2/02/2008

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over -- And It Isn't Over

Mark Evanier provides some very wise precautionary words on his blog News From Me, putting what's happening in negotiations in the context of past strike experiences. Here's an excerpt:

... it's a fine, even prudent idea to not get one's hopes too high. It is a not uncommon negotiating technique to get the other side into the mindset that the deal is done, and then to throw in a last second demand. In past WGA-AMPTP contracts, negotiating has even continued after the deal was made and ratified. Weeks, even months after the '81, '85 and '88 strikes were settled and work resumed, reps from the studio side were still arguing over what had been agreed to, insisting that their notes said we'd agreed to X when we were certain we'd consented to Y. And even when we all agree on what we all agreed upon, we can't always agree on the interpretation of some clauses and codicils.

And Alfredo Barrios' piece, The Strike Is A Lawyers' Game, is something we should all reread right now -- especially the latter part of the essay, where he talks about how to get Nick Counter out of the equation -- and many of his predictions have come startlingly true. An excerpt:

And by taking the fight to them, I mean, maintaining picket lines at the studios at peak levels, relentlessly picketing locations, continuing to put out creative videos that entertain and inform people about the strike, denying waivers to award shows and picketing those shows, seeking alternative ways to put out creative work on the Internet for pay, etc.

Playing this kind of offense serves a couple of purposes. First, when a CEO drives through the studio gates, or hears about how a location shoot was impacted by picketing (like for example, when an actor leaves the set or a day has been added to the schedule), or sees how his untenable bargaining positions are being ripped apart on websites, or is told about how his award show is falling apart, or reads how Google is about to form a competing entertainment powerhouse, it all collectively begins to call into question the promise that Counter made – i.e., that we would crumble. It’s a daily reminder that we are not losing our resolve. It makes him worry. His expectations aren’t being met. Things are uncertain again. And it begins to chip away at Counter’s credibility as the guy who could resolve the strike with minimal inconvenience to the studio CEOs.

This last point is important. Why? Because the way you win is by taking the lawyer out of the equation. Deny him the promise that he made to his client – i.e., that he would add value by battering all of us down. Once the CEOs begin to believe that we’ll stick to our guns until we get a fair and equitable deal, that’s when we’ve won. That’s when the CEOs and their CFOs will step in and begin to deal directly with us. Why not Counter? Because his job wasn’t to deal with real and fair numbers; it was to screw us. Once he fails at that, it’s time for others to step in. Trust me, it happens.

He went on to make some predictions about the DGA negotiations:

As the upcoming DGA talks proceed, I predict that Counter will try to ram a really bad deal down the director’s throats. And he may succeed, given the makeup of that union’s membership and their historic appeasement of studios during labor talks. I suspect that whatever deal is reached will be slightly better than what was offered us (it certainly couldn’t be worse) and will be wielded like a stick to beat us into taking it as well. The DGA leadership will certainly have every incentive to spin it as a huge win for them and the industry. How could they not? It costs the studios nothing to take this approach. If we don’t take the same deal, they’re back to dealing with us, and the DGA is the only loser.

As for acting like “nicer” and “more accommodating” guys and gals… Well, let me just say that in all of my years as a corporate lawyer, “nice” and “accommodating” adversaries who never stuck to their guns and didn’t bring the fight to us never got better deals. They only get worse ones. So don’t buy into the our-leadership’s-too-militant line of argument. They’re not. They’re being appropriately tough. Trust me, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to hang tough with them.

Serious progress has been made, we're told, and we're all waiting to see what it is. But we should all take a breath, and remember: it's not done yet.

26 comments:

People please... said...

Everyone,

WALK Monday morning.

WALK Tuesday morning.

WALK until we know we have a deal to sit down for.

Stay strong, stay united and stay on the line!

troll-proof said...

Show up on the lines every day. Bring two actor friends with you. We're at our maximum point of leverage right now. Every hour you spend on a picket line now is worth a week of picketing earlier in the strike.

QuoterGal said...

It's also not a bad time to review WGA Board member Tom Schulman's great article "The Playbook of the AMPTP (http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/2007/12/playbook-of-amptp.html):

"The end game is the money, but hardball negotiations aren't about money, until the end. The real game is dividing and conquering.

Tactics:
• Lower the expectations of the other side, divide and conquer.
• Raise and lower the expectations of the other side, divide and conquer."


Obviously, most of us have no clue if recent stories about an agreement outline are for real, or a negotiation tactic. I'm gonna keep doing my strike support work until I hear from the WGA that I can stop. And our loyal pizza-wielding fans will be on the picket lines Monday feeding the writers once again.

But when, it's finally over, and if it's a good deal, I swear I'm gonna dance on the rooftops with you all. We should have the biggest street party in the history of Hollywood. With funny hats.

Until then, it's proceed full steam ahead as if it's not over - 'cause it's not.

actorinsupport said...

Alfredo Barrios,

If you read this...what are the lottery numbers for next week's drawing?

Thank you for your very smartly written piece....the reminder to reread those parts of it again could NOT have come at a better time.

YOU ARE GOOD!

Here's to hoping for the best.
Larry

crazyloco said...

I am emailing in the hopes that someone on the line can pass this comment on to the right person. I have been watching PainKillerJane on Global National-a Canadian Station. Despite my best efforts to stop the networks(4 emails, one to the VP of Communications!), the situation persists.
The first episode that aired, which stated in the TV guide was to be the pilot, was infact episode 13 entitled, "The League". What's worse, it aired the same episode 2 weeks in a row. When threatened, an email assured me the problem would be fixed. The following two weeks played episode 15 twice. Only when I threatened with my most stern of tones did the pilot air tonight. If you don't believe me, tivo.
I don't want to take offers of a burned season, I just want to see them in order. This is unfortunately not going to happen. I was assured of as much by an email from their customer contact centre.
Please, if there is any power you have over the material you produce, or if there is any way I can be your iron fist of the north, email me.

I can be reached at jin.kies@hotmail.com

Thank you, and stay strong.

Roan said...

Alfredo,
2, 5, 8, 16, 33 and 17

I'm optimistic.

Jon Raymond said...

Why is there such a big media push right to put out all this "optimism" that a deal is being reached? By AMPTP affiliated media outlets no less.

If the public gets word that the strike is near to and end and the Oscars will saved, what happens if this turns out to be a false rumor? I'll tell you what happens, the writers become vilified for holding out and killing the Oscars.

How dare these greedy writers turn down this deal offered and agreed to by their leaders? That's what the AMPTP wants people to think.

The AMPTP has always used the media to set the agenda. That's their weapon of choice. That's their forté.

I think writers along with the WGA should get the word out that it's just a rumor and the thousands of writers have not agreed to anything yet.

The talks are still informal. It's very unethical and irresponsible for these stories to appear. They likely are coming from AMPTP insiders and setting up the WGA for the kill.

Gavin Polone said...

Smash your picket signs, gang, the strike is over! We're getting the DGA rate plus another two percent added to health and pension! Yippee!

Ruthie said...

Question for any WGA-DGA hyphenates that might be reading this (and I hope you'll excuse my ignorance, but this is my first work stoppage): If the WGA ratifies a higher residual than the DGA did, does the DGA then get the WGA rate due to "favored nations?"

And if so, does the same hold true for the WGA and/or DGA with SAG?

VDOVault said...

Well we fans and viewers aren't buying what they're trying to sell us this time...not by a long shot.

http://community.livejournal.com/wga_supporters/238001.html

That said I'll be meeting with DC area WGA writers at 4:00pm today (Sunday February 3rd 2008) at
http://www.busboysandpoets.com

I am sure that what Congress is up to regarding the possibility of the AMPTP having to attend official hearings on Capitol Hill regarding this clusterfuck they precipitated will be as much a topic for discussion as is whether a deal is close at hand or not.

deuddersun said...

Stick to your guns! Pour it on! Maybe I'll truck North this week and join you in NYC, with my IA hat and shirt on.

Remember, they will always try to re-negotiate or re-intrerpret the "deal" - always! They do it to us on every job with "deal memos" which no-one in IATSE, Local #52 is allowed to sign! Why should we? The "Deal" is done. It's called the CBA and "deal memos" are nothing more than Production's lame attempts to circumvent their obligations and responsibilities.

Remember who you are dealing with and don't be lulled into feelings of false security. Don't give up when the finish line is almost in sight.

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

David said...

I posted this on Deadline Hollywood. I am copying it here, even though this site seems to be for the already converted.

"Anybody else notice that nobody is posting under real names here any more? I am a journalist turned TV/screenwriter and now a strike captain in the East and I am trying to buck the trend (please be kind).

I know this much is true: anyone leaking information to Nikki, or Michael Cieply, or anyone is guilty of violating the media blackout. They might just really want to be the Selfless Citizen (or Important Source) who Gets The Real News Out First, but my experience as a journalist tells me that — even if they DO have the insider information they claim — they have an AGENDA.

To me the situation is simple: You can’t be “almost” settled, any more than a woman can be “almost” pregnant. And dangling these kinds of rumors may get some people’s hopes up to make them more desperate to settle. That is at least one agenda here. Especially with stories like the LA TImes’ focusing on below-the-line workers’ anger.

If anything has been consistent during the strike, it has been the efforts to divide and conquer the guild. And the way the press works, they’re excited by squabbles, so they will publish an op-ed by a one-man political party ( John Ridley), or pick up on an email from John Wells and turn it into an official reaction to try to stir the pot. This site, for all its intentions, has also fomented flaming and bitchiness, much of it under the cloak of anonymity. And it was, conveniently or not, on hiatus when the plan went down that everyone predicted — the quick deal with the nonstriking DGA as a slap in the face to those of us on the picket lines.

The United Hollywood site has provided writers a forum to voice their support when rumors of schisms were touted, and to voice honest caution in the face of rampant email, blog, and even print journalism all rushing to be the first to say the deal is done.

I am certainly not in favor of anyone being out of work any longer, but it would be asinine and suicidal for the writers to now explode their just quest for a fair deal thanks to some mind-fuck of an endgame.

Comment by David Handelman"

Thomas said...

FROM: Viewer

TO: Writers

Keep it up guys and gals! Get that fair deal and show who's REALLY in control of creativity! As a viewer and a corporate worker without a union I'm PROUD of you!

kimmy2007 said...

This guy is nuts! I don't think he wants this to end. I mean anyone with half a brain knows not to get to hyped about this even though it looks like there has been major progress made. even a smidgen of hope is better than nothing. I think this guy needs to look at who is suffering here, the many tv fans whose favorite shows are closed down because writers and producers are being too greedy about what they think is fair. well what is fair is to forget about being greedy and get to the point whatever it is . If a deal comes down this week I think everyone who was thinking it was not a fair deal should keep their mouths closed and be thankful they can get back to work. All anyone wants is for this to be over. Keep talking that is all they can do .

VDOVault said...

Unfortunately the meeting today
at Busboys & Poets with DC area WGA writers at 4:00pm today (Sunday February 3rd 2008) is postponed.

However I'm still going to be in the DC area today and tomorrow morning (I was planning on paying my Congressman an in person visit on behalf of the WGA strike anyway tomorrow)

Keep it up everyone :)

LB said...

Just another viewer adding my "stay strong" support. I miss new episodes of "my" shows - specifically Chuck and Moonlight - but I'm willing to wait until you guys get a fair deal.

Bill Scheft said...

Alfredo, three years from now, you need to take a much much much more active role in the actual negotiating process. This is not a suggestion, this is an order from a fellow strike captain.

Shanna said...

Thanks for that jon raymond. I was wondering whether ABC showing ads for the Oscars was a good thing or a bad thing and I'm afraid it will be a bad thing if the AMPTP offers another (ridiculous) ultimatum and the WGA pickets the Oscars. They might use it to blame the WGA even more.

I hope that's not the case and an agreement is being reached but I am eternally skeptical.

stuiec said...

David Handelman: "You can’t be 'almost' settled, any more than a woman can be 'almost' pregnant."

Actually, you CAN be almost settled, as in down to the last one or two deal points to be agreed. The problem right now is, no one outside of the negotiations truly knows if that's the case. All the rest of us have to go on are rumors, which are worse than worthless.

So your point is correct: as far as the rank and file are concerned, being "almost settled" is being not settled at all, and until there is an actual tentative contract to vote on, the only sane and sensible course of action is to stay united and strong on the picket lines.

Not An said...

Kimmy2007 - I was with you there for a sec - I do think it may be counterproductive to be so hardline before anyone knows anything - it can look like we don't want a deal (that being said everyone should be on the line Monday a.m.) but you lost me when you wrote

"I think this guy needs to look at who is suffering here, the many tv fans whose favorite shows are closed down because writers and producers are being too greedy about what they think is fair"

while I sympathize with fans who have missed their favorite shows and certainly appreciate their support, there are people on the line who are risking their homes and careers and not just out of greed.

On the line but let's keep an optimistic tone until we have reason - not rumor, reason - to have otherwise.

Patrick Meighan said...

"If a deal comes down this week I think everyone who was thinking it was not a fair deal should keep their mouths closed and be thankful they can get back to work. All anyone wants is for this to be over."

Speaking for myself, as a working writer in the WGA, all I want is a fair deal.

If the deal that was (theoretically, maybe, possibly) reached on Friday is a fair one, I'll support it.

If the deal that was (theoretically, maybe, possibly) reached on Friday is NOT a fair one, I ain't gonna keep my mouth shut. I'll urge my fellow writers to keep fighting 'til we get a fair deal.

But, like everyone else, I'm twiddlin' my thumbs at the moment, eager to hear the deal points (assuming they exist), and hoping for the best.

And, yup, I will absolutely keep on walkin' the picket line, each and every day, 'til my union tells my ass to stop.

See you all on the line,

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

scribeguy said...

Richare Verrier in today's LA Times again mentioned "a number of top screenwriters and TV...show-runners in recent weeks (who)lobbied their leaders to use the Directors Guild deal as a template for their own agreement."

Once again, the press failed to mentioned the 1000 plus mid-level writers (those most affected by all this) who signed petitions and sent personal letters to the Negotiating Committee "lobbying" them to negotiate a BETTER deal than the one offered to the DGA, and one that includes points of no concern to directors, like "separation of rights."

I sincerely hope those many, many voices were heard. Meanwhile, as the NegCom is made familiar with the latest proposals, all of the news reports are due to leaks by the other side. In the general relief (or even euphoria), weary writers may simply overlook serious flaws in the agreement that will come back to haunt us.

So, to the NegCom, this weary writer says: stay strong, drink lots of coffee, study ALL points in the proposal carefully, use our terrific new legal advisor (Hi, Alan!)to parse the language and get it right.

Final warning: the actors have supported us all the way: don't fall short and let them do the last mile of the relay for us. Let's REALLY get this town back to work...for years. Decades! A fair deal will do that. Make sure this proposal is just that.

Kevin Droney
WGAwest

Lucy said...

I'm a complete outsider from SF Bay Area. No connection to corporates or unions. Used to watch some TV shows until strike kind made me not interested in them anymore.
I do not understand a concept of "fair deal". I just never heard about "fair deal" before. I'd appreciate if somebody can explain what does "fair deal" mean?

Thanks,
Lucy

Skipjack55 said...

Gavin Palone

If you are actually Gavin Palone and not a Chinese-made motorized dildo, please cite the source for:

"We're getting the DGA rate plus another two percent added to health and pension! Yippee!"

If these are the actual terms then obviously there is no deal and the strike continues.

As for your childishly gleeful "Yippee!" -- I have a proposal for you, Gavin.

I'm a 59-year-old comedy writer with a bad back but let's meet in the ring and settle this. (I have a friend who's a trainer; we can use his gym) Me, you, 10-ounce gloves, no headgear. Three one-minute rounds. I'd like to see you predict he outcome of that one.

David Sheffield

Burke Davis said...

I'm a fiction writer, non-Hollywood, never screenplay/TV.
Whatever you guys get, it won't be as much as you richly deserve -- not during this round, anyway.
But it's great that you will indeed improve your lot, and that of writers who will follow you for many years.
Stick to your guns here in the endgame, and best of luck to you.

Burke Davis

Gary Watts said...

It's Not Rocket Science

This is nothing more than to get the WGA and SAG to go on with the
Oscars.

Ask yourself this: If the DGA deal is so good why has the AMPTP not
Gone public with the actual detailed documentation, if it's such a great deal?

Have you seen the deal?

And why is the AMPTP just now, willing to offer a deal? Just before the Academy Awards?

To buy some time.

Look at the time line folks. It's going to takes weeks before we have the time to analyze the Details of any offer, by that time, the Oscar’s will have been over with and we would have lost the leverage of the Academy Awards.

No to the Academy Awards, And No to another BS Deal.

This is nothing more than to trying to buy some time to get the “Academy Awards” to go on, without a hitch.

~ Gary Watts ~