Writer's Guild of America Strike 2007

  1. Hi everyone,

    I saw that there was no thread on this yet, and this is a huge part of my life, so I thought I'd provide some background for everybody. The Writer's Guild of America (WGA) are the writers of film and television. They went on strike on Monday when they were unable to reach an agreement on their contract with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). The main issue is about residuals in what is referred to as "new media", meaning the internet, Tivo, etc. Writers are not paid more for shows that are streaming on the internet, even though the studios make money on them through advertising. The writers are also asking for a new formula to calculate residuals from DVD sales.

    The whole story can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wga_strike
    Wikipedia does a pretty good job of summing it up in layman's terms.
    There is also an up to the minute blog on Latimes.com under the entertainment section.

    Several shows have already been shut down (if you'd like to know about a specific show, please PM me and I can let you know). Because it is expected to be a prolonged strike, some shows are scrambling to put out some sort of finale since this may be the end of their season. Most shows have new episodes until January or so, then after that its all reruns and reality shows.

    I just wanted to put this story out there. I know many people might not find the entertainment industry important or relevant, but it is the industry I love and make my living in. I am not part of the WGA, nor am I an upper level studio person. I am someone who falls in the middle, who is not striking, nor will I benefit in any way from the strike. Because of this, my overtime was cut, therefore cutting my paycheck in half this week, and I was informed today that I will most likely be laid off by the end of next week.

    I don't want to make this my sob story, but I really want people to know about this. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to PM me!
     
  2. I hope the strike is over soon and the writers get what they deserve. Pip, I hope things are OK for you.
     
  3. These companies that don't want to pay cause "its on the internet" are just trying to cheat those who deserve to be paid. Downloading without paying for music has been ruled illegal. Those that do it are thieves. Just like AMPTP.
    Sorry that you are caught in the middle of it.
     
  4. I support the writers 150%. I am extremely dismayed that Ellen Degeneres crossed the picket lines and then gave a half-assed excuse why she taped her show.
     
  5. I hope "Girlfriends" and "Ugly Betty" are not affected!
     
  6. I support the writers too!
     
  7. Pippop, what is your opinion on Ellen taping a show? I also read something about Jay Leno and that if he doesnt come back all the non writing staff will get fired by the end of the week.
     
  8. I think it's unfortunate and extremely ridiculous. The greed of these studios is sickening.
     
  9. I do back the writers, what they're asking for isn't a lot, its just fair. I find it hard to believe that anyone could argue they don't deserve what they're asking for. Yes, the studios are just another example of a greedy corporation. It isn't new.

    On the other hand, I do understand why Ellen taped her show. In the letter from the WGA East, they compared her to the late night hosts who have all honored the picket lines. Ellen's show is nothing like the late night shows. Her show is syndicated, so individual stations control when it airs, unlike the late shows, where the network detirmines the schedule. Because of this, if she did not produce a show, each individual station could sue her for breach of contract. Other daytime shows like Oprah, Tyra, and Rachel Ray have the same contracts. I believe they are all still in production, without receiving any criticism. It would ultimately hurt everyone on her staff (non-writers). It is an unfortunate situation, and I see both sides.

    As for the late night firings, I've heard that the non-writing staff will be fired as there are no shows to work on. There is talk about bringing in guest hosts, but I'm not sure how that would affect the staffing issues. That's the situation I'm in; I am non-writing staff on a TV show, and after next week, since we have no more episodes to shoot, I will be laid off.
     
  10. Here are some articles about the different viewpoints. Not opposing viewpoints, just different ones.

    From ew.com, by Mark Harris
    Why the Writers are Right

    The Writers Guild of America is a hard union to love, even for many of its members. Anybody who has spent time in a roomful of writers knows that getting them to agree on anything is a fool's errand. Fill that room with 12,000 people, and you have a fractious alliance that has, at times, barely been on speaking terms with itself. The WGA, long known as the guild that can't even unite its East and West coasts, has always been something of a mess, and its handling of the run-up to the strike that started on Nov. 5 has been met with some justifiable criticism. It's not easy to reconcile the needs of TV showrunners (who are essentially both labor and management), movie screenwriters (who are pure labor), young Daily Show writers, old hands living off residuals, a few people who make a great living and a lot of people who don't, all within the scope of a single contract. And this year's WGA negotiating team started off on a bad foot, packing 25 years of resentment about lousy deals to which their own predecessors had acquiesced into a list of new demands meant to rectify old injustices.

    While they were doing that, the producers, with breathtaking dishonesty, worked a press corps that remains all too willing to live in their back pockets, portraying writers as ungrateful millionaire princelings. As this nonsense was taking root, the WGA bobbled any real chance of coordinating its efforts with other guilds, spent months talking tough while making it easy for the networks to live without writers by helping them stockpile scripts, and failed to make their own strong case to journalists until they hit the picket line. As negotiators and strategists, they're not geniuses. Many commentators have compared the WGA to the Democratic Party, and like the Dems, the Guild is a loose coalition of people whose shared interests are only occasionally strong enough to counterbalance their sharp internal divisions. But (also like the Dems), they're capable of summoning a surprisingly united front in the face of a common foe. They've now done just that.

    It's a shame that the WGA so neglected its own image in the weeks leading up to the strike, since it has led too many observers to embrace the laziest kind of neutrality — a position that sneers at the hyperbole of both sides, and in so doing suggests that the writers and producers are somehow equally far from reason — that a magical midpoint of compromise could be found if everyone would just calm down. That's not what's going on here. The writers may be conflicted and prickly, but they're also right. The studios and networks are wrong. And yes, when you strip everything else away, it really is that simple.

    Complaints about tactics, timing, and the problematic personalities at the negotiating table shouldn't obscure the fact that the position of the AMPTP (the producers' negotiating alliance) has been, and remains, ethically indefensible on the two issues that matter most — residuals and new media. Let's look at residuals first. Currently, for every dollar spent on a DVD, writers receive about one-third of a penny. They would like, instead, to receive about two-thirds of a penny. The AMPTP's first response to this was to waste weeks by advocating a complete abolition of the residual system. Why, they argued, should writers get paid anything for their work after it's released? Studio chiefs who are smart enough to know better even hauled out a tired old maxim attributed to the late MCA titan Lew Wasserman — ''My plumber doesn't charge me every time I flush the toilet'' — and repeated it in perfect Karl Rove everybody-stay-on-message lockstep.

    Ugh. Lines like that give you a taste of what the entertainment world will be like if management ends up doing its own writing. Not to belabor an already disgusting analogy, but writers — and directors and actors, who have their own renegotiations coming up — aren't the plumber: They're the water. Without them, nothing goes anywhere, and you end up with a toilet full of...well, let's just say ''reruns.''

    In making this why-should-we-keep-paying argument, the AMPTP blithely ignored a century of copyright law that grants creative writers in every other field — novelists, composers, lyricists, playwrights — ongoing income from their work based on its sales. The studios and networks claim that the difference is that writers for film and TV don't hold copyrights to their own work. That's a fair legal distinction, but a morally illegitimate one, since writers for movies and television do the same kind of work, face the same kind of chronically unsteady income, and depend in the same way on income from good years to tide them through bad ones.
    If you run a company that produces written entertainment, you either believe that writers have value, or you don't. If you do, the only decent thing to do is to recognize the legitimacy of paying writers a percentage — yes, a whole two-thirds of a penny — as long as the companies that own their work continue to derive income from it. What's not decent is to have spent valuable negotiating time floating a specious theory of big-picture bullcrap about how the residual system is ''antiquated'' without offering any alternative compensation in its place. (Since the producers abruptly dropped this idea, one has to wonder if it was ever raised as anything other than a thuggish scare/stalling tactic in the first place.)

    Oddly, the same executives who speak with absolute authority about the horrifying injustice of paying residuals seem to turn into bewildered children, lost in a fogbound forest and helpless to see even two feet ahead, when they confront the other big issue: income from streaming video, new media, and the Internet. Writers, like everybody else with a brain and a computer, have figured out that this is where a large chunk of the future of movie and TV revenue resides, and they want a piece of it. To which the producers have essentially responded: What's this newfangled Interweb you're talking about? We don't know how it works! Are you sure there's a way we can make money from it? What a silly thing to even talk about! What next, flying cars?

    Never mind that these same executives have, for years, vigorously pursued deals to put their content on the Internet, acquire websites, and sell advertising for both original and repurposed programming. (Why? To make money, in case anyone is unclear.) Suddenly, when the people who write that material ask for a share, they go all fuzzyheaded. One of AMPTP's demands has been a three-year period to study the economic viability of new media. You read that right: three years. If any studio honcho can keep a straight face while uttering the phrase ''three-year study,'' I'll fork over...at least two-thirds of a penny. What's the breakdown — one year to figure out the cash flow, one year to count the money, and one year to decide which lie to tell the writers?

    The problem with this position is that writers deserve a share of revenue for material they help to create. Not a share only if the revenue is really, really a lot. A share, period. If it turns out that streaming video is a goldmine, then both sides will get a lot of money. If it turns out not to be, they'll get less. Corporations are fond of reminding their employees that they're all a ''family'' during tough times. But when families sit down to dinner, Dad doesn't get to say, ''I'm gonna eat until I decide I'm full, and then we'll see if there's anything left for the rest of you.'' The right of a writer to earn money from work that continues to generate revenue cannot be dependent on how comfy studio and network heads are with the fullness of their own coffers.

    The producers' alliance disagrees. They've put their game faces on for a months-long strike that could devastate the economic lives not just of writers but of any workers whose jobs vanish when a lack of scripts shuts down the production that employs them. AMPTP's position is that it can outlast the writers, and it probably can. But why should people in the business of making and selling creative product evince such contempt for the people who make that product possible? Do these gentlemen, some of whom are active and vigorous fundraisers for the Democratic Party, know what the Democrats think of corporate fat cats that try to starve out unions? In this strike, management may yet get what it wants — but only by pursuing it with callousness, greed, and disdain for the people who create the work without which their companies wouldn't exist. It's hard to respect anyone who wants to win that way.

    Whatever else happens, it's time for both sides to start talking again. Nikki Finke, who has covered the negotiations with more zeal and specificity than any major media outlet on her Deadline Hollywood Daily blog, has recently suggested that the level of acrimony between the negotiators has never been higher. If it's true that the people on either side of the bargaining table are now so at odds that dialogue is impossible, then they should step away and be replaced with people whose interest is not in posturing or bullying, but in negotiating a fair settlement. And the first move ought to come from the producers: As always in a labor dispute, real negotiations begin only when management commits to the principle of treating its employees with respect and fairness. If the producers can't do that, then the future that the studios and networks pretend is too murky to discuss is going to become a lot clearer — and a lot uglier.
     
  11. And here is an excerpt from an email from Dale Alexander, a grip on The Office. This one sort of explains the situation I'm in, wanting to support the writers, but ultimately having nothing to gain and everything to lose.

    "Our show was shut down and we were all laid off this week. I've been watching the news since the WGA strike was announced and I have yet to see any coverage dedicated to the effect that this strike will have on the below the line employees.

    "I respect the WGA's position. They probably do deserve a larger percentage of profit participation, but a lengthy strike will affect more than just the writers and studios. On my show we had 14 writers. There were also 2 cameramen, 2 camera assistants, 4 hair stylists, 4 makeup artists, 7 wardrobe people, 4 grips, 4 electricians, 2 craft service, 4 props people, 6 construction, 1 medic, 3 art department, 5 set dressers, 3 sound men, 3 stand-ins, 2 set PAs, 4 assistant directors, 1 DGA trainee, 1 unit manager, 6 production office personnel, 3 casting people, 4 writers assistants, 1 script supervisor, 2 editors, 2 editors assistants, 3 post production personnel, 1 facilities manager, 8 drivers, 2 location managers, 3 accountants, 4 caterers and a producer who's not a writer. All 102 of us are now out of work.

    "I have been in the motion picture business for 33 years and have survived three major strikes. None of which have been by any of the below the line unions. During the 1988 WGA strike many of my friends lost their homes, cars and even spouses. Many actors are publicly backing the writers, some have even said that they would find a way to help pay bills for the striking writers. When the networks run out of new shows and they air repeats the writers will be paid residuals. The lowest paid writer in television makes roughly twice the salary than the below the line crewmember makes. Everyone should be paid their fair share, but does it have to be at the expense of the other 90% of the crewmembers. Nobody ever recoups from a strike, lost wages are just that, lost.

    "We all know that the strike will be resolved. Eventually both sides will return to the bargaining table and make a deal. The only uncertainty is how many of our houses, livelihoods, college educations and retirement funds will pay for it."
     
  12. That's horrible (about the production staff of The Office being fired). I agree that the writers deserve their cut of the profits but so many people who make even less money than them will lose their job because of this.
     
  13. I apologize if I've read this wrong- but it was a lot of information all at once...

    Does the trend of putting more content on the internet currently offer studios the opportunity to offer reruns (and make money advertising) without offering residuals like they would have to if the show were run on TV?
     
  14. Yes, that is absolutely correct. Writers are not paid residuals for shows that are streaming online, even though the studios make money from advertising (especially since the commercials are embedded, which means you can't skip them). As of now, the studios call them "promotions", which is how they justify not paying residuals to the writers. Its completely wrong of them to do this, and the WGA isn't even asking for anything huge, just their fair share in the profits. That is the biggest issue at stake for the writers; showing TV shows online is what is referred to as "New Media" on the bargaining table.
     
  15. Thank you for that information! I feel more in the clear, as I was hearing about the strike..but was unclear of what was the purpose.

    I support and understand why the writers are on strike, these movie/tv producers are nothing but money grubbing bums who are not giving the people that contribute GREATLY to the success of shows and movies.

    I hope that all things are not as black as it seem and I sincerly hope that you dont get fired through this mess.