There were two curious rules the Writers Guild of America set forth within the past day or two, called Strike Rules (pdf), where WGA supposedly banned its own members from taking part in feature animation writing, which is not covered in the current contract with the studios and is not an area the guild tends to represent. (Forget for now the other odd rule.) Now, the union that does actually represent feature animation writers is none too pleased with WGA's new rules and is threatening to sue over the matter. Specifically, the rule states that:
The Rules apply to (1) all network primetime animated series covered by a WGA contract and (2) contracts for writing services in connection with fully animated theatrical features negotiated or entered into during the strike. Writers are advised to consult with WGA staff to determine whether animation writing is prohibited before performing any writing services. Members should assume that projects combining live action and animation, and live action-based processes such as motion capture, are covered by the Strike Rules.
In addition, members are prohibited during the strike from negotiating or entering into a contract for the performance of writing services for, or the sale or option of literary material to, any company in connection with a fully animated theatrical feature.
Some have taken issue with this rule, including high profile scribe Craig Mazin who wrote in a comment on his own blog that "this prospective 'ban on animation writing' is pure nonsense. Iâ€™d like to have a labor lawyer explain to me how the WGA can restrain me from writing for an area their collective bargaining agreement expressly does not coverâ€¦and another union does cover."
You can find that comment here, though you'll have to scroll down to find it for a lack of HTML anchors in comments on this blog.
Yesterday evening, Variety published a story saying that any attempt by WGA to ban their members (who presumably are also IATSE members) from writing feature animation during a WGA strike will be met with swiftly and decisively with courtroom drama, as if the WGA/AMPTP "my balls are bigger" drama wasn't bad enough.
"If the WGAW follows through with the threat, the IATSE is prepared to take legal action against the individuals and institutions involved," Short said in the letter to WGA West president Patric Verrone.
Short's vituperative response referred to the writers union as "the house of hate commonly known as the Writers Guild of America West."
Verrone was unapologetic in response, asserting that the guild's simply trying to protect its own members by barring them from writing during a strike.
"Members of the Writers Guild write the overwhelming majority of animated feature films," he said in a statement. "We will not allow the employers to take advantage of our writers to produce this work during a strike. Honoring picket lines is a fundamental trade union principle."
I'm amongst those having trouble understanding how WGA thinks it can sanction members for doing work that isn't covered by their own contracts now, nor is it an issue that will be seriously addressed during the current "negotiations".
Mazin, for what his comment is worth, is a former WGA board member and a writer with a reputation for not toeing the line when the line is made of bullshit.
I don't know what WGA thinks it can do in regards to this issue, nor do I see what could really be gained for picking this fight right now. There are only so many wars one can fight at a given time, and when the only one that really matters is probably the one you're least sure of being able to win, I think you've got to take a long, hard look at the current leadership and ask yourself whether or not they are acting recklessly even if their hearts are in the right place.
With the outrageous offers made by the studios representation thus far clearly being nothing more than tactics meant to "be on top" when the real bargaining ("fucking") begins (if at all), there-in lay the perfect opportunity for WGA's negotiator to take the high road with the media and within their own organization not through confrontation, but by laying the groundwork for a real problem existing, and a real (and fair) solution for solving it.
Rewarding ridiculous rhetoric and childish posturing with rhetoric and posturing of your own is precisely what you do when you're more interested in winning a fight than you are making the best gains in any given situation - and that's fine when it's only your ass on the line. But when you're representing the livelihood of nearly ten thousand people, some of whom will almost certainly lose almost everything they have regardless of how short a potential strike is, you have a responsibility to do a better job than this.
Today, Verrone and company look more like kids-turned-teenagers looking to prove they can't be pushed around anymore, than they do union leadership that doesn't simply want a better deal for their own, but is capable of getting it for them as well.
[Updated quote attribution as requested in comments. -Ed.]