FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hollywood Gives SAG the Brush Off

There’s an unwritten rule in baseball that says a pitcher should never throw back-to-back change-ups to the same batter.  One of these pitches is enough to put the batter off stride.  But two in a row gives him the opportunity to readjust his timing, and clobber the pitch.

In labor circles there’s a similar unwritten rule:  Don’t expect the membership to go on strike in back-to-back contract disputes.  Because they probably won’t do it.  A strike (particularly a long and arduous one) is an emotionally and financially draining experience.  Making it through one of these things is tough enough; going through two in a row takes too much out of the membership, no matter how loyal and committed they are.  In fact, asking them to go on strike a second time is not only unrealistic, it’s unfair.

And there’s a corollary to this rule:  Don’t expect the membership of one union to go on strike when they’ve recently witnessed a debilitating strike by another union in the same or related industry.  Specifically, don’t expect the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which is currently negotiating a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), to vote for a strike.

No matter how disappointing the final offer is, the Alliance is counting on SAG members to recall with horror the fallout of the Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) 100-day shutdown, which ended just a few months ago (and cost $2.5 billion in lost wages and production).  They are counting on them to be sobered by it, to be spooked by it.  And it’s this corollary that has triggered the AMPTP’s recent snub of SAG.

Believing that SAG’s 120,000 members have no stomach for a strike, the Alliance, on Tuesday, abruptly broke off talks with SAG negotiators and walked away from the table—ostensibly to begin bargaining with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), who had generously postponed (twice) their own start time to allow the AMPTP and SAG an opportunity to reach an agreement.

It was reported that SAG leadership formally requested that negotiations continue, but the Producers refused.  They broke it off unilaterally, informing SAG negotiators that they’d be willing to resume talking on May 28.  As of Thursday morning, SAG hadn’t responded.

According to sources close to the bargain, while progress has been made in several areas, there are four or five critical issues still in dispute.  Among them:  The types of “new media” programming that would be covered by the agreement; the amount paid to actors who appear in on-line “streamed” programs; higher pay for guest stars and marginal performers; and an increase in the actors’ residuals from the sales of DVDs.  In other words, many of the same concerns the Writers had.

For tactical reasons, the AMPTP was thrilled to break off these negotiations, all but salivating at the prospect of reaching a quick settlement with the smaller and less “radical” AFTRA group, in the hope that a signed contract will pressure SAG to back down.  It’s the same tactic they used during the WGA’s strike, when they reached a quick deal with the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

Because industry contracts tend to be “symmetrical,” the Alliance believed the DGA’s signature on a contract would pry the Writers off their agenda.  It didn’t work.  The Writers stuck to their guns and ultimately signed a contract that was superior to the one the Directors got.

Not to flog this conceit to death but there’s another corollary to the rule, and it runs counter to the previous ones:  Like street riots and reality TV shows, labor strikes tend to be contagious; the more of them there are, the more they incite.  This corollary states that instead of being intimidated and cowed by the effects of a big-time strike, the opposite occurs.  A membership rises up, energized and provoked by a brother union, inspired to play their part in what they see as a “labor revolt.”  It happens.

The AMPTP needs to tread carefully here.  The belief that they have SAG over a barrel, that its membership is snake-bitten and, therefore, too timid and cautious to hit the bricks, could backfire on them.  Admittedly, given the circumstances, a strike by SAG would be a longshot; but you can never read the rank-and-file with certainty.  Much will depend on how the union’s leadership presents the issue.

In any event, the AMPTP also needs to remember that the post-strike contract they and the WGA finally agreed to was fairly close to what the WGA asked for in its original agenda.  The Producers need to consider the grief, recriminations and monumental financial loss that could have been avoided had they simply been a little less greedy and a little more humble.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail