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Writers Guild: ‘We’re Still Here Waiting’

December 13, 2007 7:05 PM

After effectively swaying its members as well as the public behind its rallying cry of new-media compensation for Hollywood writers, the Writers Guild of America leadership recently found itself back out on the sidewalk over a list of issues that included some seemingly non-core concerns, such as reality and animation jurisdiction.

Today the guild upped the ante by filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The WGA claims the AMPTP violated federal labor law during last week’s negotiations collapse, when the studios issued an ultimatum demanding the WGA remove several proposals from the table.

WGAW Assistant Executive Director Jeff Hermanson talked Thursday afternoon about the current standstill and the Labor Board complaint.

TVWeek: How is this helpful?
Hermanson: It’s helpful in that it points out the fact that the companies walked away from the table unilaterally and illegally. I hope that when people really understand what happened here, there will be pressure on these big media organizations to get back to the table. To me it’s outrageous they would issue an ultimatum and walk away on the eve of the holiday season when there are thousands of people out of work. So we’re filing a charge to point that out—and because they have a legal obligation to bargain.

TVWeek: So it sounds like it’s more to make a point in the press than to legally force them back to the table.
Hermanson: No. Ultimately they will have to provide testimony and they will be forced ultimately to bargain with us. It’s a well-established point of law that you can’t issue an ultimatum to your bargaining partner to take things off the table or you won’t discuss other things.

TVWeek: Even if you were able to force them back to the table, you cannot force them to agree to any proposal. So don’t you still have to deal with their unwillingness to accept your current proposals regardless?
Hermanson: They have not negotiated in good faith from the very beginning. Negotiating in good faith requires them to make counter-proposals.

TVWeek: For months before the strike, the AMPTP accused you of effectively issuing an ultimatum, by your actions if not written, that unless they took profit-based residuals off the table you weren’t going to discuss other issues. How is what they’re doing different?
Hermanson: We had a full proposal on the table of reasonable demands, which they refused to discuss. We presented that proposal first. They did not respond to a single one of those proposals until close to the expiration date of the contract. So that’s quite different than their ultimatum to take specific proposals off the table. We didn’t say we wouldn’t discuss other matters. We stayed at the table, we didn’t walk away … and we’re still here waiting.

TVWeek: There’s been some grumbling that by making reality and animation part of this latest fallout, the WGA is striking away from its core issues. How do you respond to that?
Hermanson: We had those issues in our pattern of demands. It was ratified by more than 90% of our members. They were part of our initial proposal. They were never taken off the table. They’re focusing on those two issues because they think it will divide our membership. But [members] understand what bargaining is about.

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Comments (6)

jack:

This writers guild leadership sounds like a group of whiners. You are not playing fair. I am gonna sue. Good use of union funds. Guess you have to show you are doing something

Rich:

I believe that when the WGA went on "STRIKE" they too violated labor laws. They presented an "ULTIMATUM" to the studios or ELSE THEY'D WALK. How different is that??? NOT DIFFERENT AT ALL.
Bottom line is writers are now seeing that the studios can HOLD OUT longer and they are concerned that they won't have a JOB when the strike ends.

GOOD for the STUDIOS - hold out as long as you can and BREAK THE WRITERS.

These aren't COAL MINERS wanting better conditions - these are RICH babies who make more money in a week than 50% of the country see in a YEAR !

Of course I'm talking about the SHAWN RYAN's and MARC CHERRY's of the WGA...not the little staff writer who went on strike because they were TOLD TO! They are losing out TOO & may not find work when the strike is over!

The FEW have HURT THE MASSES in this business.....that's the Merry Christmas we all got from WGA.

THANKS ALOT......

Rich:

I believe that when the WGA went on "STRIKE" they too violated labor laws. They presented an "ULTIMATUM" to the studios or ELSE THEY'D WALK. How different is that??? NOT DIFFERENT AT ALL.
Bottom line is writers are now seeing that the studios can HOLD OUT longer and they are concerned that they won't have a JOB when the strike ends.

GOOD for the STUDIOS - hold out as long as you can and BREAK THE WRITERS.

These aren't COAL MINERS wanting better conditions - these are RICH babies who make more money in a week than 50% of the country see in a YEAR !

Of course I'm talking about the SHAWN RYAN's and MARC CHERRY's of the WGA...not the little staff writer who went on strike because they were TOLD TO! They are losing out TOO & may not find work when the strike is over!

The FEW have HURT THE MASSES in this business.....that's the Merry Christmas we all got from WGA.

THANKS ALOT......

Rick:

Rich, your comments come from a remarkably sheltered point of view. This has all to do with residuals. This isn't about the Shawn Ryan's and Marc Cherry's or Akiva Goldsmiths.

Say, someone's lucky enough to sell a script (god willing) for $100,000 to a studio (by the way, there's no guarantee that the studio will even do anything with said script...so it could be sold only to languish indefinitely on a studio exec's shelves). Most likely, unless the script was somehow a gigantic sucess, that writer won't sell anything else in the next four years (And that's if he's lucky!). That $100,000 payday just turned into $25,000 a year...a tax bracket that I doubt Rich you are in.

It's all about residuals and being paid what the writers are owed on a piece of property that the studio continuously makes money off of. As it stands right now, there are no rules concerning "new media" (i.e. internet downloads) on residuals that the writers are asking for. It's perfectly reasonable.

Granted, these aren't parents of starving orphans, but it doesn't mean they aren't entitled to what they deserve. The writers deserve to be compensated for all the new media that's being developed as future major moneymakers for the studios and the writers are just asking for their share.

By the way, if you think that the WGA are just a bunch of whining cry babies, you'd be wrong. It just so happened that their contract was up first with the studios, the actors and directors's contract are coming up due next year. If the studios won't capitulate to the writers, they'll be facing the actors and director's unions next.

Big Papa Smurf:

What about steroid-abusing pro baseball players? Crybabies? You bet.

jack:

Rich: Residuals or expanding the power of the union.

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