Saturday, February 9, 2008

WGA Strike: LA & NYC Meetings

See all speechless films in High Quality.

Not Over. Don't Believe Rumors. Or Articles.

Here's what you can believe.

There is an proposal.

It is currently being reduced from what was negotiated in the room between the principles -- our three negotiators, and two studio chairman -- to a long-form deal contract, by lawyers.

Their lawyers.

One step, one deal point, one sentence at a time.

As I write this, it should be finishing up. If it isn't... that would be bad.

I'll kick you to an article which says why.

The thing is, there is a negotiated deal. But it doesn't mean anything till it's reduced to a long-form deal in writing, because it's the final form which controls. And the lawyers try and shave off little bits here and there to please their studio bosses.

Which is why the pickets have been SO STRONG all week. To make it clear to the studio bosses whenever the lawyers have gone back to them and said, "The negotiators for the WGA have said, 'this isn't what the deal was' and they won't budge. What should we do?" The studio heads just look outside their window and see 150-200 picketers walking around in circles. Doesn't matter which window, which studio. There are the writers, on fucking strike.

And the order filters back down... "Yeah, that isn't what we negotiated. Quit fucking around and get the damn thing closed."

Today. Saturday. Two big meetings. One in New York City at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Times Square, 2 PM ET for WGAE. One in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium, 7 PM PT for WGAw. Maps at the links. These are union meetings. Current active members only, photo ID required.

Here is what is going on:

United Hollywood

The Strike Captains met at the WGA Theater today and we were allowed to look at the NOT FINISHED Terms Of Agreement. The reason that the Guild has not published them to everyone in the membership is because they ARE NOT FINISHED. In fact, still today the negotiating team has to fight the AMPTP lawyers on drafting legal language that the lawyers keep backsliding on – which sounds like, “Nope, my boss never agreed to that.” Then our leadership shows them their notes from the meeting. They say, “Well, here are our notes,” which contradict – so the leadership has to call up Chernin and Iger – who then have to call their lawyers and tell them to back-off. Then, the music stops and they scramble for chairs.

If the AMPTP lawyers don’t hammer out the legal language tonight in a fair way that was agreed upon by all parties, and get it signed by their CEO bosses by midnight tonight (the agreed upon deadline) then it only hurts the AMPTP and the entire town, because there is no way the leadership will show it to us until it’s finalized. They know too well how slippery these folks are – once you tell your membership this is what it will be – well then the lawyers have no incentive to improve on the legal language.

So, that is why you haven’t seen the terms and deal points yet. However, as soon as the ink is dry – they will be emailed to you both in summary and in longform immediately by your guild (East and West). Hopefully, that will be tonight, or early tomorrow morning. This way they can be studied and discussed before the general assemblies (East and West) tomorrow.

Generally, how is the deal?

Patric Verrone, Michael Winship, David Young, and John Bowman are all recommending the deal. They think it’s a good one – not perfect – but a good solid deal that we would never have gotten if we hadn’t have gone out on strike. They believe we got every last penny on the table. Like in any negotiation, neither side is 100% satisfied. But, on our side there are good gains, and notable gains in the area of New Media.

Okay, so what's going to happen at the Saturday meeting?

Well, if the document is signed and delivered – as it should be – the Negotiating Team will go over the document point by point. They will then outline what the steps moving forward might be:

1. If a majority of the assembly seems happy with the Terms of Agreement, and will likely ratify it – the greater board will take this into consideration when they meet on Sunday. Then, on Sunday they will vote on whether or not to lift the strike, and send everyone back to work on Monday. They will only vote to lift it if they feel that the majority of membership likes the deal and will ratify it. If that's the case – we go back to work on Monday. Meanwhile the traditional 10 day ratification process takes place: everyone receives ballots, sends in their vote, their vote is counted...

2. If at the assembly the feedback from the membership is that they are not happy with the deal and will likely not ratify it, then the board takes that into consideration when they vote on Sunday. If they vote not to lift the strike, we then stay out 10 more days as we ratify the vote. Keep in mind staying out 10 more days would hurt the rest of TV season, the Oscars, next year's pilot season, and the 2009 feature slate. This not only hurts the companies, it also hurts us, and the whole town.

3. If the board does not lift the strike, and we vote the deal down after the 10 day ratification process. Then, the Negotiating Team goes back to the drawing table, and begins negotiating again. This time around though, we’re likely to be out until SAG negotiates in June. An old timer mentioned that that’s the course the membership took in ’88, and they were out for 3 more months and got no notable gains. Our leverage right now is the rest of TV season, the Oscars, pilot season, and the 2009 feature slate - once we pass the point of no return on those we've lost leverage for a good while.

4. The 48 hour ratification process. If on Sunday the board votes not to lift the strike, then they could enact this process. However, this means robocalling, emailing, phoning, and getting in instant contact with every member to let them know that there will be a vote in the next 48 hours. This is called the notification period – not impossible… but not the best option because many numbers and email addresses for members are outdated – and the guild would want an accurate vote of all membership – not just the ones who update their contact information. The 10 day period gives more time for mailed ballots to find their owners. However, if the board decides to go with the 48 hour ratification process, and the majority of membership vote to ratify the terms, then we would likely be back at work on Wednesday.

I hope I’ve answered more questions than I’ve raised. I would suggest coming to the meeting tomorrow with an open mind. I would also highly suggest coming to the meeting tomorrow. It will not only ensure that you have all the information, and that your voice will be heard when the board measures their decision on Sunday, it will also ensure that the board gets a representative idea of where we stand as a membership.
And then there's this, by the Dude:
Joss Whedon

Do Not Adjust Your Mindset

This was submitted by WGA and DGA member Joss Whedon.

Dear Writers,

I have good news. I have lots of good news. In fact, I have way too much good news.

The strike is almost over. A resolution is days away. Weeks. Friday. Valentine's day. Two weeks exactly from whenever my manager/agent/lawyer told me. Yes, after talking to writers and actors all over town, I'm happy to report that the strike is going to end every single day until March. Huzzah! All of this entirely reliable information means that at last the dream of the writing community has been realized: the Oscars will be saved.

Let's step back.

The Oscars seem to be the point of focus for a lot of this speculation. That either they must be preserved, or that the studios feel they must be preserved, and therefore this terrible struggle will end. There is an argument to be made for wanting the show to go on: it showcases the artists with whom we are bonded (there's no award for Best Hiding of Net Profits), and it provides employment and revenue for thousands in the community that has been hit so hard by this action. Having said that, it's a f%$#ing awards show. It's a vanity fair. It's a blip. We're fighting (fighting, remember?) for the future of our union, our profession, our art. If that fight carries us through the Holy Night when Oscar was born, that's just too bad.

And the studios? Well, the Oscars provide advertising revenue and a boost for the films that win. But the studios have shown impressive resolve in ignoring short-term losses in order to destroy us. I don't hear any knees knocking in the Ivory Towers over that night of programming. Hey, I wish I did. I wish, like a lot of people, I could hear anything from in there besides that weird clicking sound Predator makes.

I ask you all to remember: the studios caused an industry-wide shutdown. They made a childishly amateurish show of pretending to negotiate, then retreated into their lairs (yes, they have lairs) to starve us out. They emerged just before Christmas to raise our hopes, then left in a premeditated huff. They Force Majoured with gay abandon, cutting deals and 'trimming the fat' (I've met a couple of 'the fat' on the picket lines. Nice guys.) and made every selfish, counter-intuitively destructive move in the Bully's Bible. They met with the DGA and resolved quickly, as expected.

We have been advised to tone down the anti-studio rhetoric now that a deal might be progressing. Our negotiators have the specific task of forgetting the past and dealing only with the numbers before them. Their ability to do that impresses me greatly, but I maintain that it's their job to treat the studios like business partners and it's our job to remember who they really are. The studios are inefficient, power-hungry, thieving corporate giants who have made the life of the working writer harder from decade to decade. They are run by men so out of touch with basic humanity that they would see Rome burn before they would think about the concept of fair compensation. I maintain that they have never revealed their true agenda in the causing and handling of this strike, and to expect them to now is cock-eyed optimism of the most dangerous kind.

I have heard people both in and out of the industry say, "But that's enough now, right?" I have seen the thing I fear most: that whatever their agenda, they are beating us down. With hope. With rumors. With Time. The mindset seems to be shifting to one of relief and even unspoken gratitude for their return, instead of flaming indignation that they ever (illegally, do you recall?) left the table in the first place. It's the mindset of the victim. The lethargy of limb that strikes the fighter as he unconsciously lets himself lose. The studio strategists have worked this scenario as carefully as they have everything else. It is so crucial that we outside of the talks remember that, and let them know we do.

This is not over. Nor is it close. Until the moment it is over, it can never be close. Because if we see the finish line we will flag and they are absolutely counting on us to do that. In the room, reason. On the streets, on the net, I say reason is for the 'moderates'. Remember what they've done. Remember what they're trying to take from us. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT.

I have been mugged an embarrassing number of times, even for a New Yorker. I've been yelled at and chased, beaten down and kicked, threatened with a gun and the only mugger who still hurts my gut is the one who made me shake his hand. Until there is a deal – the right deal, not the DGA deal – held out, let's keep our hands in our pockets or on our signs. Let's not be victims. Let's never.

In solidarity,
Joss Whedon
Read more?
Deadline Hollywood
John August

Prediction: 70:30 it's over if the studios stop screwing the language.

No contract language, 20:80 no deal. Hell, 5:95. No one signs off without an actual something on which to sign. Neg Com wouldn't recommend. Board wouldn't approve. And Membership wouldn't vote it in.

Studios are playing a risky game by carving words under a ticking clock.

Baby go BOOM.

If you want to deeply understand the bullshit of the studios:

The Strike Is a Lawyers' Game: How to Play to Win
What I'm Hearing