If DGA makes an early deal, DGA could find itself left behind

by Paul William Tenny

Still craping news from Friday, I just ran across a story that could change the landscape against conventional wisdom. I knew people like to say that if the DGA swoops in and makes a deal with the AMPTP sometime in the next couple of months, thereby undercutting SAG and WGA, that both of them would be forced to take the same deal via negotiating precedent. I've never bought into that line of reasoning, that just because that's how it always happens, that doesn't mean it has to happen every single time.

I've deferred judgment on that to people who know a lot more about this than I do, but really you can't argue against plain logic when its only foe is tradition. If the directors do come in and make a crappy deal, there's no real reason the WGA can't remain on strike until they get something better. The AMPTP can stomp its feet until they can't stand anymore, with strongly worded press releases saying "Precedent has been set and no other deals above this will be made, ever."

Doesn't really make it so, though. If SAG is unhappy with a precedent deal as the WGA is sure to be, they can join the writers in a strike that will force the AMPTP's hand, regardless of what the DGA wants. If that happens, the DGA won't have any right to be mad at the AMPTP, it'll be their own fault for continuing a weak tradition of folding to corporate pressure and they'll be born as the real guild with the least power in the business.

What it boils down to isn't the willingness of the AMPTP to break tradition by giving one guild a better deal than another in the span of 12 months, because it's not up to them. It's never up to the side that wants and needs. Writers, and actors can get other jobs, hold on a little longer, and while some of them will fall by the side (and that royally sucks considering the chump change they're asking for) they hold all the cards.

The studios can't make movies without scripts and actors, they just can't do it. If both guilds hold out long enough, they could eventually get anything they want no matter how outragous the demand is. It can't really be any other way, unless Viacom and NBC-U are willing to liquidate their studios and networks and stop making TV shows and films. Those units are precariously balanced as it is and, if you'd believe them, the studios were already losing money year in and year out.

Do they seriously believe the guilds will buy their bluff that they can keep this de facto lockout going for a year, or even longer? More importantly, do the guilds really understand the power they have?

Ask this guy what he thinks:

SAG topper Doug Allen, a veteran NFL Players Assn. exec, has said over and over that if SAG is not willing to strike, it's engaged in "collective begging rather than collective bargaining."

The talent unions are in the drivers seat, not the multi-national corporations and not the $30-million-per-year CEOs, and certainly not AMPTP negotiator Nick Counter. The reason the talks have been so ugly is because that realization is going to start sinking in soon, and nothing tastes worse to filthy rich power-hungry CEOs than losing power.

Power it turns out they never really had to begin with.
in Labor


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