Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote

On March 24, after two weeks of frustrating contract talks, negotiators for the WGA (Writers Guild of America) notified the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) that, because the talks were stalled, they had no choice but to ask their 12,000 members to give them strike authorization.  It was a bold move.

As sparklingly glamorous and self-absorbed as Hollywood’s entertainment business is, when it comes to contract negotiations between the AMPTP and the WGA (or the DGA or SAG-AFTRA), they’re depressingly similar to those between, say, a group of pipefitters and welders and the IAM (International Association of Machinists).

The issue is money, plain and simple.  Money in the form of money, money in the form of benefits, money in the form of staking a claim to new technology.  Accordingly, as in any contract negotiation, logic, honesty, fairness, and generosity will play no part.  It all centers around muscle.  Think of being hit with Hunter Thompson’s “million-pound shit hammer.”  Hence, the threat of a strike as a weapon.

In truth, strike authorization, in most cases, doesn’t constitute a genuine “threat.”  Yes, the negotiators need it to demonstrate that they’re serious (because you can’t go on strike without the membership’s okay), and yes, it counts as evidence that the rank-and-file is on their side, but beyond that it’s seen more as a display of saber-rattling and macho posturing than a prelude to serious action.

I was a negotiator on six contracts with an industrial union (chief negotiator on four of them), and we called for strike authorization five times.  Of course, we got it every time.  The only occasion on which we didn’t ask was at negotiations following a tough 57-day strike three years earlier.  That was because, typically, union members aren’t willing to hit the bricks twice in a row, and who can blame them?  We knew it, the company knew it, and the company knew that we knew it, so there was no point pretending.

Also, it goes without saying that if you don’t get strike approval after requesting it, you’re totally screwed.  Asking and failing to get strike authorization is tantamount to announcing that the membership either doesn’t trust the union, or is unwilling to fight for a decent contract, which, in either case, is going to kill you.  You may as well stand on your hind legs and say to the company, “We’ll take anything you give us.”

Not only must you get strike authorization when you request it, but it’s almost imperative you get it with a spectacularly overwhelming mandate.  Every one of our strike authorization requests was approved by more than 90-percent of the membership, which shouted out loud and clear, “Solidarity!”  A 55-45 vote for strike authorization, while passing, sends every kind of wrong signal to the company.

But this is where the Writers’ threat of a strike is a bit different.  They’re a tough, extremely committed outfit, who reek with credibility.  The WGA had a strike in 2007-2008, one that lasted 100 days, and succeeded in creating havoc.  No new movie or TV scripts for more than three months?  The AMPTP had to jump through hoops to keep the show running.

While the WGA has not set a precise date for a strike vote (which, in my humble opinion, was a weak move, because it makes you look slapdash and indecisive), it’s expected to happen within the next two weeks.  We all need to root for the writers.  They’re the ones with the discernible talent, the ones who create the product, the ones who do the heavy-lifting.  Like workers everywhere.

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

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail