Hollywood CEO on SAG talks: "Don't bother me"

by Paul William Tenny

sag-aftra.jpgWith the mounting financial failures of America's largest corporations, it's getting easier by the day to mock these executives as clueless baboons that are greedy, careless, and in many instances downright childish. Yet these people didn't luck their way into power, they earned it with those sparkling attributes and have been handsomely rewarded for their behavior with tens of millions in stock options, signing bonuses paid out after they get fired, and "golden parachute" retirement guarantees that vest regardless of how poorly they perform.

If you've ever wondered why unions exist in the first place, these are but just some of many good reasons why. If you've ever wondered why unions such as the Writers Guild of America were forced to strike for months on end before corporate management would even bother to sit down and bargain seriously, it ought to be plainly obvious by now that corporate America is essentially and almost literally run by children.
Nikkie Finke's second part of her series on Labor Strife: 2, paints an ugly picture of a corporate culture not unlike that of an unruly four-year-old child. When told to do something, they stamp their feet, hold their breath, wreck their rooms (and everyone else's) and throw up every road block imaginable until finally giving in, even when it was in their best interests to do so right from the outset.

And I'm not talking about my wonderfully evil nephews here, either.

If what she has written is accurate, it's not really noteworthy nor does it provide details that anyone needed to know. In fact it's really a depiction of the status quo of corporate America where CEOs are disinterested and disengaged from dealing with tough problems and have no real incentive to solve them. Their pay is locked in and their retirement plans, even if they get fired, are written in stone as well as any contract can be. The worst thing that could possibly happen to them is that they get fired -- an event extremely unlikely since they are always backed by a board of directors that are mostly CEOs and institutional investors that are, themselves, extremely anti-union -- and all that would do is trigger their golden parachute.

Just ask the Wall Street million-dollar-babies that jumped to safety after running several billion dollar investment companies into the ground.

There is no penalty for falling stock prices in an industry where failure is rewarded instead of punished. If only we could all live in that fairy tale world.

"Don't bother me" with this, says one CEO after he pawned his job off on a team of eager lawyers and faux negotiators whose idea of compromise is "do what I say." They are so uninterested, mentally, physically, and financially isolated from what's going on around them that they resemble a captain helming a monolithic ship of trade and war, lodged firmly in a sand dune in the middle of a vast, parched desert on a voyage to nowhere.

These are inarguably people that are not used to being told what to do and having their wishes challenged so directly. Is their moving into the background a result of their inability to deal with equal if not more powerful entities within their trade, or is it just part of a larger plan to lock out a second union within the past year?

In fact, Iger and Allen had a prickly conversation. I'm told that Iger said, "Why don't you just take what the writers and directors took." To which Allen responded, "Just because we're the last ones at the table doesn't mean we don't get our turn at the table. Actors have particular issues that are not dealt with in the DGA or WGA deals or because we cover 100% of motion picture actors."

There have been no exec/Allens communication since, I'm told.

Not long after the DGA agreed to a deal in principle, rumors started circulating that the AMPTP was going to make the WGA bargain its way up to the DGA deal, making it as hard as possible to get there as punishment for striking. I don't know if that actually happened and it wasn't a successful bargaining strategy on the part of the AMPTP anyway, since they were going to give the WGA at least some of what it had wanted, otherwise the strike simply wasn't going to end. Unlike SAG, the writers were unified in getting something this go around and were going to burn it all down before caving again.

If the AMPTP has been repeating those events, it only confirms that the entire organization is made up of children without a lick of common sense.

We learned as much as the writers neared the end of their contract at the end of October. Just hours before the expiration, the AMPTP agreed to put one issue on the table if the WGA would take revisiting the DVD residual formula off it. Though it was a large and painful concession, DVDs came off the table with writers believing that it would open the discussion to larger and more immediate issues such as streaming and download residuals and jurisdiction. The only problem is that the AMPTP lied, didn't respond at all to DVDs being taken off the table and promptly walked away from the table for the first time, but certainly not the last.

I really have nothing to add to the second part in Finke's series other than to say that all you're going to see is confirmation that for whatever reason -- if there even is a reason -- the CEOs are again pushing a labor union into striking, making what is surely coming a de facto lockout. Their behavior has been so demonstrably dishonest that if they ever try evoking an out in federal labor law that allows them to throw up their hands and say "we tried our best", and then unilaterally dictate contract terms to SAG, that any district court judge in the country would laugh them right out of court and onto the street. This is undoubtedly why the congloms allegedly presented their "best, last offer" to the WGA a hilarious ten times.

With neither side talking and the CEOs declaring labor strife too boring for them to even bother with, I see no reason to expect anything short of a strike.

It's only a matter of when.
in Labor


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