Variety ratches up the pressure on the WGA, talk about inappropriate actions..

by Paul William Tenny

You had to figure there would be some sort of blowback from the DGA being accused by everyone and their cousin of being weak, and signing a bad deal for their membership. I don't really think it's warranted since their deal is probably the best one they've ever signed in the unions existence, which actually says a lot about the indirect benefits of a strong stance by the WGA. That is to say that -- and this isn't grand standing or face-saving -- the WGA forced the AMPTP to talk about issues they refused to even discuss at the outset, and by standing strong on those issues, became a sort of leverage for the DGA to get at least some of them.

But there were going to be problems with that deal, for any number of reasons, one of them being that the DGA doesn't care about residuals, while writers do, because residuals often amount to half of what a writer earns in his or her career -- if not more than that. This strike revolves around digital media residuals, so it was actually amusing that the DGA included this stuff in their deal at all. Everything wasn't where it needed to be, as evidenced by a number of writers on United Hollywood and SAG president Allen Rosenberg pointing out the numerous problems related to language ambiguity.
That's a symptom of weak bargaining, where one side will demand ambiguous language to give them enough room to wiggle out of virtually any contract language, and the other side assents just so they get language in the contract covering a certain something at all.

That's a huge problem, where it could allow the side with all the power in between contract negotiations to define what certain terms mean after the fact, when they will undoubtedly define them in ways that benefit them alone. As far as that goes, language in the WGA and SAG contracts will have to be clarified almost to the letter in order to satisfy both guilds that a repeat past cheating with accounting will not not be allowed. The DGA -- being weak willed -- will just have to live with their ambiguous language until 2011.

But there are, of course, other issues that won't matter even to SAG, such as "separated rights." I'm not really qualified to explain this, but it has something to do with what writers get in exchange for transferring the copyrights for their work to the studios, such that the studios become the "author" in all aspects. In return, authors retain certain legal rights such as the right to reproduce the script itself, such as in a book, as well as other rights related to the creation of characters.

The DGA didn't bother to deal with separated rights in their new media deal because they don't get them in the first place, and hence, they just don't care. That's fine, SAG won't really care either as far as I know, but that's just one of the many things preventing the WGA from accepting the DGA deal as-is.

It needs work, and that work is happening right now.

Before I go, I'd like to point at this and laugh:

In a message to SAG members, prexy Alan Rosenberg and exec director Doug Allen amplified previous prounouncements that the DGA deal would not automatically be the model for a new SAG deal -- echoing what WGA leaders were saying before they launched the informal contract talks last week and began a news blackout.

"Some have rushed to anoint their deal as the 'solution' for the entertainment industry," Rosenberg and Allen said. "We believe that assessment is premature."

Apted responded by accusing SAG -- which has been in lockstep with the WGA throughout the strike -- of throwing a monkey wrench into the WGA talks. He pointed out that the SAG letter says too little is known about the DGA deal for anyone to "assume" anything about it.

"Then why do they need to send any letter to their members?" Apted added. "They are not in negotiations and have not scheduled any. Their letter has one purpose and one purpose only: to interfere with the informal talks currently under way between the WGA and the studios. Simply put, their assumptions and arguments are specious. The DGA deal is a great deal for our members."

I would hope I've pointed out a few of the reasons why the DGA deal is a starting point, and not really a template for WGA and SAG to make their own deals, but it's also worth pointing out how deeply disingenuous and defensive Apted's statements have been. It may very well appear to Apted that what SAG and the WGA are doing is inappropriate and unnecessarily combative, but that's only true from his point of view, as the leader of one of the weakest labor unions in the entire country.

The DGA has never been interested in fighting hard for a great deal, all they've ever done is place form over substance, niceties and formalities over long, contentious bargaining, with the only goal being a deal at any cost, be it "only good", or even getting a bad one, just so long as they were all best friends about it. Real professionals, and all.

Apted is being defensive here precisely because even with some of the great gains the DGA got -- mostly because of how hard the WGA has been fighting for them as opposed to anything the DGA actually did -- there are areas of concern that show the flaws in the DGA strategy of doing whatever the studios tell them to do. Ambiguous language, missing issues, being totally unsupportive of the other two labor unions in common cause motivated entirely out of self interest, and likely the end result of an inferior deal to that which the WGA and SAG will have by the end of this summer.

It's not fun having everyone in town call you weak, making fun of your tactics and your contracts, but that has less to do with the "unacceptable" actions of everyone else, and is the direct result of Apted's own failures as a leader, and the DGA memberships failures to demand a better deal.

More on this later tonight.
in Labor


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