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WGA Strike Primer: 2008 Begins — Where It All Stands
As Hollywood peers into 2008 shut down, and the AMPTP corporations get set to negotiate instead with a guild not on strike, it's a good time to recap the previous year and take stock at what got conditions to this point.
What precisely has
each side demanded that's kept the negotiations from moving forward?
And are such matters fair and reasonable?
This is what the AMPTP corporations have insisted on:
1. …for the Writers Guild to remove its contract request
of raising DVD royalties after 22 years from 4-cents, or else the AMPTP
The WGA remarkably agreed to this in the spirit of moving the
negotiations along, believing that New Media was far more critical in
the long run. Since the AMPTP corporations got what they wanted here,
count that a winner! In appreciation, the AMPTP did nothing in return,
and then walked away from the table.
2. …walking away from the table.
The AMPTP corporations stormed off because they said they were
caught unawares that the WGA would actually strike when it said it
would strike, the day its contract ended, as it had been saying it
might do for the previous month. While many in the AMPTP considered
their leaving a clever tactic, walking away is considered a hindrance
to actual negotiation
3. …for the Writers Guild to remove six requests, or else the AMPTP wouldn't negotiate.
The Writers Guild almost considered being accommodating to these demands, too, but then realized it would get them bumbuzzled six-times
over. It turns out, if you let the other side tell you what you can
even talk about, you lose. It's over, thank you for playing. Not once
have the writers demanded that the AMPTP corporations remove a single
thing from the table. So, demanding that the Writers Guild remove six
requests before you'll even talk, that gets put in the "hindrance to
actual negotiation" category, too.
4…walking away from the table.
No, this is not a repeat. This time, they walked away because the
WGA asked to discuss several things the AMPTP didn't. Since corporate
CEOs are used to getting their way, this meant the Writers Guild was
not negotiating seriously. To the AMPTP corporations, you must
understand, walking away from the table clearly is a serious form of negotiating. Unfortunately, in the real world, walking away is a hindrance to actual negotiation
5…for the Writers Guild to remove its chief negotiator and Guild president.
Admittedly, this is an intriguing gambit. Well, no it's not, I was
just being polite. Now, keep in mind that writers probably dislike the
AMPTP's negotiator far more than the AMPTP doesn't like the Guild's
because he's been around so much longer. But writers accept how
negotiations work: each side gets to pick their own negotiators, and
each side has a committee which instructs those negotiators what terms
it wants. Besides, around 90% of the WGA is very happy with its
leadership, which is perhaps 70% higher than the AMPTP corporations can
say about theirs. So, hinting that the Writers Guild to remove its
leadership is one more hindrance to actual negotiation.
Okay, that's one bingo for the AMPTP corporations, and four hindrances. Let's look now at the other side of the coin.
This is what the WGA insists on for the negotiations to proceed:
A) …for the AMPTP to actually negotiate.
There are reports that writers might also be willing to provide a nice buffet lunch, though it will be BYOB.
And so, there's an impasse. And the AMPTP corporations prepare to talk
with directors instead. Such is their choice. It has always been their
The AMPTP corporations chose to offer writers zero for original
Internet content, zero for streaming and zero for downloading, which
left the Writers Guild no option but to reject the contract. Striking
has caused much pain within the entertainment industry, but to do
otherwise would have destroyed the WGA – and ultimately would set the
pattern for destroying SAG and the DGA. The AMPTP monopoly has walked
away from the table twice and are now set to negotiate with a guild not
even on strike. Despite protestations to the contrary, they show their
blunt disdain for all others hurting in Hollywood as clearly as
possible. While their website shows a running clock of how much money
has been lost during the strike, it only serves as a reminder that it's
their own clock.
Here's hoping they do reach an agreement with the DGA. And that they
offer directors what we all know they could have offered writers a
month ago. But, well…who knows? Happy New Year. With all best wishes.