WGA Abandones Reality Orginization

by Paul William Tenny

Things may be ready to start moving at a rapid pace in negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Associated of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) with news that the producers have asked the guild to make sure that their full 40-member negotiating committee shows up on Thursday and recent revelations that writers have abandoned their demand that they be given jurisdiction over television reality editors.

Such is the first concession on behalf of union writers since negotiations began, and may have been in response to the producers taking back their proposal to revamp residual payments in such a way that writers would essentially never see a dime from them - a move that most outside observers had considered so unrealistic that it amounted to not making a proposal at all.

Officially, jurisdiction over reality remains part of the demands at the stalled contract negotiations -- which have been pushed back a day and will resume Thursday morning at WGA headquarters. And guild execs insist there remains an active effort to organize the sector. Ironically, nonscripted skeins will likely dominate primetime skeds should Hollywood scribes become engulfed in a lengthy work stoppage.

But the emerging reality about reality TV is that the WGA has decided to reverse course after making the genre a centerpiece of organizing efforts in 2005 and 2006. That push included a futile effort to get the CW's top-rated reality skein, "America's Next Top Model," under the guild umbrella by urging a dozen writers to go on strike, only to be outmaneuvered when IATSE swooped in and unionized the show.

I've seen people say that these failed attempts to unionize reality shows has been devistating to the guild in morality, and not exactly a cheap monetary endeavor either. The attempt to force the producers of Americans Next Top Model into allowing their editors to unionize failed miserably when the show simply ignored the strike for several weeks and eventually announced that the editors were being fired and their positions in the show eliminated entirely - a move that the guild insists was illegal.

Companies in the United States cannot fire workers who are on strike, else they could simply be replaced at will making unions pointless.

Personally, I don't see this is as much of a concession at all, much like the producers taking their residual rollbacks off the table wasn't a concession either. What the two sides were asking for and then dropped were never something they could realistically gain, which makes these moves purely symbolic in nature and in the end, the only effect they may have is in cooling off the talks so that real concessions and gains may become possible in the few days left until the WGA contract expires on November 1st.

in Labor


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