From comments down below:
What do you think of Tom Short's appalling letter (I guess it's clear what I think) to Patric Verrone, lambasting the WGA for the strike? Why not a letter to the studios lambasting THEM for failing to negotiate a reasonable contract with the WGA and instead offering only stonewalling and rollbacks -- thereby ensuring that the WGA's only possible and reasonable response would be to refuse such an offer and go on strike? So much for labor solidarity.
Would I have written the letter that President Short wrote yesterday to Patric Verrone?
Definitely not my style. (Verrone's measured reply is here.)
But having said that, it's useful to know not just the correspondence between Mr. Short and Mr. Verrone, but what's happened between the two labor organizations in the recent and distant past that's caused the hostility ...
The bad blood between the IA and the WGA goes back a long ways, long before Tom Short was President.
In 1983, after the animation guild's '82 strike, the WGA tried to claim animation writers as part of its jurisdiction. There was an arbitration on the issue involving the WGA, IA, and AMPTP. The WGA ultimately lost the arbitration, but the IA wasn't pleased with the WGA for what considered a "jurisdiction grab." It was ticked off, actually.
This was two IA Presidents before Tom Short.
Now, the WGA has every legal right to organize animation writers. The AFL-CIO has a rule (called Rule 20), that prohibits AFL-CIO unions from raiding one another's jurisdictions, but guess what?
The WGAw isn't a member of the AFL-CIO. So why should it follow the rules of an organizations to which it doesn't belong?
Nevertheless, the IATSE was and is ticked about it. (I'm putting aside here who's "right" and who's "wrong," and who has the "moral high ground." I've been around the biz for thirty years and think of those things as rhetorical flourishes that are often useful, but ultimately irrelevant. In the end what counts is the result achieved. Do you have the muscle and/or leverage to reach your desired end, or don't you?)
But the long jurisdictional battle over animation is old news. Way old news. So let's jump to the last year and a half, and look at a newer point of contention between the IATSE and the WGAw.
You might have heard of the reality show America's New Top Model, and how the WGAw tried and failed to organize the writers on it. What you might not know is that the WGA and the Editors Guild (one of the IA's larger unions) had a joint campaign to organize the show.
The Writers Guild was going after the writers (natch), and the editors were going after the editors.
However, after some months of joint effort, the Writers Guild told the Editors Guild: "Thanks so much, it's been fun, but we're pulling out of this dual thing and going our own way." (I'm paraphrasing here.)
Next thing the Editors Guild knows, the WGAw is circulating fliers and doing a campaign to organize the writers and the editors.
And the Editors Guild, along with the IATSE, is ticked at the Writers Guild.
Now, again, the WGAw has every right to organize editors. It's not in the AFL-CIO, the editors on Model are unrepresented, so whichever labor organization gets them under contract, wonderful for them.
But the Editors Guild didn't like what was going on, thought it showed minimal labor solidarity, and thought what the Writers Guild was trying to do "sucked." (The word an Editors Guild organizer used when he was telling me the story.)
Oh yeah. And this WGA grab for the editors? It caused Tom Short to become even more hostile toward the WGA.
So now we're up to the present. And the WGA has gone on strike, and the President of the IA is looking at seventy or eighty thousand IA members getting laid off for an undetermined amount of time, of the health and pension plan being drained, and there's nothing he can do about it, the levers are out of his hands, and he's even more ... well, I've beaten the word into the ground, so I'll stop.
And you're right, the letter that he wrote yesterday had a lack of civility to it, and certainly didn't show union solidarity.
But, you know, there's union solidarity on 8 1/2" x 11" bond paper, and there's union solidarity through concrete, real-world actions. I firmly believe this, and I try to act on my beliefs.
Which is why I was walking the WGA picket line at Universal this afternoon.