Monday, December 03, 2007

Accelerated Disintegration

Four years ago, L.A. supermarkets demanded rollbacks from their employees ... and the employees (surprise, surprise) went on strike.

Eventually the strike got settled, but the supermarkets have never been the same. I walk into Ralphs or Pavillions these days, and it's like, quiet. Lots of former customers went off and discovered the joys of Trader Joe's, and never returned.

Which brings us to the wrestling match now being staged by the AMPTP and the WGA. Internet mogul Marc Andreesen watches the slow mo negotiations and month-old strike with a jaundiced eye:

Scripted television production is already all but shut down. Most late-night talk shows are shut down. Most remarkably, many comedy and drama series are either already shut down or will be within the next several weeks.

What are the probable long-term consequences of an extended strike?

First, ongoing alienation of a new generation of TV viewers ...

Second, driving consumers even faster to the new range of activities they can engage in ...

Third, and most significantly: catalyzing faster development of new business models for entertainment media ...

Kind of like what happened in the supermarket's quest to lower costs on the backs of market employees.

Even more like the record industry trying to cling to its old model of music distribution via $16 CDs -- until every teenager in the country got fed up and began downloading the music they wanted over the internet. For free.

Nine years ago, I listened to a music industry lawyer proclaim that the music industry as it had existed for most of the 20th century was over, finished, kaput. It had decided to cling to its old method of selling recorded music while suing its customer base.

And so was in the process of commiting suicide.

A decade further on, the old record companies are pretty much dead. (Latest bit of evidence: The Eagles by-passed the Capitols, Warner Bros. and Elektras for their new album, put it on the internet and the shelves of Wal-Mart without any middlemen, and collected most of the boodle themselves.)

Marc Andreesen thinks that Tinsel Town is now sliding down the same greased chute. Sooner rather than later, we'll get to see if he's right.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone would agree that there is some kind of slide going on in Hollywood, and whatever happens, things are never the same after a walk out. So, yes, one can estimate with a fair amount of common sense that the sum of it all is less jobs, less money. All the talk of residuals is moot, and likely only to the benefit of very few people, people who are currently suffering very little from the effect of this.

Anonymous said...

During the grocery strike a few years back we stopped shopping at Ralphs and headed over to another market that was not affected - the strike ended, we did not return to Ralphs and given the fact that market closed its doors within a year I have to assume we were not alone in not returning. My kids turn on the TV, see that its populated with reruns and reach for a magazine, the computer or a book. I can't say that I am all that unhappy about that particular result of the strike. Be carefull writers, the public is fickle, hold out for too long and they may decide that they can live without sitcoms, dramas and scripted talk shows . . .

Anonymous said...

to be honest, when the grocery strike happened i thought the "scabs" at Ralphs were a million times nicer and much better workers. once the regular employees returned so did the incompetence.
i guess it just goes to show that when you cling to an obsolete system of employee management that forces employers to pay people based on some antiquated union calculations instead of paying each employee individual based on their performance your business suffers. i wonder if this would apply to the writers strike as well.

Anonymous said...

yes, but generally, studios pay above the union minimums. now, whether or not that makes the minimums irrelevant...?

it is nice knowing there is gauge out there.

Anonymous said...

"...i thought the "scabs" at Ralphs were a million times nicer and much better workers."

I wouldn't expect anti-union person to see things otherwise. Effin' tool.

Steve Hulett said...

"...i thought the "scabs" at Ralphs were a million times nicer and much better workers."

Not my experience at all.

But then, I didn't go into the store(s) during the strike, and so can only judge how the newer employees were after it concluded.

The chains took a hit because they didn't anticipate most people would boycott their markets due to personal relationships and sympathy with the employees who were on strike.

I think most folks instinctively know that the middle class in this country has been under attack for awhile now. All you have to do is look at national economic statistics.

And the majority of the population is in the middle class.

Anonymous said...

it must be nice to be able to have the option to spend more money at a different store because of some labor dispute. i guess i must be lower class. i dont shop at a market based on personal relationships. i go based on price and quality. i dont want a checkout clerk to babysit my kids or attend my birthday pary i just want them to do their job well.
and i didnt walk into Ralphs with the agenda of finding an excuse to criticise unions. i just found the "scabs" to be much more polite and efficient workers. oh and the "scabs" also spoke english. shocking.
i'm not anti-union i'm pro-consumer. as long as unions benefit the consumer then i'm supportive of them but i havent seen evidence of that. maybe unions were beneficial to coal miners or railroad workers a hundred years ago but all i've ever seen unions do in my lifetime is drive corporations to send jobs overseas and insure that consumers are getting the least amount of quality for their dollar.
unions are like a cult that still believes the world is flat.

Anonymous said...

The WGA is so far right of true labor that they make the AMPTP look like liberals. They are a pose.

Cat of Nine Tails in a Room Full of Rockers said...

Unions (Some more than others)are what keeps corporations from pissing on your head and telling you it's raining.
As the corporations grow bigger we look more and more to them like a flea on the tip of a dogs dick.

Anonymous said...

“it must be nice to be able to have the option to spend more money at a different store because of some labor dispute. i guess i must be lower class. “

No, you’re not lower class, you’re just an idiot. Haven’t you ever heard of Trader Joes?


“i dont shop at a market based on personal relationships. i go based on price and quality. i dont want a checkout clerk to babysit my kids or attend my birthday pary i just want them to do their job well.”

So why do you care if they’re polite to you, or speak English? BTW, I shop at Ralphs all the time and have never encountered rude or non-English speaking employees. My bet is you’re the rude dick.


“i'm not anti-union i'm pro-consumer. as long as unions benefit the consumer…”

First off, why can’t you just admit you are anti-union? Second, unions don’t exist to benefit the consumer. Unions are designed to benefit its members. Never being in union I’m sure it’s hard for you to grasp that little fact.


“…i'm supportive of them (unions)... “

Yeah, right. I’m sure if you were alive 100 years ago you’d be bitching about the union coal miners and union railroad workers.


“but all i've ever seen unions do in my lifetime is drive corporations to send jobs overseas and insure that consumers are getting the least amount of quality for their dollar.”

Um, what about all those people who worked at call centers? Those people aren’t union and yet their jobs have gone overseas. Just admit it, dude, you’re anti-union.

It’s ignorant and narrow-minded people like you who still believe the world is flat.

Anonymous said...

ummmm.....i thought this thread was about the WGA Writers-want-to-pay-off-their-law-school-loans strike. last i checked, none of the plebeians were invited to the table. especially not with this type of language.

doors will be closed
cigars will be lit
brandy will be poured
and the people will suffer

Christian Roman said...

Ah the internet, bringing new meaning to the term 'ad hominem'.

Anonymous said...

"So why do you care if they’re polite to you, or speak English? "
- because it directly effects my shopping experience.

"No, you’re not lower class, you’re just an idiot. Haven’t you ever heard of Trader Joes?"
- name calling. nice. i guess anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot. i dont have a trader joes near where i live.

"It’s ignorant and narrow-minded people like you who still believe the world is flat."
- i dont think i even need to point out the ironic hypocrisy here.

Anonymous said...

"i dont think i even need to point out the ironic hypocrisy here."

Well, I'm man enough to say you got me there. Are you able to admit you're anti-union?

Anonymous said...

i will admit that i feel that in our modern world that unions are obsolete. i understand that the intention of a union is a good one but they are simply irrelevant. we are not uneducated coal miners or assembly line workers with no education or access to legal representation. i'm not in favor of the immediate dismantling of unions but like welfare i think the goal should be to teach its members how to fend for themselves rather than increase their dependance.
"teach a man to fish..."

Anonymous said...

As long as there are loutish, couch-sitting people who want their entertainment decisions made for them by someone else, there will be an audience for television.

Anonymous said...

I really love the "unions are obsolete" argument. What exactly do you think would happen if unions all went away? Do you really think labor laws would remain the way they are?

Do you really think today's businessmen are somehow fundamentally different from yesterday's businessmen? If there were no labor-defenders holding labor laws in place, do you really think large corporations wouldn't move to gut those laws, and return working conditions to much the way they were 70 years ago?

Or do you think that businessmen are somehow genetically different today--that they are a kinder, gentler, less money-oriented people?

In fact, one of the first things the pro-business Bush administration did in 2001/2 was to change overtime laws to deprive workers overtime pay. They staffed the National Labor Relations Board with anti-worker ideologues to actually advise businesses on ways to subvert existing labor laws!

Business is constantly looking for ways to roll back labor laws, and unions are among the only things holding the line. If unions went away, you would find out very quickly just how "obsolete" they are. Not that you would care, I'm sure.

robiscus said...

Unions : a once effective labor movement that grew so shiftless and so ineffective that they are now basically a communist concept in a capitalist country.

...and they have no one to blame but themselves.

remember, the WGA members are still collecting checks while their coworkers are laid off during the holidays. sorry if i'm not sympathetic, but i'm not. i'm angry at the WGA and i'm going to get a big kick out of them coming out this worse then when they started.

Anonymous said...

."they are now basically a communist concept in a capitalist country."

Bwhahahaha!!

Ok, you're an extremist nutjob wacko. Thanks for letting me know. Look behind you, the Russkies are coming!

Anonymous said...

i think its a lot more wacko to have such a weird boogey-man-ish attitude towards business people. youve swallowed the "corporations are evil" ruse hook line and sinker.
has it ever occurred to you that it is corporate america that has made this country into the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth?
weve seen it time and time again throughout history: socialism doesnt work. ever.
unions were useful when you had whole groups of workers with no education and no access to legal representation so a system was devised to accommodate that. nowadays education and information are plentiful and lawyers are chomping at the bit to sue corporations and the corporations know that. thats what would keep the companies from taking unfair advantage. the fear of lawsuits is way more effective that the fear of a nasty letter from a union leader or even a strike.
you people who cling to the union system like a security blanket are like children who have been convinced that corporations are the boogeyman and the unions are the only ones who can save you from the big bad monsters out there.
grow up. study some economics.

Anonymous said...

"it is corporate america that has made this country into the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth?"

Hey, corporate shill. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe it's our people, our Constitution, our freedom, our democratic system, our way of life and a thousand other things that has made us a powerful and prosperous nation? Of course not. Talk about swallowing something hook, line and sinker.

Anonymous said...

hey union shill: in essence thats what i was saying. freedom promotes prosperity. our constitution promotes that ideal. capitalism is part of the democratic system. if you work hard you prosper. the union and socialist systems are contrary to all of that. they inhibit freedom. our way of life is upheld by a capitalist system.

Anonymous said...

After a long nights of thinking about this and discussing with my wife. I'm starting to agree with union shill on many fronts. I take back everything I've said.

Anonymous said...

thats fine for you. but when you disagree with the union system as i do everyone just tells you your wrong and get out of the industry. this is why the union system is counter to a free market. it limits the employer as well as the employee. you have to play by socialist rules in a capitalist system. its backwards and its contrary to the ideals this country was founded on.

Steve Hulett said...

...the union system is counter to a free market. it limits the employer as well as the employee. you have to play by socialist rules in a capitalist system. its backwards and its contrary to the ideals this country was founded on.

You can disagree with unionism, and bully for you. But the union system merely installs a system of collective bargaining rights for groups who want to form democratic unions that are independent of government and corproations.

The National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, is still on the books. Nothing at all socialistic about it. It merely lays down the rules for collective bargaining and organizing, granting protections for workers.

Socialism would be the government owning and operating the means of production.

Last point: Communism (also National Socialism) outlawed independent labor unions. Like multi-national corporations, those systems weren't hospitable to democratic groups of workers.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how unions are in any way "socialist", unless you consider the idea of negotiating for salary "socialist".

Corporations have unions too. They are called a 'board of directors'. Why? Because they understand there is strength and leverage in numbers. The studios, in their negotiations with the WGA, have formed an additional union called the AMPTP. It is a union of studio moguls who normally compete against each other, but have banded together to negotiate as a unified group, because it strengthens their position. Are these CEO's socialists and communists as well?

Of course not! Everyone understands that greater numbers = greater leverage, and that applies in the market system as well. Wal-Mart has tremendous leverage over manufacturers because of its numbers of stores and revenue. When it negotiates with manufacturers over wholesale prices, it is doing nothing different from what labor unions do!

Unions are a part of a free market system, because workers are a vital ingredient in the free market system. If the workers/union have no worth or value to the business, then they have no leverage, and their market negotiation will fail. If a union strike causes a certain disruption to profits, then this obviously proves the level of market worth of the workers. The two sides will come to an agreement that is ammenable to both. Simple market economics.

Anonymous said...

A cogent, rational, well-reasoned post. Too bad it will fall on deaf ears...

Anonymous said...

it was as good an argument for unions as i've ever heard and it makes many valid points. the problem is it addresses what unions are supposed to be not what unions actually are.
the trouble with collective bargaining is that it assumes everyone wants the exact same things and unless your devoted to only working in nonunion shops your forced to abide by the decisions of your unions majority and as this discussion has pointed out i have very different ideas than the rest of you yet my priorities are overlooked because i'm in such a tiny minority.
there is strength in numbers but there is not always wisdom in numbers.

Anonymous said...

i think its a lot more wacko to have such a weird boogey-man-ish attitude towards business people. youve swallowed the "corporations are evil" ruse hook line and sinker.
has it ever occurred to you that it is corporate america that has made this country into the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth?


Corporations and government sold this country out to China and India. What was once a strong country that had everything going for it has been outsourced for profit by a few.

This country will be reduced to feudalism at the rate it's going...and that's where it's going.

Anonymous said...

thats hilariously idiotic.

Anonymous said...

"the trouble with collective bargaining is that it assumes everyone wants the exact same things"

It does no such thing, but I don't expect you to believe that.

"your forced to abide by the decisions of your unions majority"

That's the way democracies work - the idea/concept/candidate that gets the most support wins. As big a fan as you are of the democratic process, I'd expect you to know that.

"my priorities are overlooked because i'm in such a tiny minority."

Your priorities aren't overlooked, they're merely not the priorities of most people. You can either accept it or try to turn your minority into a majority by changing people's minds. But I suspect changing a mind isn't high on your priority list.

Anonymous said...

ZING!

Anonymous said...

people like you arent prone to changing their minds no matter how logical the argument may be. so theres very little point in trying. so enjoy your closed minded majority and continue patting yourself on the back.

Anonymous said...

How convenient. Instead of actually trying to make a logical argument - one that doesn't throw around inflammatory verbiage like "communist" - you give yourself an out by claiming that the other guy is closed-minded. It's brilliant, actually; giving yourself permission to bitch about the way things are while simultaneously relieving yourself of any responsibility for trying to bring about change.

I don't see you changing your mind any, despite the fact that several valid points have been made in this thread that run counter to your dearly-held beliefs. So now who's closed-minded?

robiscus said...

"communist" is inflammatory and exaggerated?

you know what strikes me as exaggerated? - when i'm scolded in a hollywood studio for changing a lightbulb because that a UNION job. or when i'm stopped from executing a job to expedite things because thewre is a fat union stooge on the other side of the workshop who has been guaranteed that job in all circumstances.

thats hilarious... and by hilarious i mean sad.

the bottom line is that this strike WILL NOT help the WGA or anyone else.
you can take that to the bank. i'll be right here in the TAG blog front and center laughing my ass off at all the wonderful benefits the strike bestowed upon all of us(sarcasm).
you'll be proven wrong. then you'll blame it on the corporations when its your union that scheduled a strike at the worst possible time, created a wedge between themselves and coworkers, and came out weaker than before.

Steve Hulett said...

... the trouble with collective bargaining is that it assumes everyone wants the exact same things and unless your devoted to only working in nonunion shops your forced to abide by the decisions of your unions majority ...

Just so we're on the same page here:

EVERY Hollywood labor union negotiates "floors" only; that is, minimums from which individuals can negotiate more money, better perks, higher percentages and often do.

Steven Spielberg, DGA member, negotiates Personal Service Contracts that have made him a billionaire.

Tom Hanks, a member of SAG, works waay above SAG minimums.

Andy Deja, TAG animator, worked far above TAG scale rates for many years.

I'm mystified why anyone thinks unions in this town are a one-size-fits-all deal. This would be news to every heavy hitter in the movie industry. They construct a foundation above which talent can build its own custom-built mansion.

Anonymous said...

mister hulett's arguments are so lame i'm not even going to bother with them.
when someone finally came along and made a halfway decent argument i conceded to the validity of their points. i've already made all of the points i should have to make to support my position and clearly no one on the pro-union side is willing to address them. instead they call me idiot and make fun of my grammar. so whats the point?
i can never convince you that life would be better without unions because the unions are already in place and they have the advantage of familiarity. and since no one ever dares challange unions no one ever even bothers to seriously consider the alternatives.
as for me the proof is in the pudding. i see no evidence of unions doing any real good so thats all the argument i need but everyone is so entrenched in the status quo they wont even consider another viewpoint. i might as well try to convince the pope of evolution.

Anonymous said...

"i can never convince you that life would be better without unions"

In the world of animation, I continually both union gigs and non-union gigs. Guess who gives me the better deal? Guess who gives me medical benefits? Guess who protects my interests? Guess who pays me more? The union gigs. Now explain to me how MY life would be better without unions?

Anonymous said...

"i can never convince you that life would be better without unions"

In the world of animation, I continually work both union gigs and non-union gigs. Guess who gives me the better deal? Guess who gives me medical benefits? Guess who protects my interests? Guess who pays me more? The union gigs. Now explain to me how MY life would be better without unions?

Anonymous said...

"i'm scolded in a hollywood studio for changing a lightbulb"

Let's pretend for a moment this lightbulb story isn't made up. What exactly is this person's job title? Why is this guy going around wanting to change lightbulbs? Was this on a set? If so, and he's not a member of the DP's crew, then he has no business touching any type of light, let alone wanting to change a bulb. Union or non-union, specific jobs have specific duties.

Anonymous said...

I can confirm the light bulb story. Yes, it's true that if the bulb in my desk lamp burns out, someone from the electrician's union is supposed to change it, and they get all persnickety if you just change it yourself. It's stupid, and takes the idea of job classification to absurdity.

But I can also confirm that, having worked as an animator at both union and non-union studios, the pay and health benefits are better at the union studio. The working conditions of both were good, but the benefits of a union agreement are noticeable.

It's difficult to specifically address your criticism of unions, because your argument centers around the fact that a union agreement is what the majority want, but you have specific individual needs that may not be addressed in a union agreement. Without knowing what those particular needs are, it's hard to say whether you have a point.

But I would say that what Steve Hulett mentioned is valid--you can still negotiate individual needs with the studio, regardless of union contract. At the studio I'm at, it's done often enough. I know people who worked out an agreement to work a longer 4-day week, rather than a shorter 5, or other various arrangements. There's still flexibility there, and it really depends on whether the studio wants to negotiate with you.

Steve Hulett said...

i see no evidence of unions doing any real good so thats all the argument i need but everyone is so entrenched in the status quo they wont even consider another viewpoint.

Logic won't convince you, got it. I'm a lame-brain with lame arguments, double got it.

But I'll try again anyway. Unions make up 8% of the private workforce. Their power and influence are probably about what they were in the 1920s. Even so:

Across all work classifications nation-wide, the income gap between unionized and non-union workers is 28%.

For men the gap is 22%.

For women the gap is 34%.

http://www.workinglife.org/wiki/index.php?page=Union+vs.+Nonunion%3A+Wages+(2004)

Steve Hulett said...

Anon., one other small item re union vs. non-union:

Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios has just rolled back health and pension benefits and sick days for its non-union staff.

Union staff? Still have the same health benefits. Same pension benefits. And sick days, because they are tied to the collective bargaining agreement, won't be rolled back until the next contract negotiation in 2009.

You're welcome.

fred said...

This doesn't have anything to do with animation unions. However, I have had crappy experiences with unions on many occasions. One memorable experience was when we had a Siggraph booth and we were not allowed to plug in our own computers. Everything had to be done by a union guy.

If we wanted to move a computer and the guy was on lunch. Forget about it, you have to wait till lunch is done and if and when he ever gets back to you.

We once moved a lamp and got in deep shit because we plugged and unplugged ourselves. a freaking lamp!

These are the type of union things that drive me completely insane.

Now, the animation union doesn't really have this problem that im aware of. But, it just puts a bad taste in my mouth for unions period.

Anonymous said...

At this point, can I just observe that the level of argument against unions on this thread started with "they're Communist and will cause the ruination of freedom and democracy!"...

...and now have been downgraded to "Some dude wanted to plug in my computer!"


Just an observation.

Seriously, folks, these just aren't terribly good arguments as to why unions are somehow awful. It really seems that for some folks, this is just an emotion-based issue that doesn't really have much to do with the actual functions of unions and collective bargaining, but much to do with ideological outlooks on unregulated business practices.

Anonymous said...

"Anon., one other small item re union vs. non-union:
Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios has just rolled back health and pension benefits and sick days for its non-union staff.
Union staff? Still have the same health benefits. Same pension benefits. And sick days, because they are tied to the collective bargaining agreement, won't be rolled back until the next contract negotiation in 2009.
You're welcome."

so what your telling me is that there are some employees loosing thier benefits but union employees are keeping thiers. it is reasonable to believe that there are both good and bad workers in both camps. if it werent for unions nickelodeon could choose to devide benefits based on who deserves them individually.
and i know your going to say that if they had a choice then they wouldnt give out benefits at all but if they tried that no one would work for them or only the lowest level workers would work for them and the lack of quality would show in their product.
what scares a lot of union shills is that a free market system rewards good workers individually and weeds out bad workers. all unions do is insure that bad workers get the same benefits as good ones.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that anon disapproves of TAG and WGA, but when compelled to come up with an example of why unions are "bad", he resorts to an electrician's union example that, I think we can all agree, is an example of union rules gone goofy. If the example was that he had to wait for a TAG member to sharpen his pencil for him, it'd be a different story...

Just another shill... said...

Of course, if anonymous really believed in the strength of the individual to hold forth against the forces of organized labor and corporate America, he wouldn't post anonymously, would he?

Anonymous said...

all unions do is insure that bad workers get the same benefits as good ones.

Wrong on two counts:

1) This would be true if the union prevented the studio from firing bad employees. But it doesn't, so it's not.

2) Better workers do get better wages and benefits than bad workers at union studios. Glen Keane isn't making union minimum. There are many animators who make considerably more than union minimum. If they are worth more to the studio, they are paid more. The fact that bad workers cannot make less than union minimum provides a greater incentive to the studio to be wise in its hiring choices.

fred said...

did anyone read the beginning of my comment that said "this has nothing to do with the animation union"?

You bunch of inbred idiot ass munchers.

Steve Hulett said...

This doesn't have anything to do with animation unions. However, I have had crappy experiences with unions on many occasions...

Ah, of course. Explains your invective completely.

And I hate all cops forever and always because I had crappy experiences with the police at various points in my life.

But back to the subject. If your complaints about the nastiness of unions has nothing to do with animation unions, why are you complaining about unions on "The Animation Guild Blog"?

Been kicked off the Teamsters message board?

fred said...

maybe because the discussion has gone outside of strictly the animation union.

btw. your hatred of cops is noted.

Anonymous said...

Fred lashes out and makes a threat. That's what big babies do when they lose the debate.

Anonymous said...

Congrtualtions! This has almost gotten to be as meaningless a discussion as most of the dribble at Animation Nation.

Anonymous said...

"...meaningless a discussion as most of the dribble at Animation Nation."

Yet here you are.

Fred said...

Threat? Where the hell did I make a threat?

BTW. I'm not debating anything. I think you are getting me confused with one of the other two dozen anonymous people on here.

Steve Hulett said...

btw. your hatred of cops is noted.

Uh, this is called sarcastic exaggeration.

Bababooey said...

the person that said unions dont protect bad workers is crazy.

TT said...

"the person that said unions dont protect bad workers is crazy."

Just when we thought the string was dead.

Care to explain that generalization a little bit more, or are you satisfied with that moronic comment?

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