UH Founders Advocate A Vote Before Decision is Made About Lifting The Strike

Emotions are flying fast and furious around this issue: do we hold a ratification vote before we lift the strike? Or do we go back to work as quickly as Monday, and hold the vote afterwards?

To get our position up here as quickly and accurately as possible, we decided to do separate grafs signed by each of us, and combine them into one post.

We're all coming at this from different perspectives and differing opinions of the deal itself -- some of us support it, some of us don't -- but we're all saying the same thing about the vote.

We need to have one, before the strike is lifted.

Oh, except for Ian.

From John Aboud and Laeta Kalogridis:

Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote!

It really pissed us both off when we read in today's NYT that late night producers are presumptuously acting like everyone will be back on Monday. Despite the fact that we’re satisfied with the deal, we hate the implication that somehow our decisions have been hijacked by the companies. Eisner finally and irrevocably etched his name in the Book of Douche with his statements. It makes us feel like pawns when the past three months have been about us asserting our rights. That's NOT the way to end a strike.

A 48 hour’ notice vote is doable according to the WGA Constitution, Article VII, Section 2b. That section provides for a 48 hours’ notice membership meeting that can only deal specifically with strike-related issues. A ratification vote is OBVIOUSLY a strike-related issue. The provision clearly exists in the Constitution for just these kinds of situations.

Notification won’t be perfect – even with email and phone banking, some people won’t get the message. But that would happen with the 10-day vote as well. The 48 hour vote isn’t the perfect solution. But it’s the best one in this situation.

The problem with a 10-day ratification vote is that waiting 10 days to go back to work would harm many tv shows and the last gasp hope of any kind of pilot season. Going back to work before the ratification would solve that problem; but it creates a new, worse one, which is that we all return to work before the new contract is ratified.

People who’ve worked selflessly and tirelessly for the leverage that got us this contract deserve a chance to be heard in a democratic vote. We think the 48 hour vote is the best way to balance our right to be heard with the need to get the town back to work as quickly and responsibly as possible.

Reasonable people will disagree on this contract, but we all deserve a say.

From David Latt:

I am going to vote in favor of the deal and I want the strike to be over as soon as possible. I'd even be in favor of letting the Board end the strike on Sunday. BUT, I think not letting the membership vote on the deal before the strike is ended would have terrible consequences for Guild solidarity.

To deny to the members who have worked so hard and long for this strike to not get the chance to vote up-or-down on the deal would be a bad decision. There's a lot of frustration and anger out there in email-land and we'll hear about it tonight at the meeting that the deal isn't good enough.

Personally, I believe we have negotiated a very good deal--with this contextual proviso--given what the AMPTP wanted us to get. Is the deal a fair and equitable valuation of our contribution to their businesses? No. Could we get more if we did something different? What would that be? The only real power we have to get an improvement of the deal is to stay out on strike. We only gain more clout once SAG begins its negotiations and that doesn't happen for at least 4 months. Our leverage doesn't increase during that time, so we'd have to keep on picketing and wait. That seems counter-intuitive and destructive in the extreme.

In my opinion this negotation is Step 1 in a multi-step, on-going process to redefine the entertainment business at the same time we hold onto what we've won in the past.

I would encourage everyone to attend tonight's meeting. I know it's Saturday night (I had to cancel a long-planned dinner) and we've been at the strike long enough to be tired of the whole thing, but this is the end-game and that's as important as how we started.

For those of you who want the strike to end and, after you analyze the deal points, you are convinced that's the right thing to do, you need to attend the meeting so your voice is heard. If you read the deal and decide that we haven't won enough and the deal should be rejected, you need to attend as well.

From Kate Purdy:

I also think a 48 vote is the best option. It gives us 4 days to look over the contract and consider before we cast our ballots (Today -Tuesday).

While I'm satisfied with the contract -- understanding it has gains, and some weaknesses -- I believe our leadership when they say that they fought tooth and nail, and can assure us they left nothing on the negotiating table. However, I also think the membership wants and should have the right to ratify it, or not.

To me, that's a sign of a mobilized union - people demanding the right to have their voice heard. I think it's a tremendous indication of our strength and commitment to our guild.

From Ian Deitchman:

We've come a long, long way, haven't we? And we owe that to our solidarity, to everybody who walked the lines and to our leadership.

I'll be honest, we got a lot more in this deal than I ever thought was possible. I'm one of those who's been labeled both a "moderate" and a "dissenter" during this strike. Of course, what does that really mean? It means that when I was invited to recent outreach meetings I implored leadership to take advantage of our moment of greatest leverage, but to not go past the tipping point (i.e. the Oscars and losing the next TV season). I said the same in private e-mails when my opinion was asked for.

Well, I'm happy to say Patric, David and John used that leverage and got us a deal of which we can all feel proud. Certainly not a perfect deal, but a deal with real, substantive victories. Part of achieving that deal called for a good-faith agreement - the companies would make some concessions provided that our guys would do their best to end the strike in time to save the Oscars and the next TV season (something that benefits everybody, by the way).

But now, many of leadership's most ardent backers are claiming that they're being railroaded. That they're going to be cut out of the democratic process if the strike is lifted before we vote. First of all, consitutionally the Board has the right to lift the strike whenever it pleases. But more importantly, why should we suddenly start distrusting our leaders NOW? Are these same people who angrily villified dissenting voices critical of leadership during the strike now crying disenfranchisement? Really?

The deal is not perfect. It was NEVER going to be perfect. We don't live in a perfect world. Would we all love to take ten days for a ratification vote before lifting the strike? Of course. But the PRACTICAL REALITY is that our leadership made a good faith deal that we should honor and getting back to work as soon as possible is the best thing for everyone in this industry. Every day that we hold things up over process is a day that the writers keep people out of work, not the corporations. Our negotiators are recommending a deal that they say is the best we're going to get right now. If they haven't earned our trust at this point, when will they ever?

Let's allow our board to do the job we elected them to do. If membership supports the deal - and by all signs they will and many already do - then the Board should be able to lift the strike Sunday night at their discretion. Personally, they've EARNED my trust.

From Jeffrey Berman:

We need to end this in a way that recognizes the incredible unity and diversity of what we've built. Agree with the deal, don't agree with it, either way: we need to vote to know for sure.

It's a disservice to all the members who can't be at Saturday's meeting to call for some informal measure of member opinion. It's not enough to "take the temperature," -- we need to take the vote.

Every member had a say in this before we went on strike, when we voted for a strike authorization. Every member should have a say in this before we end it.


Dennis Wilson said...

Hear, Hear!

stuiec said...

Forgive my ignorance, but will someone please explain to me why going back to work on Feb. 20 would make it humanly impossible to accomplish (a) additional episodes of the current TV season, (b) the 2009 pilot season, and/or (c) the 2009 release slate of features?

If the mood of the membership is "on the fence" or "hard to read clearly" after today's meetings, why is it not a tenable alternative to keep the picket lines up for another work-week or so to give the membership a chance to digest the deal fully and give a clear vote on it?

I understand that the Oscars need their answer sooner -- but (a) the WGA could make a good-faith gesture and grant the Academy a waiver, if the mood of the rank and file is somewhat ratification-ready, or (b) the Oscars can be viewed as a necessary casualty and certainly not the first priority of the WGA, as compared to its responsibility to its membership.

What am I missing here? (That's a sincere question -- I'd like someone to explain the inner workings to me.)

-- Stuart Creque

Frustrated Bystander said...

I don't know how the leverage thing is working currently, but it seems to me if the WGA holds off for another week or ten days, and uses the Pilot season and Oscars right up until the VERY LAST minute before AMPTP loses them, to offer the AMPTP a "guaranteed ratification" if they reduce the promotional window to seven days, map the DGA gains for Cable onto the WGA deal, and make the same 2 minutes for internet content for drama and comedy the same basic minimum, those would be "extras" that would feel like something I would be happy for, as the "hard-liner" wifey who is talking to her hubby who has the vote. This then would be the deal that I think was "the best the WGA could get."

Can tonight's meeting talk about the final offer that the membership is willing to ratify with the AMPTP? This deal isn't it, obviously, with a significant portion of the membership unhappy with the promo window and DVD loss. Where can this deal come up to help satisfy those members whereupon SAG can make things even better for the things SAG can argue for? It seems this is a lukewarm deal on certain renumeration fronts but a win on the jurisdicition front! Congrats to the NegComm and leadership. This deal's a good start. It's the start that should have happened after the Holidays.

I know that 40K cap for streamed programming is a starter, but it seems like there is going to have to be further negotiations to insure percentages when the "throw in" model changes to charged advertising time slots, which WILL happen, maybe not next year but certainly by the end of this 3 year contract. Maybe this is the stuff SAG will have to cover, taking that cap off, and making sure there are guarantees to the percentages when internet follows the same model for advertising revenue as network TV.

And yes, definitely make sure that favored nations clause is in the deal if WGA is going to have SAG do the heavy lifting for closing that 17 promo window and sticking DVD back on the table...and getting the gains on Cable from the DGA deal mapped onto WGA.

Jon Raymond said...

There's seems to be this contention that you can't get a better deal than this, the leverage the WGA has will end soon, you'll be in limbo for months until the SAG deal comes up, otherwise. I don't buy it.

Turn down this deal and that will set a fire under the AMPTP's ass like you've never seen. I'd bet you'd see them scramble to get ay issues you have ironed out, but fast. Now is when you have this leverage. Now is when you should use it. You have them right where you want them. Don't let them convince you it's the other way around.

Not An said...

I'm with Stuart - grant the Oscar a waiver and take a vote; seems to be really good PR because that way the public sees that we were willing to negotiate and helps a lot of medium/small businesses (whose support we need) that make money off the Oscars; if the vote is against, we still have the even greater leverage of the TV season and SAG standing with us in June.

Good thought, Stuart.

MelindaAugustina said...

The writer's work is the spark for recording the stories of life. They should be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. And while making those votes, they should remember that radio has to pay for every single listener who listens to a song online -- every single performance for the whole life of the song's online radio play. Not after the first few week of play --every single time. Larger budget film and television should pay for every single time the creative's work airs. Every single time, every single time, every single time.

Keep the picket lines open another week. Hold fast, hold strong, grant the Academy a waiver, but hold fast for fairness.

Chase Evans said...

I'm s little confused as well and I guess ultimately my confusion doesn't matter because though I hope to be a Guild member by the end of the year I am not currently.

In the same way it was simple common sense that writers should be compensated for their work in all media, now rather than three years from now, it also seems simple common sense that the people who voted a strike up or down should have the opportunity to vote the agreement up or down.

Despite the fact that not having the Oscars go forward has been sited as giving the Guild leverage, lifting the strike without a vote suggests otherwise.

If the Guild doesn't want to be the bad guy in preventing the broadcast, then why not like Stuart Creque suggests above just grant the show a waiver and still allow the membership to vote?

Writer's Advocate said...

Radio pays ... so should Television.

The writer's work is the spark for recording the stories of life. A very cultural job.

They should be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. And while making those votes, they should remember that radio has to pay for every single listener who listens to a song online -- every single performance for the whole life of the song's online radio play. Not after the first few week of play --every single time. Larger budget film and television should pay for every single time the creative's work airs. Every single time, every single time, every single time.

Keep the picket lines open another week. Hold fast, hold strong, grant the Academy a waiver to remind them of how fabulous you are! But hold fast for everything you deserve!!!!!

Not An said...

I know it's the LAT Blog but it has specific comments with names attached from those going into the meeting in NYC.


pat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stuiec said...

not an: thanks.

1) I am not a WGA member - yet. So I don't have a vote, and I won't tell anyone whether to take or reject this deal as is.

2) My suggestion about the vote is motivated by my desire to see the WGA as a union come out of the process stronger. If the extra time gives the members the confidence that the decision of their union fairly represents their collective and democratically-expressed will, then even the ones who don't like the decision will be better able to accept and support it.

3) If the mood of the rank and file is overwhelmingly in favor of ratification at today's meetings, I think your leadership is within its rights to call off the strike pending a ratification vote. Even so, it may still be prudent to call a 48-hour vote prior to returning to work, so that the decision doesn't come into question.

J. said...

Well said, UH Founders! Thank you for this post.

I agree with the suggestions others have put forth. A waiver for the Oscars as a good faith gesture would be an excellent PR move. Esp. if that is coupled with the knowledge that membership needs to have better terms to guarantee ratification.

Also, if the companies know that a slightly sweetened deal, perhaps delivering on the Most Favored Nations clause, would guarantee their TV seasons, I think they would take it.

I propose we fight for the MFN clause that Chernin promised us. After all, Young said he would not recommend the deal without it. Then in the 11th hour it was taken away. That is a crushing blow.

If they deliver that I would be much more willing to accept the deal. I am pretty sure the DGA got one with us and that's why they rolled over on New Media.

Most of all, time to digest the deal would restore some faith in the guild. Faith that had all but vanished. Thanks again, founders for advocating it.

J. said...

I also second (or third or fourth) stuiec's suggestion of one more work week of picketing while the membership digests the deal.

I want to understand what I am voting for or voting against.

Also, SAG has been good to us. We must treat them with respect now and give them time to form an educated opinion. After all, our leaders needed a week to digest the DGA deal. We must keep that bridge with SAG for the sake of our collective futures.

Also, promises were broken in the 11th hour. This will give our lawyers time to make sure that the rushed writing doesn't have big loopholes that we will be forever sorry that we missed.

magalepi said...

Hi, I'm an argentine living in Madrid. I was study TV realization and production, I am a good writer but I work like housewife.
For all of that, I can't understand the reason of this strike.
You have all that I want. If you don't love your job I WANT IT. Really, I want it.
Don´t be babies and go back to work.

Jake Hollywood said...

A couple of things bother me...

First this is from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily blog:

"Here's first word to me from inside the WGA East "informational" meeting in NYC's Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square. (The meeting is still going on...): "The room at first was not overly contentious as everyone listened to [WGA East Michael] Winship and others. Basically, the leadership was selling the deal. The leadership made it clear that the deal is a limited time offer. That if we don't go back to work on this immediately we lose the deal and we're back to the beginning again. There was some pushback. There was a lot of conversation how we shouldn't go back immediately and we should at least have 48 hours to think about this. And the argument was that the AMPTP has said that this deal is contingent on going back to work immediately. That it's kind of a 'take or leave it offer' and if we don't take this then we could be out forever. But the leadership may consider a delay for 48 hours, that it's a possibility this is what they'll do. The mood in the room was that, 'It's not a perfect deal, but it's good enough'. There was a sense of resignation."

If indeed this is a "take it of leave it" situation, then I'd be inclined to leave it. The offer, is an okay deal. Just okay. Does it set certain precedents? Yes. Overall though it's not a "good" deal, nor is it the "best" deal possible. And anytime someone pushes with an ultimatum, I get curious. Why are they pushing so hard, why are they taking a take it or leave it position? The answer? I think is because they want to push the deal throw before anyone realizes just how limiting or how bad this "deal" really is...

Will the TV be killed if the deal isn't taken today? Maybe. But I doubt it. In fact, the likelihood of working through the summer to get things back on track again will likely happen anyway. Even more likely is that some network shows may not go back on air immediately and might start up in time for the fall season.

But the real issue is WHY is this a "take it or leave it" offer?

This something wrong here, if it's such a good deal WHY the threat?

I think the answer will reveal the truth of this deal.

Emily said...

There probably making a threat because the fraking idiots at the ANTCP are desperate. They want this strike to end as quick as posible.

I can't stand the way the studios are demanding a answer, right now. The problem is that this is being ask in a minute of panic, emotion. The only thing i would ask from the writers is to think with a clear head, make sure they understand the decidtion. What the studios are doing is low,

I'm happy there letting the WGA vote. It shows that the leaders aren't trying to be the ultimate dictators. If this thing started with a vote, let it end with a vote.

Of course,t he leadership is standing there, going "Your not right, but you'll do".

"This is your last chance"? Why do the studios sound like theres tuck in some bad melodramatic movie where there a gunman, threatening to pull the trigger? The thing is, ther holding a chicken leg.....

What will come, will come, and we're just going to have to be there when it does. Life sucks, we got to deal with it.

BTL Guy said...

I understand the thinking of a 48-hour vote that would allow the United Membership as a whole to vote on this.

But I think it's wise only under certain conditions. For example, if "the pulse" of the room is roughly 60-40 in favor of passing the deal -- that is to say, if things are likeyl, but also a little on the fence, then the Membership should have final say.

But if, after the meetings, the board feels like ratification is a slam dunk, why would anyone want to delay the end of the Strike, if "only" by a couple of days?

People need to get back to work. Striking for two extra days just so everyone can feel good about themselves is just selfish and cruel.

Also, don't forget that such posturing by the Guild could result in the deal being taken off the table by the Producers.

Why should the Board jeopardize the deal and prolong people's pain if ratification turns out to be a foregone conclusion?

As I said, though, I understand opening it up to a vote if the meeting is contentious and no clear vote emerges.

Jeremy said...

Whatever you guys think of the deal, I think it's kind of silly to think that the leadership has some anterior motive in mind. Why would Veronne and Winship want to shove this deal down your throats unless they believed it was the best they could do? I agree the AMPTP has reason to do this (hence the stalling tactics) but not your leadership. This is just conspiracy clap trap and pointless. Next people will be saying Veronne is a tool of the Bush Administration... I only wish I were joking :\

Jake Hollywood said...

As usual--like with every other contract offer--the AMPTP has made verbal promises (like at the strike captain's meeting yesterday where they indicated a "favorite nations" clause would be in the contract re new media--and, SURPRISE!, no clause. See Nikki Finke's DHD for more details) and not deliver them...

And this is just one instance.

On close inspection that "deal" is NO deal at all.

Harold said...

I think this deal sucks, but the NegCom has already made its decision to end the strike, so there is no point in not going to work on Monday.

It's not as if this deal is not going to get approved. Even though the "favored nations" clause is missing from it, douchebag strike captains have been telling everyone it WILL be in there.

I thought that the point was to get it all down NOW.

Thanks for more B.S. lies. It's not enough that AMPTP does it. It's like WGA leadership has "lie envy." Always having to top one of AMPTP's lies to WGA membership with an even bigger lie to WGA membership.

Thanks for nothing.

Failed WGA leadership and strike captains, you're all wading around in the same douchebag together.

Chris S said...

I don't understand why it's necessary to hold up the removal of the strike (provided the "temperature of the room" is in favor).

Remember, one of the reasons we were able to get this deal was the implicit idea that the strike would end immediately. This was leverage.

Also, we've entrusted our representation, board members, leadership and the negotiating committee with handling every step of this thing.

Suddenly, we're not supposed to trust their opinions.

Look, if at the end of the ten day ratification process there's not a majority behind the deal, we can go back out on the lines.

Let's end this thing. Quickly.

dp said...

UH founders-

Give everyone in the entertainment industry a break. Please. You called everyone a shill or troll that questioned your leadership's strategy and now you want a vote? Do you want a vote because NOW you see that you should have said something then, maybe stood up, instead of being a good fascist soldier?

If you vote no now then you have to wear a t shirt that says "i am not a hypocrite" on the front and a picture of a Lemming on the back that says, "i was just a coward".

Everyone that has been hurt by this strike, BTL and all the supporting workers, will have no respect if you continue the strike. You approved the actions of the leadership by censuring any opposing views, calling people shills, and propagating an amptp conspiracy theory.

David Young, where can I get some Guess Jeans?

Chris S said...

I'm sorry, but any concept of walking away from this deal is complete fantasy.

Some may feel that the companies are shaking in their boots. That they'd be shocked into submission if we walked away from them.

This is naive.

Despite their posturing, the companies are not the evil empire, they are a bunch of CEOs looking to make the best deal for themselves. Our leadership went into negotiations with them (with our consent, by the way) to do battle and get the best possible deal for us.

If the deal is contingent on immediate return to work, then we'll have to say yes. Here's why: leadership has staked as much as we have on this thing. Money, future, etc. But also reputation. They promised they'd fight and not give up until they got the best possible deal.

Well guess what, guys. It's here. The best possible deal. We can cry. We can blame. We can threaten. But at the end of the day... here it is.

There are those willing to stay out on the picket for weeks and months longer. How about years? To gain what? More debt, foreclosure, a job at Starbucks?

There comes a point when the catastrophic loss of business for everyone outweighs the tweaks in deal language.

Labor struggles are won over time. Over years of various negotiations. Not in one big finale.

If you don't like what the deal is, don't vote for it. If you don't like the job our leadership has done, don't vote for them.

Better yet, the contracts up again in three years, go ahead and run for the board of directors, or get appointed to the negotiation committee.

I look forward to voting for you.

stuiec said...

chase evans: just to be clear, I only would suggest the WGA grant a waiver for the Oscars if the mood of the writers seems to favor ratification. If the mood of the writers tonight seems to call for rejecting the contract as is, I don't think granting a waiver is in order unless it can be used as a tool to gain a further concession from the AMPTP.

If the mood at the Shrine tonight is overwhelmingly in favor of accepting the current offer, I'm pretty sure the West Board and East Council will call off the strike tomorrow. But I still think a 48-hour-turnaround vote of the membership before calling off the strike would be prudent, in terms of keeping the Guild's various factions united behind a collective democratically-expressed decision. If that were the case, you could be working under a fully-ratified new contract by Wednesday.

Luzid said...

The WGA was promised a MFN clause, and it was retracted at the last minute? You mean the AMPTP lied AGAIN?

And writers are falling for this nonsense?

What will this do to SAG's position, I wonder?

Jake Hollywood said...

So, no less than the esteemed John August posted this question about "the deal" on his own page, www.johnaugust.com

(I left the meeting early, you don't have to hit me with a brick for me to understand which direction things were going to go)

Anyway, this is what Mr August had say:

So is this deal, today, good enough to accept?


It’s a yes for me. And I suspect it’s a yes for most writers. Some would shout yes emphatically, with a victory dance around a giant picket bonfire. Others would mutter yes with a forlorn shrug of their shoulders, deeply dissatisfied yet not able to rationalize a no vote. I’m somewhere in-between. I don’t think it’s great — hell, it’s not even “good” — but it’s honestly better than I thought we’d get.

My only reply is this: Is better than I thought we'd get acceptable?

NO. Especially if you think (as I do and as apparently Mr August does as well) that "the deal" isn't good. Why should anybody ever settle for less than what the deserve?

Yeah, it's a mystery to me too.

Is it any wonder that the powers that be hold us in such low regard? We don't even respect ourselves enough to reject something that isn't "good." How can we expect to get a "good deal" if we sell ourselves short all the time.

As one of my strike captains wrote to me, ...they'll always be the unhappy ones, let's make sure they don't do anything stupid.

Well, I'm about to be stupid.

I'm voting "NO," just on principle.

Penn said...

Ending the strike b/f membership votes may be part of the way the producers to save some face. That's am important consideration.

Tarfonschild said...

Good bless UH!

Now that it's crunch time, is it also the time for United Hollywood to do the real service to the membership by serving as a forum for two things?

1) Be a conduit for short questions and answers about the proposed deal. We post the questions here, you guys go to the right person at the WGA for the answer. Many of these questions were asked and answered last night. Some were asked and avoided. I'll start. Why can't the "Most Favored Nations" clause for New Media be in writing before we vote?

2) Be an ongoing forum for positive and negative essays about the proposed deal. Put these in a special place on the blog.

Bravo again.

Luzid said...

@ Tarfonschild:

That's a great question. Mine is, why are people trusting known liars like the AMPTP to honor a MFN clause that isn't even in writing?

Have they forgotten the past few decades of being robbed blind?