On Leno's strike breaking; various items

by Paul William Tenny

This is not one of those "everyone has an opinion" situations, if your curious what my opinion is. (Hey, see what I did there?)

It doesn't really matter what the MBA says (how is it an expired contract can still govern what the WGA does, anyway?) or what the strike rules say: writing during a strike is scabbing, period. Doesn't matter if you're doing it for yourself, doesn't matter if you have a loophole.

If you write during a strike, you're a scab.
I disagree with Mazin on this and nothing is going to change my mind, because this isn't about the technicalities of contracts, it's about philosophy and obviousness. See, the point of the strike is to stop people from writing, so as to take away from a company what they want and need. It's leverage.

They want it, writers have it.

One would naturally assume then that the "spirit" of a strike is to stop writing, period. Not to stop writing in most circumstances and not others, but to stop completely. Leno is writing for NBC -- a struck company -- and clearly violating the spirit of the strike and the rules, if not the letter of the rules which is still very much debatable.

The fact that there is even a discussion about this means he's operating inside a manufactured "gray area" which in my mind means he's not committed to the strike at all. People who support the strike (yes this is my opinion) wouldn't go anywhere near a gray area because they know how damaging it is to the cause.

You will not see Stewart or Colbert writing for themselves, just as you obviously don't see Conan doing it -- and how about that? Conan's show as been just terrible since coming back without his writers, but he's improving the whole thing anyway. Could you possibly have a better person to replace Leno? Somebody who supports their own guild, instead of screwing it?


Speaking of Craig and his blog, he's claiming the story on DHD about a clique of A-list feature writers trying to force the guild leadership into taking any deal the DGA makes -- else they'll go fi-core -- was nothing but a hoax.

That's not surprising in the least, Nikki Finke breaks some news, but she also prints an unacceptable amount of unsourced, anonymous rumors that often turn out to be completely false, yet doesn't apologize, explain, or retract any of them.

Unless what she writes makes logical sense in the first place, little on that site can be trusted.

So says the rumor mill now: Lionsgate, TWC, and Lucasfilm are going to make independent deals with the WGA in the wake of the United Artists agreement. Even less than usual, this one isn't even sourced anonymously. It's pure, 100%, unsubstantiated speculation.

Does Finke have no journalistic ethics at all?


United Hollywood has two interesting stories from the past few days running that I suggest everyone read, about the tactics the AMPTP is using to prolong the strike, from the vantage point of attorney-turned-writer, Alfredo Barrios:

I'm here to tell you, as a former litigator who spent several years at one of the biggest corporate law firms in the world, that we're all in engaged in a huge lawyering game, and things are proceeding accordingly. For the record, I have never met Nick Counter, but I spent all of my years as a lawyer working for guys like him, in service of the types of conglomerates he now represents, against people like us.

So I'll briefly spell out the rules of the game and my view of what it will take to win the strike - and by win, I mean accelerating toward a resolution with the studios on terms that are favorable to us.

Barrios has his own opinions and I haven't the time to read them this morning, but I'll go ahead and tell you how the WGA wins this strike: don't give in.

It really is as simple as that, and as cold hearted as this may sound, you can't worry about how many jobs and homes and livelihoods this strike will cost. Of the people that voted -- as far as I'm concerned the 50% of the guild that didn't vote has no right to complain about anything, ever -- 90% of them approved the strike.

They didn't approve it on the condition that it only last as long as they think it should, nor did they approve it on the condition that they should have a say in how it is managed and when it should end. That vote was to authorize the leadership to lead for the membership, period.

I don't know how many people voted yes without seriously thinking through the consequences, and I'm sympathetic with the 10% that voted against authorizing the strike power, but if it really bugs them that much and it is really threatening their career, they can always go fi-core and go back to work.

Ideally, those are the only two choices that should ever be considered when weighing a strike. Either you go all the way and win, or you vote no and if necessary go fi-core -- because if you vote yes and cave, no future strike will have any real power or sway over the corporations.

You've witnessed this already by seeing how seriously these companies have taken the strike so far (not very) and that's a direct result of past failures that weakened the threat of a strike and subsequently, and more importantly, the threat of resolve.

A strike is a waiting game between two parties that want different things, and ultimately one side is holding all the cards in a labor dispute because a business cannot function without a workforce. The AMPTP companies on the television side have been shut down, and if they don't deal in the next four months, the feature film studios will go dark as well.

That fact cannot be changed by any number of scathing press releases or a continued refusal to negotiate by the companies. They need writers to function so ultimately they will have to give in eventually -- it's simple logic.

It's very easy for some of these companies to say that they are willing and can afford to throw away the 2009 feature film schedule if it means breaking the union, but since when has what a person said ever been directly related to what they can and can't do in human history? Have the strike doubters never heard of the term 'bluff' before?

I assure you there is a point beyond which these companies cannot go, and all writers must do to get what they want from this strike is last that long, plus 1 day. That's it.

No genius strategy required, no snowball defections -- just time.
in Labor, Television, Theater Watch


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