Wednesday, April 27, 2011

That Leverage Thing

On the labor front, the L.A. Times gives us this:

... Members of the Writers Guild of America voted by a 91% margin to approve a recently negotiated contract that provides increases in contributions to the guild's pension plan, higher residual payments in pay TV and a bump in minimum pay levels ...

But the ever militant Nikkster has a different tale to tell:

DEADLINE: What was your biggest obstacle to getting a better deal than this one?

WGA NEGOTIATIONS INSIDERS: We had no credible strike threat, not even vaguely; and we had no effective alliance with either SAG/AFTRA or the DGA. Hence: no leverage. Regardless of contract expiration dates, the AMPTP negotiates first where it can get the best deal, then tries to impose the pattern on everyone else.

It's a hell of a lot simpler than that: Back in 1960-61, when the unions and guilds battled for residuals and won, the studios weren't fragments of monster conglomerates but whole companies unto themselves. And labor and management had a kind of rough parity. (You might have noticed that, half a century on, organized labor is relatively weak and that the few unions who have any strength -- teachers, police, firefighters -- are under heavy attack. I find it kind of a wonder that unions in the entertainment industry have as much muscle and resiliency as they do.) Back in that progressive time, labor had the ability to secure residuals for its members across the board, also good health benefits and decent pensions.

Today, even in unionized Hollywood, unions and guilds are on the defensive. The militancy of three years ago is gone. When I go out to studios, nobody is pumping their fists and militating for higher this or that. People are hunkered down and clinging by their fingernails.

(I'll share one example I encountered just recently. I was in a studio where staff that is slammed with tight deadlines month after month, had nothing but smiles this time around ... until I came to an artist who has unloaded to me continually. He asked if anyone was bellyaching, and I said no. He said:

"Well they're still stressed out. But nobody's going to file a grievance or take on the show supervisor. They don't want to stick their necks out."

And so it is on a more global basis with SAG/AFTRA, with the DGA, and now the WGA. The conglomerates are raking in sizable profits, but there is no trickle down. The majors use the economic uncertainty to advance their agendas while retarding those of employees. And the employees, knowing who's got the upper hand, keep their heads down and strive to survive.

We live in a corporatist age. Most everybody knows that, like the situation or not, they have to deal with the iron reality of it.


Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

If the Republicans in our midst (and who periodically raise their unholy visage in this blog) were around in the 60's, we would be getting no residuals into our pension and health plan. Heck, we wouldn't even HAVE a pension plan, and would be paying through our nose for health benefits.

Republicans today are just birther kooks, conspiracy theorists, anti-science creationists, religious nutjobs, anti-union shills, working hard to ruin the middle class of America.

I can think of NOTHING good about them. Illegal aliens would be better Americans than the modern Republican.

ERIC WALLS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Come on, that's not fair. Not all republicans are all of those things. That's just the vocal portion of the party that's getting all the press.

<--- engage tinfoil hat --->
What the Republican Party is good for is helping us believe that we have a choice in government, where, as I get older and older, I am tending to believe that none truly exists.

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