As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Studios Sabotage Talks With WGA

You figured that when the AMPTP hired Democratic turncoats Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani, they were signaling a long and drawn-out strike. Sure enough, the studios walked out of negotiations after delivering an ultimatum to the writers and dropping a press release filled with lies.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers today at 2:35 PM put a so-called revised proposal, including a list of demands, on the bargaining table to flesh out its New Economic Partnership for the Writers Guild Of America.

I'm told even agent Bryan Lourd, considered an objective source, considered that the AMPTP proposal bettered the studios' and networks' terms on the table for New Media. It included a new and improved, albeit slightly, streaming deal for theatricals.

But the AMPTP issued demands that the writers take Reality TV and animation jurisdiction off the table as well as remove the no-strike clause in their contract. (The latter means that, if the writers settle with the AMPTP, then they must cross picket lines if the Screen Actors Guild goes on strike.) [...]

At 6:05 PM, Counter knocked on the hotel room door trying to find out some indication from Dave Young what the WGA was going to do, especially on the reality/animation jurisdiction and no-strike issues. Counter brought Bryan Lourd along "as a witness," I'm told. "David Young answered and was visibly angry."

Insiders say that Bryan Lourd counseled the WGA negotiators that "this was their maximum moment of leverage" and urged them to try to "trust" the AMPTP. But they told Lourd they couldn't at this point. "It was an ultimatum. They said unless we take everything off the table except streaming and ESTs that they're not going to negotiate anymore and basically they're leaving until we'll remove all those other things," a WGA board member explained. "We're not accepting an ultimatum. We're here to bargain and to talk."

Counter then said to Young, "In that case, we are leaving. When you send us a letter confirming you will take all these items off the table, we will reschedule negotiations with you.” The WGA hotel room door slammed shut [...]

What's amazing about all of the above is that the AMPTP followed almost to the letter a script which they themselves conceived and wrote earlier in the week. I had reported Thursday night that the reps for the studios and networks planned to break off today's talks. This morning, the WGA issued a sternly worded statement calling out at the AMPTP for the plan to stop the negotiation just as it was getting go. Indeed, just as I had predicted, the AMPTP had a news release at the ready tonight announcing why it was leaving the talks. So did IATSE local boss Tom Short, indicating he was working in concert with the AMPTP tonight to blame the WGA.

One thing for sure: no one can have any doubt this time around who walked out on these negotiations and who stayed in. Not even professional spin doctors can change that.

I have to say I have a lot more respect for the WGA right now. They truly worked to further my interests and grow their union by increasing jurisdiction. If they don't, we'll be right back here in three years, with the studios putting more and more non-union product on the air, and I think everyone recognizes that. In addition, the AMPTP hasn't budged off their stingy deal on Internet streaming, nor to they feel any constraint to do so. They mean to break the union, and they've brought in a pair of union-busters to do so.

Here's an example of some AMPTP lying:

-- They demand full control over reality television and animation. In other words, they want us to make membership in their union mandatory to work in this industry - even though thousands of people in reality and animation have already chosen not to join the WGA.

Reality workers haven't had that choice. Thousands, in fact, HAVE signed WGA cards, present company included. There have been lawsuits. There was even a strike action. Nobody's chosen not to join the WGA. They've been stymied.

Now the AMPTP and Lehane are trying a sucker punch. They are going to open negotiations with the Director's Guild, a compliant union, to try and establish a baseline for WGA negotiations. No biggie; they're allowed to deal with whoever they want. But the core issues of the writers continue. The studios want to wall off the Internet the way they practically walled off DVD sales. They want all the profits for themselves. And they want an outlet of nonunion programming as a club to beat union members.

Fine. Then pencils down.

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