On May 1, the Writers Guild will take a vote authorizing a strike.
In 1960 – before my time, if you can imagine such a thing – a 21-week strike by the Writers Guild of America (of which I have been dues-paying a member since 1974) against the collective entity who will henceforth be known as “the Producers” – yielded, among other advances, substantial raises in scriptwriting minimums, a formulation for royalty payments (when TV episodes are rebroadcast, both domestically and abroad) and the establishment of an enviable health and benefits apparatus.
In the course of my career, I participated in four strikes. Concerning three of them during the 1980’s, every time the Guild’s contract with “the Producers” ran out – 1981,1985, 1988 – there was seemingly automatically a strike – three for three – the strikes lasting from two weeks to the longest, nearly five-and-a-half months.
It is my belief, without asking around, that very few rank-and-file Guild members have – or had then – any idea what specifically any of those four strikes accomplished. Whatever it was, it was nothing close to the groundbreaking advances achieved in the successful 1960 strike.
We got something. But it was nowhere near that significant.
Despite there being little personal advantage for a no-longer-participating writer, and despite the fact that multi-diversified, mega corporations have absorbed the once independent television networks making the oppositional Goliaths exponentially larger and the chance of gaining meaningful advances commensurately less likely,
I will probably vote to authorize the strike.
I do not know.
They’re my team and they are asking for my support.
That’s the best I can come up with.
What do I hope will be accomplished? Again, I have no articulable idea. Though my suspicion is “not much.” My experience being that that’s what we’ve received. Over the years, the closest I ever came to a reasonable explanation for striking was when I told a fellow picketer during the most recent 2008 work stoppage,
“Sometimes, you have to bite them in the leg.”
To remind them you’re here, advocating not just for reasonable advances but against proposed “rollbacks” that would make things even worse.
Here’s the thing, though.
I do not begrudge “the Producers” for their actions.
Though I wish they were more honest about their objectives.
When “the Producers” demand rollbacks or oppose upgrades, they invariably proclaim “financial hardship.”
Although they never, to my knowledge, open their books to prove that is actually is any.
(When they negotiate their own contracts, you think there’s much talk about how terribly they’re doing? “We are hemorrhaging money here! Give me a raise!”)
To me, it is more accurately about this.
You know how if they asked if you could reduce your tax payments would you take every legitimate opportunity to do so and if you were honest about it you would say “Yes”?
To me, more than the proclaimed “financial hardship”, that’s what this is about – a campaign to retain more overhead-reduced money in their and their shareholders pockets.
Every contract negotiation is simply an opportunity for “the Producers” to pay less. (Or at least hold down the demanded increases.)
Then, should the expense of the strike reaches the “Cost-Benefit Tipping Point” making it fiscally expedient to do so…
Forget “financial hardship.” Why don’t they just say what they’re doing:
“We are negotiating to make more.”
All this having been subjectively, though even-handedly, opined, however, if the strike authorization has no appreciable effect, for three hours two or so days a week I and thousands of my Guildatorial brethren and sistren will be walking the perimeter a studio or somewhere, carrying a picket sign stapled to a stick.
Overall, the entire strike process, to me, appears less strategy than longstanding ritual. Because bottom line – you are not going to get much.
And here comes the hopefully salvaging “turn”…
It was during the last Writers Guild strike, inspired by the vibe of creative enthusiasm around me,
That I decided to start this blog.
So there’s that.
Plus, a chance to see if I can still handle the three hours.
Who knows? Hopefully, an approved strike authorization will engender a mutually acceptable resolution. Although the historical precedent is less than encouraging.
All my reservations notwithstanding – and they are not easily dismissible reservations…
If I have to go…
(I just sighed.)
Sometimes, you achieve meaningful advances. Sometimes, you don’t.
Either way, however,
You get to bite them in the leg.