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.