No Movement in Writers Strike

by Paul William Tenny

In returning from the unplanned holiday break, I'm happy to say things will be picking up steam in the next day or so even though we're heading into a traditionally slow weekend where hardly any news or content is released. That's fine, I'll work through it this time around since there's probably a ton more to catch up on that I care to think about, beginning with strike news.

Of which, there isn't very much I'm sad to say. The growing sentiment now and something that seems as likely as any bit of reasoning to me has the corporate giants known as the AMPTP (principally about seven or eight multi-national conglomerates that create and control virtually everything we see on TV, at the movies, and read in news papers) are effecting a scorched-earth policy whereby they simply aren't going to accede to the writer's demands under any circumstances, even if it would cause a total financial collapse of their own businesses.

Alternatively, some seem to think that's just what the AMPTP wants writers to believe so they'll cave.
DGA Talks - are said to be set for January 7th. The directors are resuming their traditional role of negotiating six months early with management in the hopes of fostering enough good will to get themselves an easy deal, as opposed to a fair or even a good one.

There are a couple lines of thought here as to how this plays out:

  • DGA -- wanting to avoid confrontation at all costs -- will make a lame deal and setting bad precedent for the WGA and SAG
  • AMPTP will offer the DGA things they have steadfastly refused to offer the WGA just to punish them or make them look bad, which the DGA will happily take because lets face it, they'll take almost anything.
  • AMPTP will pull the same crap on the directors that they have writers, alienating another union and possibly causing the second of three concurrent strikes.
  • more.
What'll be interesting to me is to see what precisely the AMPTP offers the DGA, compared to the huge rollbacks they "offered" writers right off the bat, and really the AMPTP is going to lose no matter what they do at this point. Their actions have been that bad that they've boxed themselves into a terrible position where they've got to either offer the directors a fair deal, making their hardline tactics against the WGA stand out as punitive childish rage, or play hardball again and show the entire industry in a way that can't be spun away that they want nothing less than to burn down the town.

The AMPTP negotiator couldn't have possibly been more inept, though the disastrous actions of these millionaire CEOs comes pretty darn close to corporate malfeasance. In what amounts to a fight over an extra $50 million per year in new media residuals, these CEOs have already collectively cost their companies $600 million dollars and are saying they are willing to block further negotiations through all of next year.

Losses then could cross into the billions.

Outside PR - The WGA has picked up some PR consulting with political Democratic roots of their own, according to Variety, bringing in Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata. You may have heard a few weeks ago that the AMPTP picked up Chris Lehane and his consulting firm to run their smear campaign, and that Lehane's company lost all their labor contracts with a matter of days for siding against the Writers Guild of America.

In all likelihood, Lehane & company won't be working for organized labor ever again, and maybe not even Democrats. Then again, there's far more money in whoring for corporations than labor unions so it's not like this firm will be going away anytime soon.

Strike Costs - Variety, being the industry-friendly biased source that it is, is spinning the strike as not having much effect on the stock prices of the struck companies that have twice walked away from the negotiating table.

Their spin: "As of Wednesday, Viacom and Sony are up slightly. News Corp., CBS Corp., Time Warner and Walt Disney Co. are essentially flat. NBC Universal parent General Electric is down about $2, although with the industrial giant's products also including aircraft engines, plastics and washing machines, it's hard to blame it all on the drama in Burbank and Universal City."

The truth: Time Warner's stock price is down 8.7% since the strike began, -9.6% for GE, -6.3% for Disney, -6% for CBS, and -6.2% for News Corp. To give you an idea of how much a drop of 6.2% means for companies this big, 6.2% represents a loss of about $4.3 billion in value for News Corp.

You hear that, shareholders? These CEOs which you are paying between $15-36 million per year (each) are causing billion-dollar drops in your stock value just because they don't want to pay an extra $50 million per year to writers. Any fund that owns 15 million shares of News Corp is out about $21 million as of Friday morning, just a bit less than half what it would cost for all 8 of these giants combined to make this strike end today.

Letterman's Deal - For those unaware, David Letterman actually owns his talk show via a company called Worldwide Pants, which has just struck a deal with the WGA similar to what was on the table for the AMPTP when they walked out of negotiations (for the second time.) Letterman will thus have his writing stuff with him when he returns to the air next week, while Leno and the others will not.

I'll probably write about that later.
in Labor


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