WGA Issues: June 2007 Archives
Elias Davis’ opponentAh, summertime, ‘07. The weather’s heating up, the Yankees are struggling, Paris Hilton something something jail something something…but most of all, there’s pre-strike panic in the air.
When Entertainment Weekly starts covering a possible writers’ strike, we’ve finally hit the big time. As we head deeper into summer and approach the October 31st deadline, there will be plenty more hand-wringing to be seen.
Before then, though, we’ve got the little matter of a WGA election.
And before I talk about that, I want to wax positive about our union.
I know. Shock of all shocks. I’m a vocal and public opponent of our current leadership’s policies, but something really good happened recently, and they deserve acknowledgement for their good work.
This month, following on the heels of a successful effort to bring The Daily Show under a guild contract, the WGAw and WGAE worked together to bring four more Comedy Central shows under union contracts: Mind of Mencia, The Sarah Silverman Program, The Showbiz Show With David Spade and the upcoming series American Body Shop.
Those contracts sound like good ones, and they include credit protection, salary minimums, pension & health and residuals.
Why is this so important?
Representation of labor is what unions do. The more labor they represent, the stronger bargaining position they’re in…at least in theory.
My personal theory is that in a union like the WGA, it’s not the numbers that matter, but rather the quality of employees that matter. It’s nice to imagine 1,000 reality editors in our union as “storytellers,” but it’s much better to have 30 people-who-write-words-and-get-paid-for-them types.
You know. Writers.
I was critical of Patric Verrone’s reality organizing effort for two main reasons.
First, Patric insisted on “union standards,” which require the signatory company to not only agree to do all its own shows union, but to force any subsidiary production companies to also go union. It’s a great theory, but since it’s never happened in Hollywood before and the film studios and networks don’t apply union standards to guys like me, something told me that they wouldn’t ever apply it to someone writing lines for Tyra Banks either. Insisting on union standards only gets in the way of actually achieving something.
Second, Patric was leapfrogging past basic cable to get to reality, and while there’s a large argument about whether or not many reality producers and so-called “preditors” are writers at all, no one questions the bona fides of actual writers on a ton of basic cable shows that aren’t under WGA contracts. Why not target clear-cut cases first?
It looks like the Guild is swinging around toward my view of things.
Here’s what the WGA didn’t do this time.
- They didn’t run a corporate campaign against Comedy Central.
- They didn’t attack Comedy Central’s advertisers.
- They didn’t insist that every Comedy Central show get organized at once.
- They didn’t insist that all future Comedy Central shows be under guild contracts.
- They didn’t hold rallies.
- They didn’t strike the shows.
- They didn’t fight with another union.
- They didn’t attempt to organize through the press.
And lo and behold…success. Four shows under Guild contracts. 30 writers getting P&H and residuals and credit protection…all of which are moral imperatives for employers to grant writers (in my humble opinion).
Now, compare that to the ANTM debacle!
Well done, WGA. I don’t know if this is a slight course correction or a signal of greater shifts to come, but I hope this trend continues. This is how you go about the business of representing writers—not through posturing and public aggression, but through quiet, private and leveraged negotiating.
Okay, that was the Good. Here’s the Strange.
The WGAw constitution requires the Nominating Committee to submit two candidate names for each officer position prior to an election. This is a somewhat rare quirk for unions. Most allow “white ballot elections” in which candidates can run unopposed. Not us, though. And that’s led to some weirdness in the past, particularly when no one but one person wanted to run for an office, so, well, patsies were recruited. Allies who were willing to fall on their sword.
Until this time, apparently. Elias Davis is running unopposed for Secretary-Treasurer. I think this may be a first. I’ll check with Tony Segall (WGA General Counsel) on this one, and report back.
And the Predictable?
Kathy Kiernan is running for President against Patric Verrone. Now, I know Kathy. She’s a very good person, but she’s not a serious candidate for President, and I don’t mean that in any disrespectful way.
Kathy was elected to the Board last year, and she was on a slate of candidates endorsed by…drumroll please….
She’s an ally of Patric’s, not a real opposition candidate. And so, in order to go through the motions here, we have the obligatory “contest” that isn’t a contest. Both candidates will write lovely statements about where we are and where we have to go, and neither will take swipes at each other.
In fact, both will praise each other and talk mostly about how they both want the same things.
Then Patric will get re-elected.
It’s not really offensive. It’s just silly. It’s a little strange that Kathy’s the one running against Patric, particularly because she’s a newswriter, and as such, she doesn’t even work under the big contract that’s up for negotiations this fall.
Heh…you know…if she won and then we went on strike, our President would still be working while we all walked a picket line.
That would be amusing.
But she won’t win. She’s not in this to win, but to fill a slot. Personally, I hope her candidacy does at least a little to educate our membership about the fact that we do have newswriters in our union. They’re terribly served by the WGAE, whose Executive Director Mona Mangan has managed to beat her own dismal record for incompetence by bungling the CBS newswriter negotiations for over two years now.
Yes, they’ve been working two years without a contract.
Way to go, Mona. You’re a real labor hero.
I hope Kathy uses her platform, obligatory thought it may be, to shine a light on that sad story. For all of our obsession with internet residuals, there are people out there who aren’t even trying to get any residuals for anything.
They just want a halfway decent contract.
We won a nice victory in basic cable.
Maybe the news will be next.