This strike ain't over yet

by Paul William Tenny

Sorry to break the bad news to you all, the strike isn't over yet. It won't be over today, and may not be over tomorrow. You wouldn't know it by all these deceptive and downright false headlines I found with a quick glance this morning, every single one of them wrong:

The WGA Strike is Over - The Movie Blog
Hollywood Writers Strike Comes to an End -
WGA Strike Over - Buddy TV

I assure you that the strike is not over, and arguably has not even coming to an end. This process entails four separate votes in succession over the course of more than a week, and we're only half way through. Any single vote that comes down as no can stop the entire thing right in its tracks.
To begin, both boards of the WGA (East and West) must approve the deal so it can go to the membership, which has already happened. Next the writers have to vote on whether or not to cancel the strike, which I find absolutely retarded because it presumes that the contract vote which comes afterwards will succeed. Think of the awkward position people will be in, some of whom will undoubtedly return to work the instant the strike is called off, only to have the contract voted down a week later.

To be truthful, I'm no where near as certain as most talking heads that this contract is going to be a lock. The writer whom I'm interviewing for the Adopt a Writer project has reservations about it -- based on what was known before Saturday -- that made it sound like writers were going to have a problem with it, and I've heard the same reservation before. Perhaps it will melt away once the time comes to actually vote on the contract, but that's not something people can just assume out of hand.

Unlike what some outlets are saying, I understand that the contract vote won't come up for at least another week, giving writers plenty of time to review the contract which will be a pretty tough read even when these people are well versed on the actual issues at hand -- the legal language of the contract will bear little resemblance to the issues the AMPTP and WGA have been fighting over for much of the past three months.

Addressing one thing in particular:

On first reading, it has panned out pretty much the way I (and most of us) thought it would. So why these two sides couldn't just get to this deal 2 months ago is a testament to how stuborn human beings can me while other people suffer.

The reasons why it took a three month strike to get this new deal couldn't possibly be more obvious. Everything writers have were gotten took either the threat of a strike, or an actual strike in past years. Minimum wages, health care, residuals -- all of it came from strikes. One side and one side only has been responsible for this unnecessary work stoppage, and that would be the only side that had twice walked away from negotiations after being caught lying, and issuing ultimatums. The latter of those two offenses, by the way, is actually supposed to be illegal in labor negotiations.

That it took this long for the WGA to get through sweat, blood, and tears, the very same terms that the DGA got without any effort or resistance at all, really ought to put to bed the myth that both sides in this fight were wrong, and that both were right. Such flights of fantasy only exist in parables and bedtime stories, real life doesn't work that way.

The AMPTP killed all hope of an early deal with the WGA when they put several pages worth of rollbacks on the table and said they were non-negotiable -- rollbacks they never fronted to the DGA. The lie about DVD residuals that was followed by the first AMPTP walkout guaranteed the strike was going to last at least this long, and frankly it's surprising it didn't last longer. The second walkout after issuing illegal ultimatums really should put to rest these retarded notions that this was ever a fair and valid labor negotiation for the first three months.

Since three months before the contract was even due to expire, this was nothing but a game to the AMPTP, and they played it for every last bit of amusement they could.


Now, here is the reality of the numbers you keep hearing. Showrunners (the writing-executive producers, and most often the person who created the show in the first place) will be going back to work starting today, even though the strike is still in effect. That's bad for a lot of reasons, but apparently a union ignoring its own laws is of no concern when it works to their own benefit. Nobody seems to know when the clock starts, but the membership will have 48-hours to call off the strike, even though that step should come after the contract has been ratified, since it could easily fail and place everyone in an unnecessarily uncomfortable position.

By the way, the last I heard, the AMPTP demanded it happen this way, otherwise they were going to pull out of an otherwise perfectly acceptable deal. I take this as nothing but adolescent face-saving, proving to themselves in some way that they forced the strike to end out of power, before a contract was signed, even though nobody else on this planet will ever see it as anything other than more impudent bullying by a weakened club of CEOs who didn't get to bust a union this time around.

Again, although I've seen no official start time or date for this, the membership will have about ten days to consider the deal and vote. I think enough writers will want (and sadly need) to get back to work that it'll pass overwhelmingly, even though there's bad stuff in there and a better contract could still be negotiated. In particular, the ad-supported streaming video window for which the networks won't have to pay writers a dime currently sits at 17 days, better than the window the DGA got, and still pathetically long. That number needs to be about 2-3 days, max.

Perhaps it's just not possible to get that right now, but it shouldn't be forgotten. There's always the next contract to improve on this one. That's the entire point of having these things expire, is it not?
in Digital Media, Labor


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