Writers Guild Strike

It’s looking more and more like the Writer’s Guild of America (the union covering TV and Film writers) is going on Strike as of November 1st. The main issues are how much TV and film writers should be paid when their work is distributed on new media platforms, including the Internet, cell phones, digital media players and other devices; as well as a demand for the revision of a decades-old formula for compensating writers for work that appears on DVD, which the WGA feels is too low.

Well and good, except for a couple of things.

One, the last time we had a writer’s strike in this country, it pretty much led to the creation (and eventual cancer-like proliferation) of Reality Shows. I shudder to think what this Strike might bring. But hell, that’s purely an asthetic concern, and a selfish one at that.

More troubling is today’s announcement by the WGA of their “Strike rules.” Rules which include a prohibition on their members doing any work for new media and animation…..things which the WGA currently has no jurisdiction over.

Even more bizarrely: the WGA is also asserting that nonmembers who perform banned work during a strike will be barred from joining the guild in the future.

Yes, you read that correctly — a labor union is claiming jurisdiction over the actions of NONmembers.

As Warren Ellis said this morning on his BAD SIGNAL email list:

“….this is a little like a guild of chefs not only banning me from cooking at home, but also barring me from ever entering a restaurant should I be found out.

[…] I understand the WGA’s need to go in hard, and there are serious issues to be tackled. But criminalising me for going about my business, that the WGA has no say over…hell, I’ve written two animated films (MINDBRIDGE, unproduced, and CASTLEVANIA, pre-production) and a cable tv pilot and I don’t even qualify for membership in WGA.

[..]I’m being called out as a scab by a union who doesn’t even cover the work that I do.

Charming.”

I’ll be watching this with interest (and more than a little bit of disgust). Given the recent movement in the music industry to break the corporate chains and go direct-to-consumer, I wonder if this possible Strike (and the ridiculousness of the entire distributor/provider relationship that it brings to light) might not precipitate a movement in the same direction for filmed entertainment.

We’re in the 21st Century, folks — Studios and Unions are a relic of the 19th. Snap out of it.

7 Replies to “Writers Guild Strike”

  1. …it pretty much led to the creation (and eventual cancer-like proliferation) of Reality Shows

    This needs to be repeated early and often so that those of us can learn from history and not be doomed to repeat it.

  2. I don’t really get the first strike rule. The second one seems to be a fairly straightforward anti-scab tactic. They’re not claiming jurisdiction over nonmembers, nonmembers may feel free to do what they like, so long as they realize the WGA won’t accept them after they (theoretically at least) undermined the union they’re trying to then benefit from.

  3. Well, it *would* be a fairly straightforward anti-scab tactic — except for the fact that they’re claiming jurisdiction over areas that they don’t cover, namely new media an animation. It’s a bit of a “land grab.”

    To draw a clearer distiction: This would be as if your local Welders 504 tried to say that its members were not permitted to work as Carpenters during a strike….and any non-member carpenter caught doing carpentry during the strike would never be allowed to be in the Welders 504, ever.

    It’s bullshit.

  4. Unions are pretty much necessary, when distribution/production is purely in the hands of feudalistic entities like corporations — you need something to protect workers/creators.

    However, that whole model is rooted in the 19th century. There’s absolutely no reason (beyond simple intertia) that the methods of distribution are held by the big corporations — given modern technology, they’re just not needed any longer, and I think people are oh-so-sloooooooowly beginning to figure that out.

  5. Like I said, I don’t get the first bit that relates to animation and new media.

    My assumption based on the wording is that the second rule covers all work, including features and TV which are their jurisdiction, which seems straightforward enough to me. The first, nonsensical bit is kind of a subset of the second bit.

  6. I hardly think unions are a relic. Just like any other human organization, some may be a bit misguided at times, as is the case with these new strike rules from the WGA.

    But conflating the unnecessariness of Movie Studios given current distribution technology with Unions being unnecessary just seems… I don’t know… a bit myopic.

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