Writers Strike Inches Closer

by Paul William Tenny

According to Daily Variety, the Writers Guild of America has sent a strike authorization request out to their members. I won't bore you with the details and if you're truly interested, you can read all about what this means on Variety's website. Short answer: not a lot. This is pretty routine stuff and is far, far from an actual strike occurring in terms of timing. Any strike by WGA or SAG won't happen until the summer of next year at the earliest.

I hope people understand what's going on here though, because this isn't a typical situation where both sides are right and both sides are wrong - the writers have the side of God locked down on this one, so to speak. The studios know that writers won't accept the same crappy payment for new digital media (downloaded TV shows and movies) that they are stuck with for DVDs and know there isn't really much they can do about this, so rather than negotiate in good faith, they are demanding something nobody in their right mind would ever give up: residuals.

The studios essentially want to rollback payment to writers and have the balls to demand it immediately after a summer box office season that set an all-time profit record of $4.3 billion - and that's just for the summer of this year.
I'll try to do this quickly; residuals are what writers get paid every time a TV show or movie is shown outside of its initial run. When Transformers hits network television at some point in the future, the writer(s) and other performers will get a fee, paid to them in exchange for the re-use of the material. This accounts for a large portion of what writers make and asking them to give it up is hardly much different than asking them to quit and find another job, because that's what the end result would be.

Let's be clear on this, even the directors guild would strike over this, and I don't think they've had a strike in their entire existence. In fact, it looks like the DGA is going to undercut both SAG and WGA by negotiating before their own contract expires this year (as they always do) just to avoid the fight. They are the weakest most pathetic "union" I've ever seen and hardly warrant being classified as anything other than the studios lapdogs.

But I do believe if the studios put the same rollbacks to DGA that they are demanding of WGA, all three unions would strike over this. It will never happen. Every single insider and outsider I've seen speak about these negotiations have said this is not a serious demand by the studios and is nothing more than a dishonest ploy.

If and when the writers strike next year, don't blame them. They are just trying to get paid a fair share for what they helped create. The studios are the bad guys here - always have been. You think Walmart is bad, wait until you've seen the accounting games the studios play in order to avoid paying the people who actually created the movie their dues.
in Labor


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