Sunday, October 06, 2013

Leverage, Part XII

A short, IATSE strike gets settled.

... Stagehands’ big salaries made headlines this week after members of their union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) staged a strike, with a huge blow-up rubber rat in front of the hall and picketers who derailed the venue’s season-opening concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra with superstar violinist Joshua Bell and singer and bass player Esperanza Spalding.

Today the union and management reached a deal that put an end to the three-day strike. But not before a lot of negative press for the union. ...

There are those who would argue that Local One's top salaries are way too big, and "unfair."

But I would (once again) say to you, "There is no fair, there is no unfair, there is only what you have the ability and leverage to get."

Show me a labor union or individual who gets what people would describe as a "good deal," and I'll show you labor negotiators (or a person) who have skill at the negotiating table and the juice to achieve the deal. Simple as that.

Here's an individual example of leverage: There was once a famous actor who had the power to negotiate a piece of the gross, also something very important to him: The absolute right to knock off work at a civilized hour. This was sometimes a problem for producers:

... "Look," [Clark Gable] tells me. "I'm a five o'clock guy."

"What does that mean, Mr. Gable?" I ask.

"It means, kid, that my day ends at five. Regardless. Five is scotch-and-soda time. And then I'm on my way home."

Every day at five, Gable sticks to his guns. Five o'clock comes and he's in the trailer. He enters as a Navy commander and exits as a Brooks Brothers model. Driving off the lot in his Bentley convertible, he waves goodbye as he passes through the security gates.

Because he's a producer of the picture, [Burt] Lancaster is far more intense and worries about overages.

... Most of the action isn't done on location but in the studio. One scene involves a series of explosions followed by a deluge of water. The mechanics are tricky and the technical guys work on it all day. They can't quite get it right. Finally, at about five to five, it all comes together -- the bombastic explosions and a deluge of water.

Gable and I are in the battle scene, the climax of the film. [Director] Robert Wise signals action and all hell breaks loose. The special effects are spectacular.

In the midst of this drama, Gable says, "Sorry, boys, Mr. Five O'clock is done for the day."

And then, with the grace of a European prince, Gable struts to his trailer. Lancaster chases after him.

"Clark," says Burt, "we finally got this thing to work. It'll cost a fortune if we dismantle it. We gotta film it now."

Ever the gentleman, Gable looks at Lancaster sympathetically. "Relax, Burt," he says. "I'll dive with the submarine tomorrow." ...

-- Don Rickles

Gable had leverage, and he made sure that he employed it. (If you've got something in your contract, what good is it if you don't use it?)

And here's another example of leverage, only collective this time:

Los Angeles’s highest-paid city employees get three-day weekends, 27 vacation days annually and an ocean view from their workplace.

They are the port pilots, whose job is to guide ships in and out of the Port of Los Angeles, the number one container handler in the U.S. The 15 men earned an average of $323,000 last year, more than the mayor and the chief of police in America’s second-most-populous city. Harbor users, not taxpayers, pay their salaries.

Pilots from 23 organizations across the U.S. make an average of $406,700 annually, according to data collected by Dibner Maritime Associates LLC of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Henry Mahlmann, president of New York’s Sandy Hook Pilots association, declined to say how much his 72 pilots earned last year. He said Los Angeles’s $323,000 average pay was “in the neighborhood.” ...

The harbor pilots of L.A., the stagehands or New York, and Clark Gable all had a couple of things in common: private entities pay (paid) their salaries; Private entities also agreed to their working conditions.

None of the examples above had much to do with "fair" or "unfair" or other labels that are mostly spin. They mainly are examples of leverage.

You get what you have the ability to get. Collectively or individually.


Patrick Francis Xavier Murphy said...

I always enjoy your commentary on industry issues. Regarding leverage, you are absolutely correct. It has taken me 15 years to understand this concept enough to navigate its wake or employ its force multiplying affects during business dealings.

What remains unclear are the mechanisms that 'rob' individuals and organizations of the leverage they actually possess and what action(s) can be implemented by individual/groups (or their representatives) to turn the table? (that's more of a rhetorical question)

Regardless, I think it would be interesting to hear your thoughts and opinons on the problems prior, issues during and outcome of past labor disputes and negotiations from any industry where applicable lessons could be learned.


Steve Hulett said...

In my limited experience, leverage comes from knowledge of the deal at hand ... and the overarching market conditions under which the deal is made.

You can be the best negotiator that the United Auto Workers of America has ever had, but when GM and Chrysler are melting down, you are probably going to negotiate deep cuts in your Collective Bargaining Agreement (which of course is what happened in 2009 during the auto bailout.)

I'm a believer in Collective Bargaining because it's one of the few ways of tilting the sloped playing field a couple of degrees in our lovely corporatist state, and getting average working people (not those named Clark Gable) a bit more money and better working conditions.

My biggest worry is when our corporate masters have 98% of the money, society will be way more unstable.

The French and Russian revolutions happened for reasons unrelated to radicals "instigating violence." Lots of French and Russians were ground down in poverty, and the rich had a "f*ck you, go eat cake" attitude.

This didn't result in pleasant outcomes.

Site Meter