2/08/2008

It's the Bottom of the 9th, the Bases Are Loaded...

Just my 2 cents: we're in a very important moment in the strike. How we play out the end-game will color relationships for a long time afterwards. Reading the email traffic and the writer-bulletin boards, I have to admit, I'm concerned that people are feeling very emotional about the deal.

Personally, whenever I'm finalizing my own deal on a new project, I'm usually feeling pissed off that I didn't get everything I wanted, and I fantasize, "Fuck it, I'll just walk away. I don't need this shitty job". To close the deal and get back to work, it usually takes my wife, agent, and lawyer to talk me back to my senses.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing the "take the deal no matter what" point of view. I'm arguing against being overly emotional as we talk about the details of the deal before the meeting Saturday. I suppose one purpose of a public forum is to allow participants to blow off steam. But the group therapy part of the event isn't what we're really there for.

We need to understand what was negotiated and why. These meetings, to me, are an opportunity to have clarity about those details. We still have to ratify the deal, so if we don't like what we hear, then we'll have a chance to vote to continue the strike.

I'm a Strike Captain at Fox and we've been polling our teams. Some of the Captains have reported that a majority of their teams feel that if the deal isn't right, the strike should continue. But those feelings are in the abstract and come from a place of anxiety. Will those members feel the same way after they've heard the specifics of the deal? We'll see.

Anyway, I think my 2 cents are up, but I think it would be a helluva lot better at this moment to close out the strike in a way that will strengthen our relationships with one another, rather than to create new rifts. We are going to be back at the table in 3 years and it'd be better to have a unified membership when we're facing another difficult contract about the same issues. The AMPTP will be unified. So should we.

22 comments:

Chris S said...

Well said. This is a delicate time. And we should have open minds. It serves none of us to jump to any conclusions, but to give serious thought and discussion to what is presented.

WGA Writer said...

I just had lunch with my strike captain who came straight from the WGA Strike Captain’s meeting this afternoon at the WGA.

Now, I’m waiting to read the actual contract language, like everyone else. And I want to reserve judgment until we’ve all had a chance to digest it. But here’s the rub:

We’re not being given a chance to digest the deal... IT IS BEING RAMMED DOWN OUR THROATS. My strike captain told me that during tomorrow’s meeting, there may be a voice or hand vote of the assembled membership on whether to accept the deal…

THIS IS A DIRTY TRICK!

The proponents of the deal are using speed as a tactic to silence dissent. How can any meaningful discussion take place in such a short window?

The proponents of the deal have had weeks and weeks to comb through all the fine points, while the rank and file have been completely in the dark during the media blackout. Now we’re being given less than 24 hours to read and digest a deal that will determine all of our futures for years – if not decades – to come?

I urge the WGA Board to give the membership time to discuss the contract among ourselves – not just in the meeting tomorrow – but over the coming days. We MUST HAVE TIME for meaningful discourse.

Of course, the proponents won’t want that – they’re already out spinning how the “strike is over” and the media echo chamber is spreading that lie. And the proponents don’t want to give any time for opponents of the deal to emerge and organize.

To my fellow members: DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID! DO NOT VOTE TO END THE STRIKE OR ACCEPT THE DEAL TOMORROW!

We need a chance to talk to each other and read the analyses of outside, impartial experts. (Some very smart people will be dissecting the deal as soon as it is published, and this will only take a few days at most.)

Why can’t we simply trust the “recommendation” of our elected negotiators?

Because of a shocking fact:

OUR WGA NEGOTIATORS WERE GIVEN ANOTHER ULTIMATUM: THEY WERE FORCED TO “RECOMMEND” THIS DEAL TO THE MEMBERSHIP AS A CONDITION FOR IT BEING OFFERED AT ALL.

Our negotiators (for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration) have been blackmailed into silent assent by the moguls. They cannot speak out against the deal, or it will be pulled from the table.

Now, I don’t want to prolong the strike, but the deal I read about in the New York Times this morning, and which my strike captain relayed to me at lunch today, seems SHOCKINGLY BAD FOR THE WGA!

I’m hoping that the fine print assuages my major concern:

The precedent of getting “distributor’s gross” is exciting, but it becomes MEANINGLESS if a low residual cap is also given precedent. Who cares what percentage we get, if it’s capped off at $1,200 or even $2400? This is a rate far, far worse than even the reviled DVD formula. At least in that case, the writer gets a per unit residual. A capped download residual is essentially a “buyout.” This is the massive rollback we all feared, no matter what positive spin the put on it.

Maybe there is contract language that will prove the NY Times and my strike captain wrong. God, I hope so. But here it is almost 4pm, the day before the meeting where we’re all supposed to vote on it, and I still haven’t gotten the contract.

I beg, BEG the WGA Board to give us time to analyze the deal before the strike is lifted. This is the most important decision the WGA membership will make for decades.

Jake Hollywood said...

Well, if you had just been at NBC where a negotiator had just spoken and essentially said, that 1). this is the best deal we can get, and implied, that 2) The Tv season would be lost unless the deal is taken--which sounds an awful like a threat to me, "take this or else."

The speaker put his own two cents in and indicated that there were good points and bad about the deal--which I know already. But then he went that extra mile and suggested that no matter what the picketing would be suspended. But we have to act fast, that a vot should take place at the outside withing 48 hours...

This also smells like a threat.

And I gotta tell ya that it pissed me off--maybe more pissed off than at any moment in the strike since day. And this includes the two times that some idiot tried to run me over.

So, if I were not fired up already about Saturday's meeting, he sure turned the falme up.

Chris S said...

It is not true that the deal will determine our futures for years or decades.

In three years the contract will be up again. And three years after that. And three years after that.

Time is of the essence. It's not a scare tactic. It's a simple fact.

The boogeyman is not hiding in the guise of our negotiating committee or our leadership.

Let's just see what the deal points are. Meet tomorrow night. Take it from there.

If you're opposed having something crammed down your throat, you (and anyone else) will have your voice heard.

Jake Hollywood said...

I just wanted to add, "It's the bottom of the 9th, the Bases Are Loaded..." And the WGA Leadership and the Negotiating Board is at the plate and are choking on the bat as the go out in flames.

Writer25 said...
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Writer25 said...
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Ziboskwitz said...

First off, there will not be a vote on the contract tomorrow night, so calm down. If there is a showing of hands, it will be to get a rough idea where people stand so that the Board knows how to proceed. Yes, they do have the power to lift the restriction on working if they want. So before doing anything like that, they want to take the membership's temperature.

There will be an official vote before any contract is ratified, which at minimum gives us 48 hours to mull over the details.

So NOBODY IS RAMMING ANYTHING DOWN ANYONE'S THROAT. Stop freaking out and be calm.

We haven't got the full deal yet because the lawyers are still haggling over the language. As soon as the actual deal is done, we will see it. That way we aren't arguing about points that are just theoretical.

Secondly, do have any idea how much the networks get for shows streamed online? You don't. And neither will we until we finally get our hands on their contracts and the streaming data that this new contract will give us. To say certain caps are unacceptable is based on total ignorance. We got the percentage of distributor's gross that we wanted. Right now, that's not worth that much. But we secured the future, which is the important point.

And our negotiators weren't "forced" to take the deal. They have been smart enough to know that the calendar has given us leverage. And the only way to extract anything from the studios is to use that leverage as best as we can. If we dawdle, we will lose the leverage that the t.v. season, pilot season and Oscars have given us. We could debate these points forever, then lose what gains we've made.

Just calm down. You will hear what the deal points are, you have time to ask questions and express your opinion about how the Board should proceed. Stop accusing others of drinking the Kool Aid when you are not even sure what beverage is being served.

Tom Davis said...

wga writer said:

"OUR WGA NEGOTIATORS WERE GIVEN ANOTHER ULTIMATUM: THEY WERE FORCED TO “RECOMMEND” THIS DEAL TO THE MEMBERSHIP AS A CONDITION FOR IT BEING OFFERED AT ALL."

wga writer,

Do you really believe that Patric, Dave and John can be so easily manipulated? These are smart experienced guys. They're not going to let anybody, especially the AMPTP, put them in a headlock.

However, if you really think it's true, I would encourage you to ask Patric this question tomorrow.

beagle said...

With full support for writers, a brief moment of levity...

Jeff Wilber said...

Kool Aid? KOOL AID! Fuck that! How dare you! How dare you take such a position! We, AS A GUILD, elected these people to do the job they have done! We EN-TRUSTED THEM to act and serve in OUR best interests. And they have done so, admirably. They have sacrificed their reputations, been burned at the proverbial media stake, jeopardized their futures and the liveliehoods for US. Now to accuse them of "ramming" anything down anyone's throats is just utterly...where the hell is YOUR sense of gratitude, WGA Writer.

They WOULD NOT recomend this deal if they did not believe it was the BEST deal they could get. Hey, I, like THOUSANDS of other writers, was out there every damn day. Does that mean that I am entitled to more of...anything? NO! It means I did the right thing, and that's all. And the same should be said for those we, again, ENTRUSTED to do theirs.

You know, WGA Writer, really, just shut the hell up. Don't tell ANYONE how to vote or what to do. Don't go around starting shit, ESPECIALLY when you don't know the shit you're dealing with. But, in the very least, just try to show a little freakin' gratitude for the sacrifices made on our behalf by those we put in place to do so.

And to everyone else: vote your conscience, vote with your head - not from your empty pockets or sore feet. Vote not just for today, but for three years from now, thirty years from now. And, please, I implore you, LISTEN to what they have to say - calmly. You think you had it bad on the line? Just think what dealing with Nick Counter's eye-twitch and hairly mole musta' been like!

Captain Obvious said...

Only a fair deal will do.


It doesn't have to be a perfect deal, or a sweet deal; just a fair deal.


So analyze this one closely and see if it passes muster for you. See if it's what you would consider a fair deal. If you don't feel that it's a fair deal then it's no deal at all; rather it's the terms of our own surrender.

Geo Rule said...

It would be interesting to know if any vote results would be materially different if (Mark Twain "Republic of Gondour"-like) those who manned the picket lines the most got a bit more weight in their voting. Say, everybody in the guild gets one vote each, but for every two hours on the picket line a member gets another .1 vote.

It could be a problem next time if the strongest cadres this time --the backbone of active strike activities-- don't feel good about how this thing ends.

Not An said...

Behind you all the way, David.

Amazing to me how all these people who so trusted the leadership a week ago, now find them to be weak and easily manipulated. Plus, since when did a strike captain saying, "it's the best we can get and if we don't sign we may lose the season" become a threat; it's one person's opinion, do you want him/her to lie?

And by the way, unless you're holding someone's wife, kids, chihuahua or dirty pictures, you can't force anyone to do anything.

Like I said, David, I trusted the leadership when we walked, I trusted them last week, I trust them today.

Chips Down said...

I've been on a lot of pickets, I have sat on a number of negotiating teams, but I have to say that from what I am seeing here, it looks like the leadership is looking for a rubber stamp for something they have already agreed to.

That the first actual look at the contract language won't happen until the meeting is a big indication that you are about to get the wool pulled over your eyes. I've been in this postition myself, having to support a contract and explain it to the membership in a positive light. Doing it all on the same day is great if you want to get weary strikers to support it.

It's got to be clear to everyone by now that this deal isn't going to be anywhere near your expectations and you might even be giving up a lot that was important to you. Some demands have clearly been dismissed just to get back to talks with the AMPTP, and no doubt others were let go or deminished substantially during talks in the last few weeks.

That all of this has to be agreed to so suddenly is nothing short of an ultimatum and I am surprised the WGA leadership is pulling this. After striking for 3 months having to make a decision in a day is just unheard of. You are going to hear a lot of spin tomorrow, and probably some promises of language in the contract that still hasn't been agreed to. After that you will be asked to support the agreement and end the strike or some version of that. Perhaps a promise to return to work until the ratification process is finished.

Of course once writers are no longer on strike, you will never get them back out on the line, not after this long.

Hopefully there will be people attending the meeting that will be able to think quick on thier feet and ask all the right questions. Personally my first question would be "why did the WGA leadership agree to a time limit on something that still wasn't in writing?" But that's just me.

Good luck and hope all your decisions are right ones, you will have to live with the consequences for some time.

Jeremy said...

wga writer and jake, those sound like some rather emotional responses and you have every right to have them. Is it being rammed down your throats? Yes. Is it a dirty [take it or leave it] trick? Maybe. If you don't "fall for it" will you have a repeat of '88? I'd bet my life on it... or at least my home... since it will be likely property of the bank by June.

If this deal (which sounds slightly better than the DGA deal) is turned down by the membership, the guild will be weakened not strengthened. You'll get basically the same deal in June [with perhaps a few feel good measures] and faith in the guild will splinter. At least now, you can count your losses (losses meaning the gains weren't as high as you would have liked) and try again for next time. That may mean firing Veronne in favor of a tougher negotiator.

A deal in June will mean nobody would be willing to strike for another 20 years. At least now the damage from the strike isn't total. Most "BTLers" have only been out of work for (give or take) 2 months so those who were prepared will recover. I don't know anybody who is prepared for 7 or even 8 months of no work.

Do I have an agenda in trying to convince you of this? Yes, my livelihood is counting on this to be over. Is my logic flawed? I don't think so. At least give your "below the line" crews the respect they deserve by using logic and setting aside your emotions in making your decision. Respectfully, I beg of you.

Dennis Wilson said...

I was also in the crowd at NBC today, and heard WGA vice president David Weiss say exactly what Jake Hollywood said he did.

I too came away with the perception that Weiss was softening us up to accept whatever the contract terms may be.

Weiss did flat-out claim this is the best deal we're going to get, and that all the WGA leaders thought so too, implying that, like it or not, we'd better take this deal.

Weiss did flat-out state that not calling off the strike immediately would destroy the TV season and Oscars (which should be our leverage, not our reason for folding.

Worst of all, Weiss flat-out said that though the AMPTP has been to blame for the suffering thus far of our BTL colleagues and others, writers would be responsible for their pain if we continued to hold out.

So even if you don't like the phrase "rammed down our throats" being used to describe WGA leaders' communications to us about the contract today, we are definitely being sold, spun and unfairly shamed into accepting this contract whose terms we haven't even seen yet.

Elizabeth said...

How exactly are the leadership and the negotiating committee supposed to present the deal to us?

If they come to us on the picket line with enthusiasm, then they're "ramming something down our throats" or "soft-pedaling" or (God forbid) actually presenting us a fair deal which they have fought for since July.

These are the people we trusted with leading the charge. Why turn on them, why ignore that trust when they actually come back to us with a deal.

Chris S said...

How exactly are the leadership and the negotiating committee supposed to present the deal to us?

What is the appropriate format? A formal invitation? A full page ad in the trades announcing that in two weeks time they will ask our permission to reveal their progress?

According to some here, if they come to us on the picket line with enthusiasm, then they're "ramming something down our throats" or "soft-pedaling".

Isn't it possible that (God forbid) they're actually presenting us a fair deal which they have fought for since July.

These are the people we trusted with leading the charge. Why turn on them, why ignore that trust when they actually come back to us with a deal?

Ruthie said...

At 10:16 p.m., someone named Elizabeth posted:

How exactly are the leadership and the negotiating committee supposed to present the deal to us?

If they come to us on the picket line with enthusiasm, then they're "ramming something down our throats" or "soft-pedaling" or (God forbid) actually presenting us a fair deal which they have fought for since July.

These are the people we trusted with leading the charge. Why turn on them, why ignore that trust when they actually come back to us with a deal.


Then at 10:19 p.m., someone named Chris S posted:

How exactly are the leadership and the negotiating committee supposed to present the deal to us?

What is the appropriate format? A formal invitation? A full page ad in the trades announcing that in two weeks time they will ask our permission to reveal their progress?

According to some here, if they come to us on the picket line with enthusiasm, then they're "ramming something down our throats" or "soft-pedaling".

Isn't it possible that (God forbid) they're actually presenting us a fair deal which they have fought for since July.

These are the people we trusted with leading the charge. Why turn on them, why ignore that trust when they actually come back to us with a deal?


So... by posting under all these different screen names, how many people do you want us to think you really are? Whatever, just as long as you remember you only get one ratification vote.

Chips Down said...

So many people who feel the need to remind everyone that the WGA leadership is trustworthy and beyond reproach. Why even bother voting I say, afterall these leaders can't possibly make mistakes, everything that they say must be the absolute truth.

How dare any writer question the deal, the union leadership has spoken, as has the AMPTP leadership for that matter, and they must be trusted. There is no chance that you are being sold out, no chance that there could be a better deal if you stay out on strike.

You see striking accomplishes nothing at this point. Your leadership is saying so. All the reasons you had to go out on strike 3 months ago were meaningless, because if you stay out now nothing can be gained.

Yes folks, keep believing this fantasy. From the outside looking in, this looks very suspicious. Ask a lot of questions at your meeting today before you raise your hand to show which way you'll vote.

Not An said...

chips down - I didn't say they were beyond reproach or to take the deal - I said that it is odd to me that many are crucifying leadership that we elected when we haven't even seen the deal.

So many have defended our neg team and many of these same people have immediately turned on them without even hearing what they have to say; damn, I don't want you taking my back.

We were all defending the neg team when the trades and the NYT were running somewhat derogatory articles questioning their abilities; when the AMPTP called them organizers not negotiators but now suddenly we are calling them even worse.

My point is: Do them the courtesy of hearing the deal - that's all, then vote as you see fit.