Monday, April 10, 2017
A strike authorization vote will be taken next week and it’s important to show solidarity if the WGA hopes to get anything at all. I’m guessing the AMPTP is letting this play out to see if the Guild membership really will commit to a strike. They will find that the answer is yes. And to repeat, the AMPTP controls the situation. The very second they decide it’s time to make an agreement there will be one.
But for now there’s a lot of sabre-rattling on both sides. Accusations and threats will volley back and forth. That’s part of the game. Ignore most of it. Also ignore dire predictions. No one other than the AMPTP knows if there will be a strike, or more accurately, if they orchestrate a strike, but I bet they don’t even know. Let’s see how this week of negotiations go.
Talking to a writer about my last strike post, he said, “Who cares what the public thinks? This is a private matter.” I don’t think that’s true. Because of all the rhetoric and mud that will be slung, another element must be addressed – saving face. It ultimately won’t be enough to strike a deal. A deal must be struck that doesn’t look like either side has given in. Believe me, that becomes a major factor.
So here are some issues the WGA has on the table.
· Increase minimum compensation in all areas
Writers are actually making less now than they did ten years ago (while profits have doubled).
· Increase residuals for undercompensated reuse markets
Many writers rely on residuals because work is sparse. Networks are airing fewer reruns. Lots of cable stations are running episodes multiple times on multiple platforms. The writers are getting screwed.
· Expand types of made-for new media programs subject to MBA minimums Increase contributions to Pension Plan and Health Fund
Trust me, replenishing the Health Fund is the one issue that every writer will strike for and will stay out for as long as it takes.
· Strengthen economic and workplace protections for television and new media writers employed and compensated on per episode basis
When networks all had full seasons of 22, writers worked on a show all year. And they knew within a couple of months whether they would be picked up or not. With all these other platforms there is no time imperative. Nor do they order 22 shows. So they can be produced at a more leisurely pace. That’s fine except most writers get paid by the episode. So they’re working a lot of extra weeks for basically nothing. How fair is that?
· Strengthen regulation of options and exclusivity provisions in television and new media employment contracts
Let’s say you’re on staff of a Hulu show. You make thirteen. Then you wait to see if you’ll be picked up for more. But Hulu can take its sweet time in deciding that. It’s not like they have to announce a fall schedule by May 5th. They might not make that decision for a year. Yes, a year. And the writers are held to exclusive contracts – meaning, that they are not allowed to take other staff work during that waiting period. So do the math. Instead of 22 episodes, they do 13 (or 10 or 8), take more time to produce them, which dilutes their fee, and then they could be forced out of work for a year. The WGA is trying to eliminate those exclusivity provisions. I’d say that’s reasonable, wouldn’t you?
· Address inequities in compensation of writing teams employed under term deals for television and new media series
This deals with “paper partners” where studios pair entry level writers so they can get two writers for the price of one. And these young writers are forced to take it or they get no work at all. Some baby writers work fulltime on shows and still don’t earn enough to qualify for health insurance. I’m sorry, that’s wrong on every level.
· Provide paid family leave for writers employed under term deals for television and new media series
Y’know, like other corporations (large and small) offer.
· Amend definition of a professional writer to include writing for new media Increase funding for Showrunner Training Program and Tri-Guild Audit Program
This is just a smart use of money. An untrained showrunner is going to cost the production. Budgets are tight, and inefficiently results in spiraling costs and overruns. Way better to prepare him going in to do the job. Again, does this seem greedy to you?
There are other issues but these are the ones in the forefront. Writers just want a fair deal. And they would love to get one without having to strike.
And finally, I’ll say this: I imagine the public perception of a screenwriter is Hank in CALIFORNICATION. It’s way more like Jim in THE OFFICE.