WGA Issues: August 2006 Archives
Here we go…In September, my term and Ted Elliott’s term on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, west, will come to an end.
Neither of us are running for reelection.
A lot of people have asked me why. And to be honest, I haven’t been exactly sure what to tell them. On the one hand, it seems quite likely that 2006/2007 will be the busiest year I’ve yet had in this business, and I’ve had some busy ones. As such, I could say that I just don’t have the time to devote to the Board, and given that I already co-chair the Credits Review Committee, I feel like I’m doing enough.
But that wouldn’t be honest.
The truth is that even if I had all the time in the world, I still wouldn’t run again, because I differ wildly from the people currently running the Guild, I differ wildly from the staff currently running the Guild, and I think that the current leadership and staff are driving us in a very dangerous direction.
I don’t have the votes to stop them, nor am I convinced that having the votes would matter. There are serious and fundamental changes in the way decisions are being made at the Guild, from the granting of waivers to the formulation of policy to the negotiation of deals. I don’t like it, and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.
As a sitting Board member, I’ve been fairly reluctant to talk about these things while still serving, but my term is nearly up, and I think it’s time for me to get vocal.
The current leadership was swept into office about a year ago, running on a platform that suggested we no longer had to choose between “Strike Or Cave.” Their idea was that by appropriating blue-collar union strategies like corporate campaigns (essentially PR assaults on the companies you need to negotiate deals with), the studios and networks would give us a good deal if we’d just call the dogs off.
I thought this was a bit naive. First, the companies with whom we negotiate are the media. Second, while corporate campaigns detailing abuses like sweat shops can be effective, corporate campaigns attacking “product integration” aren’t going to capture anyone’s imagination.
I’ve never been against corporate campaigns in principle, although I don’t think the WGA has managed to launch an effective one yet. Much dues money has been spent on a product integration corporate campaign, the evidence of which can be seen here and here. These haven’t really caught on. At all. This is not surprising.
What is also not surprising is that the “we don’t have to choose between strike or cave” leadership took their first opportunity to strike. Right now, the writers at America’s Next Top Model are on strike.
I feel for all reality writers. I know reality writers—not merely professionally. For the last six years or so, I’ve been playing cards every week with reality writers. Blind Date, Fifth Wheel, Flavor of Love, Elimidate…these are the people I take money from at the poker table.
I’d like to give some money back. I want, I really want, these writers to get portable pensions, portable health care, reasonable working conditions, minimums and credit protection. So…how do we do that? Is this the way? Strike show by show?
Yup. Most likely. Sure, I get annoyed when I think back to the “we don’t have to strike!” motto, because the truth is that reality writers will have to strike to get a deal. No doubt in my mind.
What also annoys me is that for the last year, the WGA has been pursuing an entirely different strategy, in which all reality would be organized in one fell swoop. The guys who ran on the “no, do it show by show” strategy—like Ted—didn’t win.
And now…but hey. Better late than never.
Look, these guys running the show right now are good people (for the most part) with their hearts in the right places (for the most part) and are pretty smart (for the most part).
But they’re naive. In my humble opinion.
It’s possible that this latest gambit will work. It’s also just as possible that the companies, fearing that the guys in charge at the WGA either want a strike or don’t know how to avoid one, will never give us reality writers because it’s reality that will be their most effective hedge against us when we strike.
Ahem. If we strike.
In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to talk more about these issues, with increasing frankness. However, my criticism isn’t solely for the leadership. I must say that I’ve been deeply disappointed with the quality of the loyal opposition in the WGA over the past few years. Much of it has been either personal or paranoid.
I intend to be neither. I will say nothing here that I wouldn’t say on the phone or in the room with the men and women I’ve been serving with for the past year. Hell, they’ve probably heard most of it already from me. My intention is not to be a traitor or to give comfort to the enemy, but to hold our leadership accountable and be a gadfly in the best tradition.
Maybe I’ll make them better. Because we, including me, need them to be better.