Subcommittee on Workforce Protections

LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ
Member
Committee on Education and Labor

cc: Patric M. Verrone, President, Writers Guild of America West
Michael Winship, President, Writers Guild of America East
Jeffrey Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal
Les Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Entertainment
Barry M. Meyer, Chairman and CEO, Warner Brothers Inc.
Brad Grey, Chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures Corp.
Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Harry Sloan, Chairman and CEO, MGM

51 comments:

Jeremy said...

It may just be me, but this doesn't sound so helpful at the moment. Where were they when the AMPTP weren't talking? Now they come along and try to be "helpful?"

Not An said...

It has nothing to do with being helpful, like most things the goverment does it is about posturing.

just a thought said...

I like that it's veiled threat

Evan Waters said...

Why those two in specific? Sure, it was CC'd to everybody else, but I'm obviously not clear on Chernin and Iger's significance here.

jimmy said...

I don't suppose they realize that both sides are absolutely convinced that their own positions are "fair" do they?

The companies think they're being fair.

The writers don't they are.

Hence, the issue.

What is the point of this?

paint the town red said...

How do you think the conglomerates feel about having their dirty laundry exposed to their stockholders through congressional hearings? We all know their books are cooked-- It's been proven every time in court by screwed profit participants -- only to be settled out of court. Think Worldcom and Enron. Think of Sumner Redstone sitting in jail.

Not An said...

Right, just a thought - that's exactly what we want from our government, veiled threats; fine when they're on our side but what about when they're not?

Just my opinion, paint the town red, but it will be a cold day in hell before there are any congressional hearings on any of this; all you have to do is check out industry donations to elected officials.

hotline said...

Here's a craaaaazy question. If these mega-congloms ganging up against unions truly is collusion and illegal, and if walking away from negotiations was in violations of labor laws and illegal, can every single person who was financially hurt by this strike file a class action lawsuit against the members of the AMPTP?

My little fantasy.

paint the town red said...

Hotline: I'm not an attorney, however, my understanding is that once the strike is settled and if the WGA can prove there was collusion, etc., then the congloms are responsible for paying WGA writers retroactively.

Also, to "not an": I think congress cares more about the 7,000voting members of our union -- not to mention the voting members of every other union who can put them in congress.

just a thought said...

not an
I suppose the NRLB complaint will solve the problem.
I don't get you at all. The letter was addressed to Iger and Chernin not Verrone and Young.
Do you really think that these corps. would hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

hotline said...

Thanks, Paint.

I am curious if members of other unions and anybody else this mess has hurt could take some sort of action, too.

My guess is that even when this is over there will be government involvement - especially when there's a democrat in the white house.

Xolitz said...

WGA is not technically a "Union" and neither are SAG or the DGA they are "Guilds" in day to day business there is little distinction but I don't know whether or not "Union" rules apply. I could be wrong but most "Unions" are called "Shopkeepers Union 376" (just an example) so perhaps that is the case. Secondly whether or not the AMPTP has been fair its not like they locked the workers out. The contract expired and instead of continuing to work under the expired contract while negotiations took place the WGA chose to walk off the job and strike. Had they continued to work under the expired contract they would be entitled to retroactive pay but as they left under their own accord I don't know that this is the case. Again im not a lawyer or a "Union" scholar but it sounds right.

paint the town red said...

hotline: I think that's what the other union leaders should be focusing on. At some point, agencies might want to jump on that bandwagon, too.

paint the town red said...

zolitz: The conglomerate leaders signed an agreement stating they would stand together, and would not break apart -- and then they subsequently abandoned WGA reps at the negotiating table. Pretty incriminating...

Xolitz said...

"paint the town red said...
Xolitz: The conglomerate leaders signed an agreement stating they would stand together"

That would be a damning document if true (not saying it isn't) it sound like it would be a monumentally stupid thing to do if it violated anti-union collusion laws. Which again im sure people will take the time out from calling people (Me) trolls to correct but again I dont know if a "Guild" and a "Union" are both covered under the same laws. But CBS is profiting from ad sales alot more than ABC and NBC with their side agreement made via World Wide Pants so it would seem to me that they would have violated any such agreement and the others that entered into it might not be happy about. I of course left FOX out of the equation because of this country's idiotic worship of "American Idol" im sure they are doing fine on Ad revenue with that thing. As I said I could be completely off base and all union rules apply but if not it might be a moot point.

IATSE Prop Master said...

On Jan 30, 2008 Daily Variety writer Dave McNary reported that only 5500 WGA members qualify for the the WGA health plan.
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117979896.html?categoryid=1066&cs=1
He also reports that 250 writers will lose their benefits on April 1, 2008. If there are 12,000 WGA members, that means approximately 6500 non working writers voted for a strike that has affected 20,000 or more Below the Line Workers and the various industries, businesses and vendors that rely on the Motion Picture Industry for a living. Most of us Below the Line Workers work for a living. We don't live off residuals. We don't work on one show and expect that show to be our gravy train for the rest of our lives. Many of us have been accused of not standing with our "Union brothers and sisters". I am a life long Union member and I am sure that if IATSE went on strike, which it has the sense not to, the WGA and SAG would sell us down the river in heartbeat. The WGA and SAG leadership (read Hollywood Elite) are willing to go to war over their contracts and damn the collateral damage. I say it is time for the strike to end for the good of the industry. How many thousands of Below the Line Workers must lose their health insurance or homes for the sake of the 250 WGA members losing their health insurance?

stuiec said...

paint the town red & hotline: once the strike is settled, it's incumbent on the WGA and all of the guilds and unions in the entertainment industry to forge alliances. You can certainly appreciate the value inter-union solidarity has during a strike, and the best time to build that solidarity is well before a strike situation develops.

paint the town red said...

Stuiec: In theory you're right. But, let's see what kind of deal the WGA gets...

just a thought said...

Stuice
Your kidding yourself when you say we should forge an alliance. The guilds think we the IA are grape pickers. That's the way the state of california describes us. From these posts that's how describe us.

Col said...

It's Feb 1st and the WGA is still out of work. Can we get a down to Earth blog on what's happening? Is your bank foreclosing on your mortgage? Is your landlord losing patience after 3 months delinquent on your rent?

Rocky said...

IATSE PROP MASTER

I'll shove your own numbers back up your rear end.

The WGA is 12,000 members strong. Only 5500 qualified for health insurance this year. You should know that the threshold for qualifying for Health Insurance is roughly $30,000 earned over the period of one year. Thats $30,000 a year, not 300,000.

That means that more than half (roughly sixty percent) of the membership earned less than that amount in the previous year.

Hardly a "gravy train of residuals that they live off of the rest of their lives."

Does more than sixty percent of your membership earn less than $30 K per year? I think not.

You called the 6500, "non working writers." Is it possible that a significant number of them are "struggling writers?"

Are people who earn less than 30 k in your union called "non working." Are they tossed aside as meaningless?

I hear you refer to yourselves as "below the line." Wouldn't those 6500 writers, members of the guild, people who pay dues, active writers trying to break into the business or get back into the business, be considered "Below the line" as well?

I know it's easy to imagine a guild full of rich lazy people who peck away at a keyboard effortlessly writing stupid shit and being paid with suitcases full of money, while twirling their mustaches and scoffing at the insignificance of the "Below the liners."
But you sir, with your numbers have so nicely proven my point, I'll leave the rest of it to your fantastic imagination.

Gavin Polone said...

With all the literacy he could muster, IATSE Prop Master said, The WGA and SAG leadership (read Hollywood Elite) are willing to go to war over their contracts and damn the collateral damage.

Yeah, we're all such heartless pricks. There's no time we could call a strike without the unfortunate side effect of putting others out of work. We know this and regret it, but we won't work for less than we're worth.

I say it is time for the strike to end for the good of the industry. Sure: screw the good of the writers.

How many thousands of Below the Line Workers must lose their health insurance or homes for the sake of the 250 WGA members losing their health insurance? Huh? How are those 250 writers in particular responsible for the economic misfortune you describe?

"I am a life long Union member and I am sure that if IATSE went on strike, which it has the sense not to, the WGA and SAG would sell us down the river in heartbeat. I'll march with my IATSE brethren any day. I just don't want to be standing any too close to you..

Skyfleur said...

IATSE prop master. You didn't follow the process for voting the strike. The WGA has 12000 members, about 6000 voted when asked about the strike, there was a 90% "Aye". This was the biggest turn out for a vote in a long time.
So it could be that I am strengthening your point since only half the guild voted and is responsible for your situation.

The 250 writers whose salaries have been frozen are due to the fact that they're alledgedly not entitled to the fund under current rules. Trey Calloway and Eric Champnella explained in Hollywood Live, there's been a mix up and this should be resolved shortly.

As you can see the WGA is not hiding this, it's on their main page.

Why you are still supporting the AMPTP after they walked out twice and after every shred of evidence proves that between july and december they were not seriously negotiating is beyond my understanding.
I will just point out that between July and November, the AMPTP has demanded that the DVD formula be dropped completely, so if you think any writer would accept not to get residuals, think about your health and pension funds and ask yourself if you'd be willing that your new IATSE contract do away with residuals funding the funds. And then, we'll see if Tom "sell his mother and grandmother" Short will accept and not go on strike or in another words be reasonable....

cory said...

AMPTP statement released on 1/31/08. If this is true, why are the guilds complaining?

"We believe it is important to correct a mistake that is being perpetuated regarding residual payments for permanent downloads. In 2006, SAG, WGA and DGA claimed that the appropriate residual formula was the 1.2 percent residual for pay television. The AMPTP took the position that that the home video formula should apply to these releases. All three Guilds
filed grievances on this issue, but the grievances were never pursued by the WGA or the other Guilds. The bottom line is clear: The 1.2 percent figure was never a benchmark of any kind. It was merely a demand that none of the Guilds ever seriously pursued. To summarize, all three Guilds filed claims in 2006 arguing that the release of television and theatrical motion pictures by electronic sell-through should generate residuals at the pay TV rate. The Companies maintained then, as they do now, that electronic sell-through is another form of home video
because, among other reasons, the individual retains a permanent copy. If the Guilds believed that they had a strong case, they would have pursued their grievance claims; instead, they held them open, preferring to address the issue in negotiations. This is what the DGA has done. In bargaining its tentative agreement, the DGA doubled the EST rate for television and secured an 80%residual increase for the EST film rate."

Makes sense to me.

deuddersun said...

IATSE Propmaster does make a valid point, at least as far as SAG is concerned, about selling the IA down the river. Writers have little control over which crews work on their scripts, but actors do. Any SAG actor who knowingly works with a non-union crew is hurting us, whether it be a feature film, TV show, music video or commercial. Lord knows tho, the IA has long had problems with it's own DP's working with non-union crews, particularly on commercials. I have personally disrupted more than a few of these shoots and have been successful in getting them to man up. I think that we have a little housecleaning of our own to do before we start pointing fingers at the WGA. SAG, now that is a different matter.

But what better time is there than now, when the writers and eventually, the actors could use our support, to form a new, strong, unbreakable alliance, just as the Studios have done? If Tommy Short had the foresight required by his position as President of the IA, that is exactly what he would be doing - forging these alliances.

Face it btl, we are the weakest union. I know we are the BEST at what we do, so don't jump all over me. The producers, however, have long since learned that they don't need Hollywood or NY anymore. They can shoot their pictures anywhere. They built New York City in New Zealand for King Kong! They built Gangs of New York in Italy! They did Rudy in Canada! And anyone who remembers the boycott of NYC back in '90-'91 can tell you what it is like when the studios say, Fuck You, we'll shoot it in North Carolina! Had the SAG backed us then, the results would have been different. No matter where in the world a film is done it can't be done without a script and actors - they drive the business! Producers just don't need us as bad as they used to or as bad as we wished they did. Our best bet is to align with the writers and actors, get commitments from their leadership and thus benefit from their strength.

Wake up, btl folks, this industry is changing. Soon they may not need anyone but writers, directors and producers. Talent and btl will be done by programmers in Korea. Take a look at the 300. Why should a producer pay a Star 25 mil when he can create a computer-generated one for peanuts? The proliferation of video games has created an entire generation of kids used to seeing their heroes that way. Why pay Angelina Jolie to play Lara Croft when you can use the actual video game character for a whole lot less - with no residuals!

The world is changing. For us, it's growing much smaller much faster than I would like. Unless we all look to the future together we will lose whatever future we may have. It is time for us to form a Band of the Hand, (to borrow a phrase from my Marine Corps daze). Five fingers, One Fist!

d.
http://deuddersun.blogspot.com
IATSE
Local #52
New York City

dp said...

Stuiec-
What kind of solidarity are you talking about? None of the unions contractually can stage a sympathy strike. It's by AMPTP design and to my understanding didn't the WGA take that off the table too?

Rocky-Back payments off a Collusion charge? Now you guys are dreaming. What about enforcing simple labor laws on the industry? You know California law says your supposed to take a break at 4 hours not 6, but productions regularly go over 6 hours. There's no "grace" in labor law. How about all those people that regularly work over 14 hours? You know the crew people that have already died driving home after days like that. Where was this congressional committee then? Do you think a 8 or 9 hour turn around after a 14 day 5 days in a row is legal? Even emergency services during a disaster get more time off than that.

The government is like the semaphore workers on an airport runway who guide you the 10 feet to the terminal. George Carlin had a bit with the pilot saying, "Thanks Magellan, I just flew 30 tons of steel 30,000 feet in the air around the globe but I couldn't find the terminal without you."

dp said...

sorry Rocky, I meant Hotline.

kimmy2007 said...

Where were these people 12 weeks ago? I would have thought mr arnold would have said something? Well its better late than never, they should take the advice and do a fair deal, and with the Oscars coming ,this is a great time to make things better. if the Oscars don't air that will be a even bigger problem!

dp said...

IATSE Prop master's point is that the strike could have been averted.

It could have.

The WGA told the AMPTP to go screw when they asked for informal talks back in 2006.

Guess where you are now?

Informal talks 2008. While we can all, "look at the havoc".

Denying this FACT just shows how stupid people can hire stupid people to negotiate for them.

This isn't about who OUR leaders are or an ,"oh yeah, what about your IA", it's about you, the WGA the only union who is currently on strike and has been since the November. The DGA didn't strike, the IA didn't strike, and SAG hasn't struck and may not.

The WGA threw the first punch when it said "F.O. we don't want your informal talks, we would rather wait until there isn't enough time to hash this out before we can legally strike."-2006

OWN IT YOU VOTED FOR IT.

Mrs_garrett said...

Actually DP, here's the code used when a collective bargaining agreement is not in place:
"Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the Industrial Welfare
Commission may adopt a working condition order permitting a meal
period to commence after six hours of work if the commission
determines that the order is consistent with the health and welfare
of the affected employees."
You are correct, there is no grace period, but in Cal Labor law, the only penalty an employee is required to pay for encroaching on a meal penalty is one hour of the employee's salary. But when there is a collective bargaining agreement in place, that agreement supercedes the labor law-- in there is a grace period in place in the IA agreement. Here's that section of the code:
"If an employee in the motion picture industry or the
broadcasting industry, as those industries are defined in Industrial
Welfare Commission Wage Orders 11 and 12, is covered by a valid
collective bargaining agreement that provides for meal periods and
includes a monetary remedy if the employee does not receive a meal
period required by the agreement, then the terms, conditions, and
remedies of the agreement pertaining to meal periods apply in lieu of
the applicable provisions pertaining to meal periods of subdivision
(a) of this section, Section 226.7, and Industrial Welfare Commission
Wage Orders 11 and 12."

dp said...

Mrs Garrett-

Thanks for looking that up. Now what about Brent who died after working 14 hours on "Pleasantville " and left a wife and two young children???

What about labor laws 15 min break after 4 hours?

Yeah my point is that a congressional committee isn't going to do jack about this. Just like when union agreements supersede what has been voted on by the entire electorate in California, so will go the protection and loopholes held by congloms regarding collusion.

Mrs_garrett said...

Yup- truck drivers and medical residents are also constantly working hours that push the limits of their bodies and minds -- unfortunately this is not a movie-industry problem, but a problem in the American workforce.

Laeta Kalogridis said...

dp --

For those of you unfamiliar with what he's talking about, Brent Hershman was driving home after working 19 hours straight on Pleasantville, and died because he fell asleep at the wheel out of sheer exhaustion. He was on his way home because his 2 year old daughter was sick, and he'd promised her that he'd come see her. It happened in March of 1997, and resulted in a petition of over 10,000 signatures asking for workdays on set to be limited legally to no more than 14 hours. Actors, writers, btl crew, it had wide support. SAG came out publicly behind the measure. The WGA was said to support it, and many writers signed, but my personal memory is that my union -- much to my dismay -- did NOT take any kind of real leadership role (then or now) over what was and continues to be an absolutely unconscionable, horrific problem in film and tv production.

IA, however, was the worst of the unions in their lukewarm "support", and in trying to find any other "solution" that would keep the rule from becoming law. Brent's rule did not become law.

My point is this: dp is absolutely right to bring it up. And one of the things that I desperately hope will come out of this strike is that all of us, all unionized workers in Hollywood, will start paying attention to each other's issues in a meaningful and more organized way so that we can get something real done about problems like this. And I know that someone will read this and scream that "overpaid writers" are part of the problem, because overscale compensation (which can be stars, non-writing producers and a host of others as well as top-tier writers) leads to less money for production which leads to ridiculous corner-cutting and schedules like the one that killed Brent. But my response is: we're ALL part of the problem. All of us, writers included, but everyone else included as well (like CEO's who get paid huge bonuses for finding ways to pay less to btl crew.) And these things won't get solved until all unions are part of the solution.

Read about Brent and what happened here:

Extreme Hours

or here:

Behind the Dream Factory

stuiec said...

dp: "What kind of solidarity are you talking about? None of the unions contractually can stage a sympathy strike. It's by AMPTP design and to my understanding didn't the WGA take that off the table too?"

I'm talking about every other kind of solidarity there is. I'm talking about a Central Labor Council of the entertainment industry, where all of the guilds and unions meet every month to keep each other informed about their individual issues and to strategize how (short of sympathy strikes) they can support one another.

I'm talking about the Guilds educating their members that they are, in fact, laborers -- that the business reality that many of them work as independent contractors doesn't make them different (or, God forbid, above) any other worker, but much the same as any skilled crafts unionist who works projects and not permanent employment.

I'm talking ending the idiotic feud between Tom Short and the WGA. I don't really care what its roots are, who started it or who's more to blame for it: it's corrosive to the labor movement in entertainment.

I'm talking about not looking to legislatures or Congress or the courts to do the job of building the labor movement or standing up for labor's rights. Whatever labor achieves, especially in this day and age where money talks louder to politicians than votes or grassroots organization, labor will have to achieve on its own.

And I am also talking about working with the other side so that they understand that organized labor in the entertainment industry can and will be the most valuable partner they can have -- if and ONLY if it receives the respect and fair treatment from management that are its natural right. Labor should develop the unity and the attitude that forces management to look upon it as, in the phrase of the U.S. Marine Corps, "no greater friend, no worse enemy" -- people they definitely want working in cooperation with them and not in opposition to them.

Is all of that hopelessly idealistic? Perhaps. But here's a better question: is there any tenable alternative?

stuiec said...

deuddersun: "But what better time is there than now, when the writers and eventually, the actors could use our support, to form a new, strong, unbreakable alliance, just as the Studios have done?"

What you said. You'd think that with the example of the WGA-SAG alliance before them, all of the entertainent industry guilds and unions would understand the value of strong alliances.

Rocky said...

DP,
I think you would agree that a strong union is essential in preventing the type of tragedy that took the life of Brent. And that it is incumbent upon the union reps to make sure membership abides by those rules.

Unfortunately, due to economics many of us are eager to stay to make that extra money. I get it. I've done it. We are willing to flaunt the rules to do so. Strong unions don't allow this type of mistreatment or disregard for the rules. Strong unions strictly enforce those safety measures and don't allow people to pick and choose when to abide by them. Those agreements are forged through tough collective bargaining. Sometimes that even means going on strike to protect your membership against the evils you describe.

The work of the crew is essential to making a quality production. You are the largest union and should be the strongest. The fact that you haven't had to strike is not necessarily an indication that you have a strong union. In fact, i would argue it might be exactly the opposite. From what I've read about and from Tom Short, he seems to be in bed with management. That's never a good thing for the leader of a union. Weak leadership trickles down into the trenches.

I have seen tough unions at work. It is their job to make sure that management doesn't abuse the membership. And when they do their job it's a beautiful thing.

You may not agree with the tactics of the WGA and you have a right to your opinion. But they are out to protect their membership. The issues are far different than those of your union but they are equally as important. I applaud their efforts.

In the future should IATSE be forced to strike in order to protect their members against an obvious and significant wrong, i will walk the picket line with them. That's not just some empty promise. I would be there and i think many of my colleagues would as well.

Just my opinion of course.

dp said...

Rocky-

Thanks for the offer. I would seriously reconsider, though. If you were to walk out with us you would lose your job because there is no "sympathy strike".

I am standing with you for YOUR strike. I have helped shoot your strike videos and other projects.

I understand some people want the extra overtime. Nobody that I've worked with over the past 18 years has wanted to work 14 hours a day every day of the week. The crew people like Brent would have rather gone home at 12 to see his new baby and family. He was probably worried about being replaced for leaving early. If any of my crew have family obligations I let them take care of it without penalty. They just have to get it covered so we can keep shooting and all my departments make calls to help that member out. Family first is what I tell my crews. I remember working when I first got in the business and the pressure leaving early or taking care of family had on my perceived commitment. Now that I am their boss I turn it around. You know what I get? 110% better workers. Being a leader is not delegating responsibility, it is encouraging a sense of ownership, pride and creative input to let everyone win and therefore return more productive results. That means more time for more coverage, more time for changes, better shots, shorter workdays, and more time for family. I am a strong union man. Brent had no rules on the books at the time. Sad.

Your comments on Tom Short may be true or may be false. So far it is inconclusive speculation that feeds conspiracy theorists. You would have to prove he is taking kick backs or receiving some other compensation at the direct detriment of the members. If you have this proof I would like to know about it because I will lead the effort to oust him.

I have my opinions about your leadership because their decisions effect my crews and myself. As far as I can tell no decision by Tom Short effects you.

So I am curious, could you indulge me with a couple of answers to these questions.

1-What Tom Short decision effects you?

2-If you are happy with WGA leadership, what gains have they made in this strike knowing that:
-(a) in 2006 they shunned informal negotiations only to be back in 2008 in informal negotiations.
-(b)They put Animation on the table only to take it off
-(c)They put Reality on the table only to take it off
-(d)They put DVDs on the table only to take them off
-(e)they waited 20 years to readdress DVDs when they only needed to wait every 3 years to negotiate.

You see I want you to get everything you're asking for. I just don't like the way you're asking for it. I believe a strike could have been averted. A union can be strong and not strike. A country can be strong and not go to war. Diplomacy is key.

just a thought said...

tom short is a shill for the amptp. To say that he will ever allow an alliance with the guilds and the IA is just fantasy.
What he does is organize shows that bring more members to the IA. On the surface it looks good, but in reality it provides cheap labor. Cheap being no over scale and actually below scale. Just ask what the weekly is. I can't remember the last time I was asked to give a strike authorization or even a vote for or against a contract. You see tom short owns our contract and he can do what ever he wants.
To say lets keep each other informed is nice idea but the reality is short won't allow it. The biggest enemy of the Brent rule was the IA itself. 10,000 signatures out of a workforce of 200,000, pitiful I would say.
At this point these blogs are more about reconciliation than actual statements about issues. Even Rocky has toned it down. I say take the time to learn what each person does on a set and what value that person has. We all have value.
Now not to be a wise ass, it did take the writers that we love to hate to spark the debate.

dp said...

Just a Thought-

Good point. It was the IA that failed Brent. He was an IA member and we could only muster 10,000 signatures. Again sad. How can we tell his children that only 5% of the IA even signed the petition for their father, our "brother"?

Apathy is rampant in every union and guild in our industry. The writers have the same problem getting everyone to vote. It's the problem with democracy. On the other hand if you don't have the gumption to get off your ass and go vote or mail in your ballot then please don't vote. If you haven't taken the time to consider the options then you aren't of considerable intelligence and your vote will just be miscast.

About your comment that Shorts only goal is to get more people in the union and that causes a decrease in wages, I have to disagree. The more members the stronger the union. Why do you think nobody fucks with the Teamsters? They have jurisdiction on everything on wheels in the entire country, every industry. If the writers had those kind of numbers you would have no TV. No News, No Reality, No radio, NOTHING. You'd be staring a the test pattern for weeks.

I don't think Short is the one stopping the guilds and unions from forming an alliance. The WGA asked for it and had to take it off the table too. Short's not even in the room for that one. Is Short my favorite guy-NO. Does power corrupt? History has proven this to be true. Do I have evidence concerning Short? Not yet. I am all ears though.

You say, " I can't remember the last time I was asked to give a strike authorization or even a vote for or against a contract." You should talk to your postmaster because contract ratifications are mailed every time. You vote to ratify or not to ratify. If the majority is not to ratify then a strike vote goes out. Now this part is important. If you do not vote, do not send in your ballot, or choose to abstain-THAT IS TAKEN AS A VOTE TO RATIFY. That's how the constitution and bylaws have been written. So Just A Thought you have voted YES for every single contract since you've been in the union. Next time a contract comes up and you don't get your ballot , call your union.

Sorry to bore all the WGA members with this but I hear this all the time on the set.

Union members need to be PROACTIVE.

just a thought said...

dp
Your points are well taken. As for a strike vote that usually takes place before negotiations. The hammer sort speak.
Yes now that I think about it I did get something the last contract. Voting yes or no is immaterial, short owns our contract and can ratify it all by himself. He doesn't need our approval.

stuiec said...

just a thought: wasn't it an IA local that struck Broadway in December?

deuddersun said...

Stuiec, yes, Local One, the grandaddy of them all, and according to my friends in One, Tommy Short wanted them to fold tents and settle prematurely. They told him to go back to Ohio and mind his own business and got the deal they needed done. Was it painful for NY and the Local? Of course, but that's the point isn't it? Most of us in NYC consider Short a hayseed shill for the Producers Remember what Harry Ford Sr. once said, "When you leave New York, you're camping out!"

d.
IATSE
Local#52
NY City

Not An said...

Hey, paint the town - my comments are not meant to address the rightness of a Congressional investigation but rather the reality of it happening.

First, with the current investigations into the subprime crisis and with three of the Senate's leaders being out on the campaign trail, there are a lot of things in line ahead of us.

Second, the Dems are much more likely to initiate an investigation than the Reps and Obama and Clinton have both taken serious money from studio related people.

Third, as for the power of 7,000 union members, John Edwards was the candidate with the most common man, populist, union support and where is he now?

and to some other person I can't recall, it's kind of hard to prove collusion amongst people who are legally negotiating as a group and who have benefitted separately from the actions of the WGA (like Letterman going back to work). There might be more of a case for orchestrating walking away from the table but I am sure they had high priced, high powered legal advice before they did that and it was CYA all the way.

Finally, as for suing for back wages: just like being happy when a conglom's stock price goes down, the ultimate losers in any money loss for these companies are the people at the bottom of the totem pole. Any money loss/fines will be paid for by cutting back on deals, by cutting lower level jobs. I don't want any back wages for me paid for by a job loss for some facilities person.

Be on the line on Monday, optimism shouldn't trump realism but here's hoping a fair deal is at hand.

just a thought said...

stuiec
short is the Hollywood locals version of nick counter. Local 1 in New york has autonomy. We gave the IA the power to negotiate for us years ago and we can't get it back.
That's how he owns our contract

just a thought said...

Hey d
Do you know Geoff Erb.
If you do How's he doing. I love that guy

smart said...

DP, said "nobody fucks with the teamsters". Well, DP, about four or five years ago the teamsters went to battle for you. Tom Short the "dickless wonder" wouldn't stand up to the amptp, who wanted to roll back wages for iatse 20%. Tom Short laid this at the feet of the teamsters (whose contract was coming up),the teamsters did the heavy lifting for iatse and #399. We still ended up with some roll backs, but less than if Tom Short-Dick had had his way. I'm Teamster #399, and I hope my union never goes to battle for iatse again, with all the iatse members, why are you the weakest union, why do you belive anything that comes out of your leaderships mouth? I'm not happy about being out of work for 3 months, but I support any unions right to strike for a better deal, and it had better be a better deal, because to settle for anything less will piss me off. Wga had better make this strike worth it! I will never forgive the studios for their part in this, i'll bet you anything, in the future they will dump our pension plan.
As for this letter... Government idiots, too little, too late... as a #399 who deals with the various government offices...... let me tell you, all they care about is our ability to be a "cash cow". Well, I feel better, how about you?
#399 location brat, who loves her writers

paint the town red said...

Hey, "not an":

First: It's not just the 7,000 WGA members. It's the over 100,000 union members out of work because the congloms walking away from talking. Yes, studios and producers give money to presidential canididates... But MOST "Hollywood money" comes from actors, directors, writers, and below-the-line people, in aggregate -- that's all UNION money. And the candidates know it.

But Hollywood unions aren't the unions which are key here. In Congressman George Miller's district for instance, trade unions rule. As they do in dozens of other congressional districts around the country -- where there are NO studios in these districts. Unions got Miller elected, and they keep him in office. Plus, he personally hates big business.

So after the fall elections, committee chairs like Miller and other dems, will have new powers to bring hearings anytime they wish. And thanks to the abuses of many big businesses over the past decade, they'll be licking their chops going after big business, and media, and the massive anti-trust issues, will be amongst the first to be examined.

I'm sure the studios had top legal advice... as did Enron and Worldcom and Countrywide. The best. Studios cheat and steal -- it's part of their business model -- that's why they always settle (after a fight) everytime some ripped-off profit participant goes up against them in court. X-Files. Mash. Will & Grace. Rockford Files. Charmed. The Shield. The Exorcist... The list is endless.

They've proven to be scared of one thing: public scrutiny. Trust me, if they continue to act with anti-union antagonism, there's a list of powerful congressmen (who aren't running for national office, and don't care about Bob Iger's bank account) who'd LOVE to take on big media.

See you on the line Monday.

Not An said...

Paint the town red -

You make some good points; my gut though still says no hearings.

And I don't mean this disrespectfully and I do truly know that a lot of the studio execs are ridiculously overpaid and not real nice guys but I reject this speaking of all of the people who work there as "the studios" - there are some fine people there, people who have gone out of their way to see projects get done, some who even see our point of view on a lot of things. Just like they don't expect me to go against the union, I don't expect them to walk away from careers in the studios.

I think we lose some of our credibility and our righteous stance when we lump them all together and call them evil thieves. We are smarter than that; if we can write nuanced, balanced screenplays then we can speak with nuance and balance as well.

Lift those signs high.

deuddersun said...

just a thought, no, I don't, I think he shot L&O, SVU, I worked on the pilot in the old NY Post building in the shadow of the Trade Center. The conditions were brutal. 7' ceilings with no windows or ventilation and a shop full of hammers milling mdf, (medium density fiberboard) without proper safety gear, poisoning us, the grips, scenics and who-ever-else had to be on the set while it was under construction. I left as soon as I could and never looked back.

We don't have any Union regs dealing with mdf which is one of the most hazardous materials in use today. It is composed of compacted dust with a binder so when it is cut or milled, it creates a brown cloud of particulates so small an ordinary dust mask offers no protection. There are many OSHA regs for handling this material, none of which are followed in our business. It endangers everyone on the set, including the shoot crew and talent if it is milled on set as construction progresses. Most baseboard and trim items are made of mdf here in the east. It is cheap and easy to prep for painting, thus cutting down on the amount of time a scenic artist has to spend with it. Production loves it because it is cheap. It's killing us, though, as surely as second hand cigarette smoke. The dust is everywhere and almost impossible to eliminate. It's in the grid, on the floor, everywhere. Google mdf, safe handling instructions and you will see what I mean. I have been trying for years to get a petition together requesting that this product be banned or handled correctly. If handled correctly, it is way to expensive to use.

Sorry, I digress. No, I don't know Mr. Erb personally, however if I do run into him in the future, who should I say says hello? just a thought? Lol!

Peace. Stay strong and true!

d.

just a thought said...

Hey d Tell him Hi from the guy he took to south carolina. He will know who that is.
BTW I got a lung infection from that stuff in Sept. nasty stuff

paint the town red said...

Not an: Sorry for the confusion. I wasn't referring to all of the execs at the studios... I was referring to the six guys who run the studios...