DGA and AMPTP make deal, will the writers follow?

by Paul William Tenny

The DGA in their typical pacifist avoiding-confrontation-at-all-costs style of bowing down to corporate greed has signed a deal with the AMPTP after "negotiating" for just six days, well over five months before their contract even expires. Note to the DGA: taking whatever deal the AMPTP tells you to isn't really negotiating.

Just to clear up some retardedly obvious Variety spin:

The DGA deal amps up the pressure from all sides on the leadership of the Writers Guild of America, which has been out on strike since Nov. 5. Its last negotiations with the AMPTP collapsed on Dec. 7 with the congloms demanding that the guild drop six of its proposals.

In reality, this puts significant pressure on the AMPTP to bargain with the WGA in good faith since the AMPTP walked away from negotiations on December 7th (for the second time) and has refused to talk to the WGA ever since. The roadblock here isn't stubborn writers, it's a bloc of billion dollar corporations effecting a virtual lockout by refusing to bargain at all.
There hasn't been any real pressure on the WGA since there is really nothing more they can do at this point, when the AMPTP refuses to even meet with them. In that light, Variety's reporting here is bordering on nonsensical and it makes me wonder if Dave McNary has the slightest clue what is going on in his town.

Debate will certainly ensue over whether writers should take a similar or identical deal as the one signed by the DGA, or hold out for the unmet demands of the contracts already being signed by other independent studios.

Nothing is going to stop that, but what can make such debate constructive is having a method for quantifying the DGA deal in terms of how it meets what writers want the most. Some items must be prioritized and what kind of priority they get is dependent on who you ask to a degree, but that shouldn't outweigh what the leadership has been asking for.

Going in the opposite direction by settling for something other than what the leadership wants while not ideal, will do far more damage that good because it won't ultimately change what the leadership asks for and will only fracture the membership. Others would disagree, so take that for whatever it's worth to you.

There ought to be two primary questions, each with a single follow-up: A. Does the DGA deal secure our top priorities (new media, [insert other concerns]; B. Does it contain rollbacks?

The follow-up would be a matter of degree: A. How close is it; B. How bad are they?

Generally speaking, you probably won't have to go much further than that. The AMPTP at first steadfastly refused to consider paying writers for new media at all, making it almost beyond reason to believe the DGA deal would come anywhere close to getting what the WGA was asking for. In all likelihood, they got something, but that something will be closer to what the AMPTP had on the table when they walked out on negotiations on December 7th.

The leadership will probably balk and stop right there, and the strike will continue. SAG's reaction on that specific issue will be critical. If they balk, then the WGA can struggle on through the summer knowing there will be a literal industry shutdown.

If the AMPTP came up from what it was offering the WGA when they walked out though, there will be pressure on the WGA to take the deal. What you probably won't hear at that point is how disingenuous the AMPTP was for not offering that deal to the WGA two months ago, ending the strike then and there.

It's precisely that kind of annoying behavior that makes it so hard to believe that the AMPTP would come up from the gutter in any meaningful way with their offers -- and I'd reiterate that they have no offer on the table because they are currently refusing to bargain with the WGA at all.

Rollbacks are a very serious issue that would make even the DGA balk, meaning they almost certainly came off the table sometime during their six-day talks. Those rollbacks were demanded of the WGA for three months leading up to the first talks and were never fully rescinded as of December 7th, adding to the AMPTP's image of bullies out looking to bruise the WGA without ever entertaining the thought of seriously bargaining.

Chances are whatever the DGA took just won't be up to snuff, either because the AMPTP wouldn't offer it to them either -- in which case the DGA is every bit as weak as it has been for much of its existence, not even trying to fight for real gains -- or because the DGA simply didn't ask for things like new media residuals.

Directors, for the record, are already better paid than writers and they just don't depend on residuals as much as writers do to make a living. It may very well make sense for them to accept a terrible offer on new media residuals if they really didn't want them in the first place, but it's also a pretty good reason the WGA shouldn't take a pattern deal in this instance: writers aren't directors.

What is good for one union isn't always good for another.

SAG's reaction to the DGA deal will be far more telling than the WGA's. From the support they've shown and their recent votes to sever their ties with strike-averse AFTRA, all signs currently point towards a unified front between actors and writers on the issue of new media residuals.

I can't predict the future any more than the next guy, but it's not hard to figure the odds. The AMPTP has been steadfast against new media residuals of any meaningful number, and the DGA doesn't generally care about them anyway. The odds lean heavily towards the DGA deal not being strong on that issue, which is of the utmost importance to the WGA and looks to be a big sticking point with SAG.

That alone ought to tell you that the WGA is going to carefully examine, and then respectfully reject the DGA deal. I expect SAG to do the same sometime after, because it benefits them even more so. To have SAG reject a weak offer gives them more leverage later this year when they begin their own talks with the AMPTP, even if they don't mean it as fully as the WGA does, it would pay to distance themselves from the DGA deal in almost every circumstance.

If the DGA deal is strong on new media, the WGA will probably fold on the reality jurisdiction and make a deal, and it'll be a win for everyone involved no matter what the pundits or parties themselves say about it -- if not simply because everyone will be getting their jobs back.

My recommendation to spectators is not to rush judging the WGA prematurely. They are not directors, their demands are not "excessive" just because they have different priorities. Tossing aside the doubters for a moment, the WGA leadership should be given the benefit of doubt and allowed to examine the DGA contract in detail before making a decision.

Once a decision is made, consider that decision in light of what the WGA wants and needs, rather than what the DGA wanted and what the AMPTP was willing to offer them. I'd also ignore virtually everything the AMPTP says for the next few weeks as they will undoubtedly spin and lie out of every orifice about how the DGA was reasonable, and how the WGA has been the one holding up talks all this time.

No, the AMPTP walked out of the room on December 7th and has openly refused to return ever since. They offered to give writers a better offer on new media back in early November if the writers took a DVD residual bump off the table, only to walk away then without fulfilling their promise.

If there are valid reasons to doubt the AMPTP other than pure profit-driven self interest, it's their clear track record of dishonesty and low-balling that in most instances is inexcusable.

Also consider that a deal between the DGA and AMPTP was practically a foregone conclusion. There was never any real possibility they wouldn't come to a quick and happy agreement; that's what the DGA is best known for.

Everything that has happened with the exception of the WGA's independent deals was expected long before the strike was called, and what happens next will have been as easily predicted by one side or another simply by looking at what has happened over the past three months.

Don't expect the DGA deal to be anything other than capitulation, or for this strike to end anytime soon.

I'd like to clarify a point I was trying to make before, that no matter what happens here, I think the writers win the day. If the DGA deal is something the WGA finds acceptable, then it proves the AMPTP has been acting in bad faith all this time by not offering that deal to them and avoiding a strike in the first place. If they don't like the deal, then all it proves is that the DGA doesn't care about new media residuals while writers do, and the strike will continue with the AMPTP continuing to make bad offers, even if they sit down at the negotiating table to make any offers at all.
in Labor


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