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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

yes, the WGA is right to strike, and keep at it

I am stunned that there are people who do not understand why the strike by the Wriers Guild of America matters, who do not understand how important unions are, who do not understand how unbelievable inequitable today’s work environment is… or believe, for whatever reason, that it’s a normal and totally appropriate thing for corporations to be able to fuck over their employees for as much as they can get, yet not okay for those employees to come together and collectively fight back.

It’s the discussion in this thread that’s got my blood boiling.

And so I want to point out this news tidbit from this morning:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co President and Chief Executive Robert Iger received a 7 percent increase in total compensation in fiscal 2007, to $27.7 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

And the followup from Laeta Kalogridis at United Hollywood, the WGA’s strike blog:

By way of context — if the WGA got everything it was asking for, it would cost Disney $6.25 million a year. Mr. Iger could write a personal check to end the strike for his whole corporation — and still have a little over $21 million left over.

Yes, it’s true that almost every CEO is ludicrously overpaid compared to what his employees earn. So we should support those employees who have the power to fight back against that, not denigrate them because so many other underpaid workers cannot. We should be appalled that we’ve let things come to this, not that someone is taking the chance to make things a teensy bit better. Before if we aren’t appalled, then we’ve given up and given our stamp of approval to our own serfdom.

(Above links via Sideshow.)

As Anne Wayman at The Golden Pencil reminds us:

Even though the frame work for economic justice can be found in the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights, it took people who organized to push back against the power of corporations to get things we don’t even think about today like:

• A (mostly) 40 hour work week (with paid overtime).
• Laws against child labor.
• Workplace safety, including everything from mines to offices
• Laws against sexual discrimination.
• Etc. etc. etc… the list truly goes on and on

In each case, the corporations claimed, rightly so, that to put such fairness items into law would reduce their profits.

And to which I’ll add: So what? Of course any corporation forced to share more of its profits with its employees — which is what this strike is about — will see a reduction in its profits. If we genuinely have a problem with that, then we need to get rid of all those other pesky laws that reduce corporate profit.

If Disney can afford to give one man almost $28 million, it can certainly afford to spread a small percentage of that around to the people who create the product that earns the company its profit in the first place. There simply is no reasonable reason why it cannot.

And no, outrageous fucking tentacly Scroogey slimy bastard greed is not a “reasonable reason.”



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  • Kate

    Bravo! As the bumper sticker says: Unions: the People who Brought Us the Weekend.

    I say Go Unions AND Go Writers. Doesn’t take more than a sad glance at one’s TV the last month or so to show how very important — and often under-valued — the craft of television and film writing is.

    I just read that the Director’s Guild reached a settlement in 6 days so let’s hope that bodes well for a quick and happy conclusion of this very important strike.

  • PaulW

    If the writers cave in, they get nothing from the Internet, and almost nothing from DVD sales. The writers, honestly, have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they keep standing.

    Keep support of the writers going. Hell, I’m growing my strike beard. Have you got a strike beard going? ;)

  • PaulW

    P.S. where can we donate money to the WGA?

    P.S.S. where can we submit a screenplay about cyborg ninjas battling hi-tech pirates?

  • Hdj

    I hope the writers win in the end. Just hope the corps don’t start beatings and stuff. tear gas and fire hoses
    I just have to wonder how ugly can this get? If it gets anywhere as ugly as the girl I dated, then I’d be worried for these writers

    I got a screenplay about steroid junkie Zombies with roid rage. Side plot, with a dude with a flamethrower attached with a chainsaw. Theres more too it but thats the jist off it.
    cheers

  • pollan

    I have some sympathy for writers wanting to get a piece of the revenue made by showing TV shows on the Internet. But they’ve taken this strike thing way too far for too long. The sympathy for them is drying out, at least in some corners.

    Unions had their place in history and in some careers/fields they still do today. But the WGA is nothing but a group of bullies who try to control the entertainment business. Like often happens with unions, they make it basically impossible for non-union writers to work in TV and film which is totally unfair.

    The WGA has taken TV and film hostage and I hope the studios kick its butt and take it down a notch or two. If the writers aren’t happy with their pay they can negotiate or get a different job. They don’t have the right to cause other people their pay and jobs. Don’t forget there’s a whole bunch of people who work in TV and film who don’t have jobs at the moment because of this strike. The WGA needs to come down to earth and make a serious effort at coming to a deal.

  • Z

    Pollan, I suspect you’re on the AMPTP payroll, but it still has to be said: you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    The WGA, unlike the Editor’s Guild and the Director’s Guild, does not block non-member writers from working. You can sell a screenplay as a non-member- you’ll just be required to join. And the reason? Because even starting as a non-member, you still get all of the rights and protections of the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement. You know, the document they’re striking over as we speak.

    The writers have been absolutely reasonable. It is simple, crass exploitation for the AMPTP to distribute content over the internet without paying the talent their due residuals.

    Perhaps you are unaware of how this works. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Writers defer a large part of their potential compensation because no project is guaranteed to succeed. Because project value is unpredictable, writers receive an up-front payment and then a schedule of residuals based on how well the project performs at the box office. If the studios make lots of money, a (painfully small) percentage is paid to the writer for their role in creating those profits.

    Except, apparently, when those profits are made on the internet. Somehow, those don’t count. Nobody is very clear on the AMPTP’s logic, here. The AMPTP has no right to use WGA member work for free, but that’s what they’re doing.

    It is the AMPTP that has consistently come to the table in bad faith. It is the AMPTP that is holding the industry hostage, and for what? A few hundred million dollars, chump change in this business, as our host’s posting clearly demonstrated.

    Better astroturf, please.

  • misterb

    Hmmm, random thoughts, inspired mostly by the comments on the previous thread:
    I wonder why the WGA, the Director’s guild, and SAG are separate unions. It seems that their position would be much stronger, and their interests would be better aligned if there were a United Cinema Workers.
    @pollan – Of course, the WGA is taking TV and films hostage – that’s their sole negotiating leverage. It never ceases to amaze me that people who swear by the free market are up in arms when workers organize to strengthen their position in the market for their labor. It’s no different than corporations buying their rivals to consolidate their positions as suppliers.
    The WGA should be considering the difference between a writer and an assembly line worker in positioning their motivations. There’s a reason novelists aren’t unionized, I’m sure, and I’d be interested in hearing the WGA explain why that is.

    I hope they realize that only the better writers are superior to unscripted entertainment. I’ve been amazed to find that Letterman doesn’t seem that much better than Stewart these days, even though he has writers. Perhaps when the strike is over, John should fire 2/3 of his writers cause they don’t seem to be adding all that much. I do miss “30 Rock”, though.

    My natural tendency towards paranoia tells me that the great right-wing conspiracy has ordered the producers not to “lose” this one. Under no circumstances do they want a resurgence of labor in this country. And for that reason and that reason alone, I think all blue-collar unions should stand behind the WGA, even if they are effete snobs – this is the most visible labor event of the last 5 years.

  • MaryAnn

    Check out the WGA’s strike blog for info on how to help: http://unitedhollywood.com

    If the writers aren’t happy with their pay they can negotiate

    That’s what they’ve been doing, for years: attempting to negotiatie with the studios and the networks. The other guys won’t play ball: hence the strike. It’s last-ditch negotiating. But you know that, I’m sure.

  • PaulW

    There’s something about the Director’s Guild reaching an agreement with the studios. A lot of it involves the same talking points that the writers are striking over (money from Internet, for one). Any word on the actual specifics of the directors’ deal?

  • MaryAnn

    I have no more information than anyone might get from Googling the situation.

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