2/09/2008

What Happened at the Big Meeting?

The negotiating committee and the board came out to a full house at the Shrine Auditorium. They were met with a standing ovation. Standing ovations continued through the meeting as Verrone congratulated the membership on its efforts over the last three plus months. Bowman discussed what the nature of negotiations were like on the inside, where we started, and what we've gained. David Young went through the deal point by point. Then, the floor was opened for Q&A.

Verrone announced at the top of the meeting that we would have a 48 hour membership vote on whether or not to lift the strike. Members will be notified tomorrow or Monday by email or phone about the strike lift vote. Then, likely on Tuesday (details are still being worked out) there will be a time and place that the general assembly can meet and cast their ballots. Members will also be able to vote by faxing a proxy ballot to the guild. The votes will be counted, and if it passes - we go back to work - tentatively on Wednesday. We then begin the 10 day ratification vote on the contract. (I assume this will happen whether or not members vote to lift the strike, however it may be a cross-that-bridge scenario.)

During the Q&A period, members offered many congratulations to the Negotiating Committee for their tireless work. There were also concerns raised about the 17 and 24 day windows of free content reuse on the internet, the lack of larger gains for cable syndication, and other legal language questions. However, overwhelmingly the crowd was pleased with the trailblazing the NegCom had accomplished in New Media: distributor's gross, separated rights, and percentage-based residuals.

Overall, the atmosphere was very upbeat, more so than many had anticipated. At times it felt like a victory rally. In fact, as of 10:30pm, there was only one openly hostile question during the Q&A session. It focused on the 17-day window for ad-supported streaming. Interestingly, the man who posed the question (pointedly saying, "You guys blinked.") drew some applause at first, but then elicited groans as his anger rose and he refused to relinquish the microphone. Many members have grave concerns about the 17-day window, but not to the same extent as that gentleman, who stormed from the room amid uncomfortable chuckling. That was the only moment of tension in what was, on the whole, a very inspirational evening.

If you're a guild member expect a call or email in the coming days to notify you of the vote. If you don't think the guild has your current phone number or email address give them a call with your updated information.

13 comments:

Scott Stambler said...

jeez, what's gonna happen to this website?

Tarfonschild said...

I was there.

Best news of the night? New Media jurisdiction. Distributor's gross for ad-supported downloads. A pretty good settlement agreement that could give some writers their jobs back. News that the entire board of directors and negotiating committee would recommend approval of this deal. And very, very reasoned discussion.

Worst news of the night? That blasted window. And the fact that there has been no Most Favored Nations clause committed to paper, just a handshake for a ho-hum MFN clause that applies to New Media and nothing else (e.g. DVDs. Upshot? If SAG negotiates a better DVD rate, it doesn't apply to us.) How tough would it be to get it committed to writing

Prediction? Back at work on Wednesday, ratification in 10 days, and a SAG job action to deal with in July. Start saving.

RumorsDaily said...

How did New York go?

kellythedog said...

I was surprised at the meeting. I thought Verrone et al did a very good job of making their case.

I expected a lot more dissension and contention and I think they won a lot of members over on the spot.

I do not like some parts of the deal myself, but I'm okay with it. I don't think we could have gotten much more from the evildoers, but that is impossible to say.

I came away believing there were a lot of little victories on important issues that I understand a little more now. And usually I'm extremely skeptical when one group is presenting only their side of an issue. They made a good case.

Ultimately it wasn't a clear win or dominating victory, the way the companies have done it to the writers before, but a hard fought battle where we won a lot more than we lost.

I left there feeling pretty good about the strike, the deal, and especially the union and its people.

Jeff Wilber said...

I attended the Captain's meeting on Friday where we were presented with pretty much the same deal. My concerns were those of others but, more importantly, was the delivery of said message. That dissent, specifically regarding the "forced dow the throat" ramble, caused chills down the ol' spine about this bastard being over. The Board DOES have the right to end the strike unilaterally. Between Friday and Sat. Leadership made the right decision: Put ending the strike to a vote. Good for them. A lot of unity has been bred over the last three months and to squander that would have been a HUGE mistake and a tragic waste. Once again cooler heads have prevailed and, God bless him, Verrone LISTENED to those he represents and not only implemented the right solution, he implemented the ONLY solution. So, the town waits another two days. What is two days when that which we have built over this trying time can last into the next negotiation, and the one after that, and the one after that...
Kudos to all.

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. - Thomas Jefferson

People please... said...

I love, love, LOVE our leadership. Thought they did a few things I disagreed with, I am very pleased with the outcome.

They helped us to get our respect back. They helped us find our strenghth and they kept us united.

Great meeting, great leadership, now we have to do our part and VOTE!!

Bullwinkle said...

rumorsdaily,

The NYC meeting was very similar to the LA meeting. There was some displeasure with the 17 day window and questions about the implementation of the ad-supported streaming rate payments. Many daytime writers here, and for them the situation is less clear-cut than for prime time drama writers. My gut tells me that we'll be pressing back against this window for some time to come, but I also believe that will become easier when we've seen how this plays out in practice. There were questions about MFN which couldn't be answered because the language, they said, was still being resolved.

Much gratitude expressed for the Council and Negotiating Committee, who fielded questions with great patience. They made a very forceful presentation about the strength of the deal (how far they'd come from the AMPTP's opening position and given the anti-union climate of the times). They were able to explain themselves very thoughtfully, which went a long way towards helping membership feel comfortable about going forward with this deal.

There was a lot of concern expressed about how we're going to help SAG and the Teamsters in their negotiations. Most important was the great feeling of solidarity that's come about as the result of this--solidarity with the WGA West, with SAG, and yes, our brothers below the line. Very vocal agreement that it will be important to build on this, because we've seen what we can do when we're all on the same page.

Thanks to all at UH for doing such a great job in trying times!

Caitlin said...

Well, I'm pleased to hear this, of course. Nikki Finke reported about the same thing, but, though I like her, I trust it more coming from you. I will say I'm sorry the opposition had to be largely represented by someone so stubborn. Though my poisiton was clear, both sides did make very good points. Really, my biggest fear for you in letting the strike continue was that you'd loose too much and turn too many people against with without a better deal in return. But the deal is indeed far from perfect, and I'm sure there were people who could have exprerssed that better than the individual mentioned here. And, honestly, I hope it really will prove to be a deal you can live with and be proud of. You've earned it. Frankly, you've earned far more, but against an adversary like the AMPTP, what you got really is significant, and people will remember that. Right now, I'm hoping tarfonschild's prediction comes true. It seems the most likely. Good luck to all of you, and, assuming things really are winding down, I can't wait to see what this site and you all have planned for the future.

Still in shock said...

Well... I came to the meeting to be convinced, and I left... horrified. And I regret deeply not speaking up with my concerns at the meeting -- a feeling I bet others share.

Let me preface this by saying I love all of the board and Negcom guys. They've been dealing with these monsters for months and I applaud them. Truly. They deserve our respect and gratitude and they have mine. And maybe they are right, that they looked into the eyes of these guys and knew that this was the best that we could get... I just don't happen to believe it.

We have been played like children by these sociopaths throughout this entire ordeal. What I came away from the meeting with was knowing that we got screwed out of favored nations status in writing at the last minute, are trusting to a handshake(!) any increases made by SAG in their contract, and are excluded from getting any DVD money if they get more.

Even one of the board members flat out admitted it to a questioner last night: We just sold the internet for a year for a max of 1600 dollars. That's including foreign. With a 17 day window that all of the board members said they were really worried by.

So, basically, after 17 days of FREE usage, they could run an episode of Lost, all day, every day, for an entire year, all over the world -- even run it as the little ticker at the bottom of the CNN screen if they chose, and the most that writer would get is --1600 bucks. Does that seem like a fair deal in any universe? And this will be the platform that we work from forever. Just like the terrible DVD model we're STILL living with.

I was almost ashamed to be a member of the WGA last night. We had a chance to strike shoulder to shoulder with SAG, shut down the Oscars, and threaten 8 billion dollars in ad revenue at the upfronts... none of which the networks would have let happen, and instead we let ourselves be punked out of fear. This was not the moment of greatest leverage for us. It was only the beginning of that leverage.

I'm sorry to be so down, but the entire tone of that charade was just so false. Backpatting each other over overcoming the draconian rollbacks that the AMPTP started the negotiations with. Any child could see that that was just posturing. At that point we should have come back demanding 50% of the internet and 3 dollars a DVD. Then they would have known they were in for a fight with adults who also knew how to posture. Instead we started with our bottom line offer. Well, it won us the P.R war but it let them know they could play us like fiddles which they did, stalling until they could deal with the DGA and then stalling until this artificial "Time's up" deadline appeared. Oh and by the way, unless you agree to end the strike and recommend this to your members you can't even have it. Now get out.

I'm not voting for this turkey. If we had just had the guts to hold out a little longer we could have really gotten something. I'm not saying we didn't get anything, we did, but we could have gotten more, instead of this empty feeling of vague shame. We've been repeatedly lied to, slapped around and punked, the very latest being this whole Favored Nation thing being yanked away from us at the last second. And instead of getting angry... we just take it.

Their anger over the Oscars is a feint. The real prizes are the upfronts which net these guys 8 billion a year in upfront ad buys... usually for turkeys they couldn't sell in the light of day and next year's movie slate. I don't believe they would risk either.

We did blink. Twice. I understand having to pay bills, and mortgages, and feed your children, I really do. But those realities were there when we voted 90% to strike in the first place, weren't they? There comes a moment in any fight when you may be frightened, you may be losing, and you're certainly tired and bleeding. In that moment an individual looks inside of himself and takes measure of his soul. And either finds the courage to rise and fight on... or looks inward and finds... nothing but fear. And that moment of giving in haunts him/her for the rest of their lives, if they want to admit it or not. This is that moment.

We can get more. And it won't take three moths either. None of those sociopaths want SAG and the WGA striking at the same time. It's their worst nightmare.

Vote no. Vote no. Vote no.

Still in shock said...

Three months. Not moths. Although, if people want three moths to vote to get a smaller window... I'll go catch them.

Luzid said...

Wow. I've seen anti-dissent shaming tactics like this used by, say, Fox News - never thought I'd see it here. Maybe the guy had a point, mic etiquette aside.

Here's my question - does anyone here think that SAG is going to let the AMPTP cut their residuals the way this deal will? What will the Guild do if SAG goes on strike over it, gets a better deal, and writers are stuck with being robbed of their residuals?

So many here were worried about the 90% residuals pay cut - what happened at the meeting to alleviate that concern?

I ask, because (as with the MFN clause that disappeared) the AMPTP has shown themselves to be liars throughout this, and every, negotiation. Why are writers trusting them not to economically rape them via this 17-day window?

DLJ said...

Tarfonschild: There is no distributor's gross for ad-supported streaming of television programs, only theatrical motion pictures. For TV, it's a flat-rate that for some reason our leadership is calling 2% of distributor's gross.

This is probably the most disturbing thing about this whole deal: that our LEADERS are the ones saying that there's 2% of distributor's gross when there simply isn't. I expect that kind of double-talk from the AMPTP, it's a huge disappointment to hear Verrone and Young resorting to the same sort of shameless obfuscations.

So if they're spinning this, what else are they spinning? And why are they doing it?

Luzid said...

@ still in shock:

I have to agree with your assessment. This is a joke, right? I mean, yeah, people do need to feed their kids (I'm a father myself), but this deal ensures that those who rely on residuals *will not be able to feed their kids*.

I am disgusted with the cowardice shown by all who conveniently forget that the AMPTP is not trustworthy.

Ever.

Didn't the DVD and cable 'deals' show the Guild that fact?

But go ahead and approve this rollback (it's the height of Orwellian self-denial to say this deal prevents a rollback). When SAG goes on strike, you'll be out of work again until they get the fair deal the WGA failed to get.