Friday, July 11, 2014

Peaceful Negotiations?

One of our fine trade papers analyzes Hollywood's labor talks to date.

Why Hollywood Producers and Labor Guilds Chose Peace Instead of War

Surging demand for content in cable, premium streaming TV markets was a driving force in the new deals

Hollywood producers and the three major creative guilds chose to make peace rather than war in bargaining this year for a simple reason – with the demand for cable and premium streaming TV content booming, it made financial sense. ...

“The economy is back to a degree, but not all the way and there is some real uncertainty out there, and I think all the sides were smart enough to realize that,” said Alan Brunswick, who served as legal counsel for the AMPTP in previous negotiations. “I also think they remembered how disastrous a work stoppage, or even the threat of it, could be, and very much wanted to avoid anything at all like that.” ...

"Economy is back to a degree"? Entertainment conglomerates' stock prices are at all-time highs, and profits are surging.

But ... whatever.

I've participated in contract talks for a while, and these things run in cycles. When the tilted playing field becomes almost a cliff, Hollywood's unions and guilds revolt. Pressures build up, and restive memberships elect militant leaders who lead the WGA ... or SAG ... to a strike. Then the pendulum swings the other way and moderates push the hard-chargers out.

Then, of course, there's the 21st century reality that entertainment unions and movie/television producers are no longer evenly matched. The guilds, no matter how big they might be, are mere mosquitoes against the behemoths they face across the negotiating table. The knowledge that The Producers, with billions of dollars in reserve, can outlast Hollywood's wage slaves always hovers like a storm cloud over contract talks.

Even so, it's in both sides interest to reach a deal and avoid long work stoppages that, long-term, hurt everybody. (And truth be told: the SAG-AFTRA talks went on for frigging weeks, and I heard lots of pissing and moaning from corporate lawyers who had to sit through them. So I'm not sure the negotiations were as "smooth" as this article implies.)

The ancient adage still holds sway: "You get, in the end, what you have the leverage to get."

Add On: The fight between labor and management never actually ends:

The Writers’ Guild of America's fight to unionize reality TV writers progressed on Friday, when employees at Original Media voted to join the guild by a 42-9 margin in an election held by the National Labor Relations Board.

Original Media, a subsidiary of Endemol USA, produces shows such as “Miami Ink” and its spinoffs, History Channel's “Swamp People,” Discovery's “Storm Chasers” and Spike's “Ink Master.” ...


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