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Force majeure axe
January 14, 2008 8:27 PM   Subscribe

The WGA strike has entered its third month. Since New Year's, Worldwide Pants, the Weinstein Co., and United Artists have reached interim deals with the WGA, with rumors of more to come. Microsoft announced new deals with Hollywood companies. And on Friday, ABC Studios terminated deals with more than a dozen writers. Tonight, CBS, NBC, and 20th Century Fox have followed suit. Names of producers, writers, and shows affected are still being revealed as letters are received. Force majeure.

So far, reports suggest that most or all of the people whose deals were terminated are writers without projects currently on the air-- people with a show in development or with a recent show that's no longer on the air. But names are still being reported so it's not entirely certain yet.

Meanwhile, there is a rumor that a deal between the AMPTP and DGA will be announced tomorrow.
posted by Tehanu (169 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
As someone who's been walking the picket lines since day one, there are mixed feelings about the interim deals. It puts some writers back to work while the rest of us sit on the sidelines. Today was the Warner Brothers day of picketing due to the thousand plus people that were laid off. We were out in force and there is still plenty of steam left in the engine.
posted by Derek at 8:39 PM on January 14, 2008


Yeah, I didn't mean to sound like I thought it was over. Far from it, but a new stage of things I think. So what do you think of the DGA rumor? Do you think it's for real, or just talk? What's the word out on the picket?
posted by Tehanu at 8:42 PM on January 14, 2008


Since New Year's, Worldwide Pants, the Weinstein Co., and United Artists have reached interim deals with the WGA, with rumors of more to come....

Huh. I've never heard of a union busting its own strike before.
posted by Avenger at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Too bad Nikki Finke just started a much-deserved break.
posted by mediareport at 8:45 PM on January 14, 2008


If I had to guess, then I would say it's true. The DGA is known for getting what it wants, but depending on the terms it could mean that the strike could be over as soon as next week i'd imagine. If people are wondering, they started negotiating on Saturday, so it's been 3 days. It still all depends on the producers giving the writers a fair deal.
posted by Derek at 8:46 PM on January 14, 2008


Huh. I've never heard of a union busting its own strike before.

It was part of a divide and conquer strategy that seems to be working on the business side of things, but it doesn't sit well with everyone.
posted by Derek at 8:48 PM on January 14, 2008


"there are mixed feelings about the interim deals."

Jon Stewart is a scab.
Stephen Colbert is a scab.
Ellen Degeneres is a scab.
Carson Daly is a scab.
David Letterman is a scab.

Shall I go on? Mixed feelings, huh? Guess the suits were counting on that.

Yeah yeah yeah these names are also producers. It's more complicated than I'm making it out to be. Can't paint such a wide brush blah blah blah.

They write. They know what it's like to be a writer. They didn't stand by the other writers. They made deals and crossed the picket line. They're scabs. If those five names (and maybe a handful of others) had stood with ALL the writers, and not just cut a temp deal for their little tuft of turf, this strike would have been over a month and a half ago.

Divide and conquer.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:57 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


What all this boils down to is this: unless you're able to be both a writer and producer, you're fucked. Being a writer in Hollywood means less than it did when all this started, and it didn't mean a hell of a lot before all this started.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


So what happens when this ends? Do all the writers who lost their jobs get them back? Or is there a brain drain and does that leave open the possibility that new talent is hired?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:01 PM on January 14, 2008


I'm asking this semi-seriously. Am I crossing the picket lines by watching the Daily Show?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:05 PM on January 14, 2008


"Am I crossing the picket lines by watching the Daily Show?"

YES!

Anyone who tells you otherwise ain't a writer.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's more complicated than I'm making it out to be.

No, it's not complicated at all. You are wrong. David Letterman at least - I'm not sure about the others - has made a deal with the union. He has the union's permission to do what he's doing, and presumably his writers are all WGA members. The word "scab" has a pretty specific meaning here, and it doesn't apply. If the union, which represents "ALL the writers," didn't want him on the air, they didn't have to make a deal with him.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2008


pfft... unions blow.
posted by spish at 9:09 PM on January 14, 2008


David Letterman at least - I'm not sure about the others - has made a deal with the union. He has the union's permission to do what he's doing, and presumably his writers are all WGA members.

No, ZachsMind is right, the WGA are scabs. Wait, what?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:11 PM on January 14, 2008


Didn't we just have a thread where ZachsMind called everyone a Scab?
posted by smackfu at 9:12 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"You are wrong. David Letterman at least..."

That attitude is not a part of the solution, Monkey. You don't cut a deal with the family dog for all the H2O he can lap up, when Mister Jones refuses to pay his water bill. You can't play favorites. The pipes either run dry, or the Jones family doesn't pay you.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:15 PM on January 14, 2008


Or to take another perspective on the matter than ZachsMind -

There's a hell of a lot of stubbornness on both sides of this strike. If some smaller studios show that they can work out deals with the WGA independently, then it's probably only a matter of time before the larger ones start taking it seriously and come back to the table.

Would this strike have "been over a month and a half ago" without the interim deals? Highly unlikely, as these deals were negotiated much less than six weeks ago. Pure hyperbole.

Now that companies like UA and The Weinstein Company can get scripts, they can put some projects in motion that would leave them in better shape in the face of a potential actor's strike in June. They have the potential for profit back in their hands while many other studios are bleeding money right now, especially on the TV end.

This strike is definitely hurting many more people than just writers and studio coffers. Everyone from the gaffer to the caterer, to the lady who runs the diner across the street from a studio are out of work or down on their luck right now. It's in thousands of people's interests to get this strike to an end.

So, "divide and conquer" is correct, but when it comes to the studios.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:17 PM on January 14, 2008


Do all the writers who lost their jobs get them back?

Not unless it's a condition of the final WGA deal to reinstate these contracts, and it probably won't. These are mainly contracts that the studios wanted out of, and the strike lets them cancel without penalty.
posted by smackfu at 9:22 PM on January 14, 2008


ZachsMind: I'm a pretty committed union-man, but I don't think that it's fair to call John Stewart and Stephen Colbert scabs. If they were doing their shows from a script that they themselves had written, that would make them scabs. But they're doing the shows, as I understand it, ad-libbed. What's more, they're doing the shows because they got told by their bosses that if they didn't, their writers would lose their jobs.

So far as I can tell, they're doing everything right and they have honourable intentions. As a union-man (though not a writer, per se), I have no objections with what they're doing at all and your cries of "SCAB" therefore come off sounding more than a little hysterical.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:22 PM on January 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I really missed about three shows but netflix and other activities have filled that spot now. The cravings are now gone. Except for Lost.
posted by mecran01 at 9:23 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


That attitude is not a part of the solution ...

It's not an attitude, it's just a simple statement of fact. David Letterman might be hurting the WGA - I don't know or really care - but he's not a scab, no matter how much you want to play Humpty Dumpty with the word.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:23 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What's more, they're doing the shows because they got told by their bosses that if they didn't, their writers would lose their jobs."

EXACTLY! They defended their little tuft of turf at the expense of all those other writers out there who can't get a break. I'm sure if you were told your family would die if you didn't do X you'd do it too. But what if you did X and the rest of the city blows up except for your family?

"...far as I can tell, they're doing everything right and they have honourable intentions..."

Maybe you'd still do it to protect your family, and the rest of the city can just go fuck itself. That's what we're looking at here.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:26 PM on January 14, 2008


ZachsMind: I'm a pretty committed union-man, but I don't think that it's fair to call John Stewart and Stephen Colbert scabs.

last august when my union local was considering rejecting our contract and later, holding a strike sanction vote, the district leader pointed out to us that as a practical matter, 50% of the union membership in a strike soon cross the picket lines and go back to work

seems to me that the writers are getting a lot better solidarity from their membership than we would have gotten from my local
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 PM on January 14, 2008


I'm sure if you were told your family would die if you didn't do X you'd do it too. But what if you did X and the rest of the city blows up except for your family?

That's a completely fair comparison. But what if you are Batman and you are just pretending to do X but really you are biding your time so you can free your family and undermine the X plan while killing the evil doers all at once? I bet that's what Colbert's doing.
posted by aburd at 9:36 PM on January 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


I miss tv. Except you dear UES. You keep me occupied.
posted by oxford blue at 9:37 PM on January 14, 2008


How is this force majeure, by the by?
posted by oxford blue at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've really enjoyed reading Mark Evanier's take on the writer's strike. That man knows more about small-time Hollywood celebrities than anyone else I've read. His take on potential repercussions of the DGA meetings is worth looking at.
posted by painquale at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to have the babies Stewart and Colbert, so, you know, I love those guys. But yeah, technically they're scabs, if "scab" means "one who crosses a picket line to work". It's a little more complicated, though, than your standard strike.... I think for them, helming a show, protecting the writers' jobs for when they get back, and keeping the (MUCH larger) non-writing staff employed.... it's totally different from someone walking into a dead factory and taking the job of someone outside on the line. That said, I don't understand the argument that Dave's a scab. His show isn't being picketed - whether or not the WGA should have made a deal with his production company, they did.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2008


But [Stewart & Colbert]'re doing the shows, as I understand it, ad-libbed.

They're good. But they're not that good.
posted by waraw at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2008


"EXACTLY! They defended their little tuft of turf at the expense of all those other writers out there who can't get a break. I'm sure if you were told your family would die if you didn't do X you'd do it too. But what if you did X and the rest of the city blows up except for your family?"

That is a fair point, and I take it. But it still dosen't make them scabs. It simply makes them human.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2008


What strike? *goes back to reading an actual book*
posted by loquacious at 9:42 PM on January 14, 2008


RIGHT! Like this Tee Vee thingy you mention will ever amount to anything.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:42 PM on January 14, 2008


*goes back to reading an actual book*

As opposed to an unactual book?
posted by oxford blue at 9:44 PM on January 14, 2008


From what I've been hearing, a lot of people are expecting that the writers will take whatever deal the directors manage to get, or one very like. They can't hope to get a better one, as the studios would "send the wrong message" by giving a striking guild a better deal than a guild willing to play ball.

I don't really see how getting smaller studios to start up projects pressures the larger studios at all.

Nobody at Paramount is going to panic because Jon Stewart is back on the air and they aren't greenlighting-- if anything they're jumping for joy that the writers are starting to cave. The whole working-so-the-writers-don't-get-fired angle supports this as well.
posted by ®@ at 9:47 PM on January 14, 2008


I can't be the only one who's conflicted about this whole thing, right? I have been, from birth, taught that you never cross a picket line. And yet.... as a lefty, I do not think it would be a good thing to lose the Stewart/Colbert bloc from late night during the primaries. Moreover, I am more in sympathy with the gaffers and key grips and whatnot than with the Lampoon alums who largely do the comedy writing nowadays. I know that's a stereotype, but I don't think it's entirely baseless to assume that the writers on strike are mainly of a more privileged class than those who fill all of the other jobs in television.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:50 PM on January 14, 2008


*dusts off A Treatise on the Binomial Theorem*
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:51 PM on January 14, 2008


oxford blue writes "As opposed to an unactual book?"

He's actually reading the internet, which is about unactual as a book can get.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:53 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"if anything they're jumping for joy that the writers are starting to cave"

THANK YOU! That's it precisely!

Screw those of you who are splitting hairs. I'm going to bed. Y'all know I'm right.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:54 PM on January 14, 2008


From the comment section in the ABC link:

"Good! Fire all of them!
Whatever cause the writers may have had at the start has been clouded by egos and greed.
You forget who the real bread and butter is--the Viewers!"

Jeez, what a selfish drooling moron. I'm guessing an industry plant might have made that comment. I mean, who self-identifies as a "viewer" and demands that writers owe them anything? That's corporate thought right there, that is.

ZachsMind, I think you're probably right about Ellen and Leno et al., but it's a hard sell to claim Dave's a scab. Your own union gave him dispensation to do what he's doing. You might not like your union's decision and think it has contributed to the length of the strike, but it's the decision they made, regardless.
posted by painquale at 9:55 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


That Mark Evanier DGA link is informative, painquale, thanks.

But [Colbert and Stewart]'re doing the shows, as I understand it, ad-libbed.

That argument has never made any sense to me. I watched a couple of the Colbert/Stewart shows, and there's no doubt in my mind that there was "writing" - planned sequences of words, hello - going on before the shows aired. The "we're not writing anything" doesn't fly.

What's more, they're doing the shows because they got told by their bosses that if they didn't, their writers would lose their jobs.

It wasn't the writers whose jobs were threatened, it was the non-writing staff:

NBC has informed the non-writing staff of Daly's show, as well as Jay Leno's and Conan O'Brien's, that they face layoffs at the end of this week unless the shows return to the airwaves.

Comedy Central did the same to Stewart and Colbert. Letterman's a different matter; he owns his own show. My understanding is that his deal honors the terms WGA is trying to get from the studios, so I'm not sure why calls of "scab" are appropriate in his case.
posted by mediareport at 9:55 PM on January 14, 2008


From what I've been hearing, a lot of people are expecting that the writers will take whatever deal the directors manage to get, or one very like. They can't hope to get a better one, as the studios would "send the wrong message" by giving a striking guild a better deal than a guild willing to play ball.

I want to quote from the Evanier link I gave up above -- it gives reason to think that the studios are going to offer a deal to the DGA that will make it nearly impossible for the Writer's Guild to accept the same terms:

Lastly, we have Scenario #4. This is the one that scares me.

Scenario #4 is the one in which the DGA makes a deal that works for them but not for anyone else. As in Scenario #2, the AMPTP says, "Okay, we've made a New Media deal with the DGA and that's it. The WGA and SAG can take the same terms or they can walk picket lines until the world looks level...we ain't discussing any other formulas, any other numbers." But in this case, the deal is something like Internet Revenues based on how many shots you called or how much time you spent in editing. In other words, it's some set-up that would yield decent payments to directors but not to writers or actors. The first deal the DGA made for Pay TV was like that. It paid okay for directors but because of the differences in what we do, it would not have paid nearly as much to writers...and that strike became all about demanding a different formula when the studios insist we accept what the DGA accepted.

I'm not sure if it's possible to devise one of those formulas — works for directors but no one else — for New Media but I'd be very surprised if the AMPTP hasn't had accountants and lawyers trying to craft one. If they manage it and if the DGA takes it, this could be a much longer strike. Let's all think good thoughts that this won't happen.

posted by painquale at 10:02 PM on January 14, 2008


He's actually reading the internet, which is about unactual as a book can get.

Who calls the internet a book though?
posted by oxford blue at 10:03 PM on January 14, 2008


That argument has never made any sense to me. I watched a couple of the Colbert/Stewart shows, and there's no doubt in my mind that there was "writing" - planned sequences of words, hello

Exactly. Well, except for the part about watching the shows, I didn't do that. but obviously they are writing. Conan (and yes, Leno) do talk shows, where they interview people- it's possible to do that without writing. I think they made the wrong decision, but I'm more willing to cut them some slack.

The idea that the country somehow "needs" Stewart and Colbert is absurd, I'm sorry. What, are lefties going to start thinking Bush is smart all of a sudden? I hate to keep harping on it, but preaching to the choir does not make for great comedy. It just doesn't.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:06 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Worldwide Pants deal says that they will honor whatever the WGA and AMPTP agree to. In essence, Letterman's basically saying he's with the WGA and just figures whatever deal they end up with is best.

So, Letterman is NOT a scab. If Zachsmind disagrees, then I suggest he take it up with the WGA-E leadership that agreed to the deal with Worldwide Pants. They're not picketing. Perhaps he'd like to picket it himself?

The WGA is moving into a divide-and-conquer strategy, although it's hard to see how they're going to win this without getting at least one major network to cave and sign a deal similar to the Worldwide Pants one. Meanwhile, the craft and crew are still laid off and getting nothing more than lip service from the AMPTP and WGA. They picketed the Golden Globes "press conference" last night.
posted by dw at 10:08 PM on January 14, 2008


Conan (and yes, Leno) do talk shows, where they interview people- it's possible to do that without writing.

I disagree; there's definitely "writing" that goes on in preparation for doing an interview. Unless you're totally winging it, which I seriously doubt these guys ever do.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 PM on January 14, 2008


My understanding is that Leno, Stewart, Colbert, et al. can write for themselves, but they can't have a whole staff of writers work for them.

And then you've got folks like John Oliver, one of Stewart's fake anchormen who's in America on a work visa, which means he'll get deported if he goes on strike.

As a consumer of media, I'm just glad to be getting my funny election coverage again, and I don't rightly care if I'm "crossing the picket lines" or not. I tend to favor the writers, and I hope they get a fair shake, but I'm not going to let that deter me from enjoying the funny people on my TV.

Besides, since I'm not in a Nielson family, I don't count towards the ratings. Whether I watch or do not watch changes the writers' situation not one iota.
posted by JDHarper at 10:28 PM on January 14, 2008


Yeah, I'm sorry, Colbert, Stewart, Letterman, O'Brien, they're not scabs. The rats crawling around writing the soaps right now, those folks are scabs. The whiny little bitches taking fi-core right now- I consider them scabs. But Letterman signed an interim deal and whether you like it or not, he's officially sanctioned by the guild.

Colbert, Stewart- they're in a crappy situation. They are on strike as writers, but they have separate union and contractual obligations as entertainers, as well as producers. There huge timebombs written into entertainment contracts if you fail to deliver for anything short of an Act of God, and I wouldn't expect anybody to take a 10 million dollar fine for the team.

Especially since Colbert, Stewart, Letterman et al have done nothing but spend their time back on air explaining this strike and its stakes for the viewers at home. They have essentially co-opted struck networks' resources to put on the most public picket line we have.

If they'd gone back to business as usual, then yeah, I'd be pissed. But we've got five guys who are essentially the only new, familiar programming on television right raising our visibility, outlining the issues and educating the viewers about our position. And more than that, they're the only guys on television TALKING about it, because the AMPTP pretty much controls the rest of the media.

So to call them scabs is the most naive, blinkered interpretation possible of their actions. They're in an awful position, and they're making the most of it for the writers. Being a directly affected party, I find it real hard to demonize them for making sure John Q. Public in Boise understands why he's not getting the Oscars this year.
posted by headspace at 10:29 PM on January 14, 2008 [31 favorites]


This is just the beginning. If you think the other creative people who are involved in productions that wind up making money as internet content aren't sweating this shit out, you aren't aware of the ramifications of this.

The irony is this: when I copy a CD to my computer and then to my iPod, the industry portrays that as taking money out of the artist's pockets, and I'm a thief. When producers sell the same content they have paid others to produce for television through the internet and don't pay them residuals for that, it's good business practice.
posted by birdhaus at 10:34 PM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Also:

1) They're not even supposed to write for themselves. Jay Leno ran into trouble over exactly that issue.

2) Once the HFPA took control of its awards from NBC, the WGA agreed not to, and did not in fact, picket the Golden Globes.
posted by headspace at 10:34 PM on January 14, 2008


I disagree; there's definitely "writing" that goes on in preparation for doing an interview. Unless you're totally winging it, which I seriously doubt these guys ever do.

It depends if the interview prep is normally done by the writing staff or by producers and researchers and other members of staff? Those people are either in a different union or no union at all.

Jon Stewart still has video clips and graphics and things like that. If that were normally done by a WGA staff member I'm sure they would have filed a complaint by now. But so far the only complaint I've heard about was regarding Jay Leno's monologues.
posted by Gary at 10:35 PM on January 14, 2008


My (minor) point, Gary, is that there are a lot of blurry lines here, and what seems like inconsistent looking-the-other-way in some cases (writing on Colbert's show) but not others (writing on Leno's).

That's life, I know. But I'd at least prefer to acknowledge the inconsistencies.
posted by mediareport at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2008


First, I'd like to say that I've been taking the writer's strike seriously and find their requests reasonable. If you write something that gets put on the internet and not on TV, well, you should still be paid for it. Especially if everyone else is making money off of it time and time again from advertisers. Please excuse me if I'm oversimplifying things, but that's my basic understanding as a layperson. There isn't a lot I watch on TV regularly, but I am missing my favorite shows. Thank goodness my local library has a lot of mostly PBS (BBC police shows, I'm so hooked!) shows I can check out for free.

Also, I don't have cable, so I've never really watched the Daily Show or the Colbert Report and don't feel comfortable commenting on those guys with multiple hats. Keeping your non-writer staff with a job versus getting them all canned? What a difficult decision! I have, however, been fine with watching David Letterman and Craig Ferguson in my nightowl hours because they have reached an agreement. And they have supported the strikers.

With all that said, I would love to hear something on MetaMusic in chrismear's voice that goes something like this:

Ellen Degeneres... just a scab.
Carson Daly... just a scab.
Leno... just a scab.

Maybe call it "Thou Shalt Always Pay the Writers" or something.
posted by lilywing13 at 10:46 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


1. If the professional, unioned writers are as important as they think they are, then the shows which go on the air without them should be bad, and people won't watch them, and it's a self solving problem.

2. While I can see the argument that writers feel like all other writers should strike out of a sense of community (making the ones who don't "scabs,") why are Jon Stewart/Ellen/Leno/Etc/etc., whose shows the writers are wiling to destroy in order to improve their paychecks, obligated to help them at all costs? Or at all, really?

Anyway, I think people are confusing "hurting the WGA's leverage" with "being a scab." Not the same thing.
posted by blenderfish at 11:00 PM on January 14, 2008


The wind blew cold and sharp off the water. This wasn't a scenic cove where the waves break against rocks and the sea lions warm themselves, but a long flat patch of sand and weed with a view of the petrochemical plants. Still, it's where the people from the monthly rental motels come to remind themselves of why they came west. Now, this early in the morning, only myself and one other man were here. He was a tall man, and he carried a battered duffel bag over one shoulder. Motionless he stood, only his long gray hair blowing with the breeze, as he stared out over the ocean. Was he an ancient surfer, I wondered, one of those timeless free spirits? When he noticed me, he humbly asked for a couple bucks for a muffin and a coffee, and he told me his story. "I was a writer," he said. "Plays at first, back in the East. Off Off Broadway, crazy wild stuff. Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, those were my influences. I came out here at the invitation of a movie producer. He had a hardon for this skinny British society debra that he'd met at some charity event for starving horses and he wanted me to find public domain novels down at the library that might make a good star vehicle for her. Nothing much came of that and soon I needed to find other work or go back home. So I ended up in TV." He stopped for a few moments and resumed staring at the ocean. When he turned back to me, his eyes were wild and he leaned into my face. "I created URKEL!," he shouted. "Steve Fucking URKEL! In the early 90's I was at the top of this place. We changed the world. Before Urkel, when white America thought of the black man, they thought Shaft, Huggy Bear, Fred Sanford. Someone of a different world, maybe a little dangerous. We tugged the black man's pants up and pasty faced people in Minnesota saw another human with the same dreams and follies as themselves. They laughed with Steve, loved with Stefan. We began to become one people. If, and god I hope I live to see the day, Barack Obama becomes our president, will he stand at the podium on his inauguration day and thank Steve Urkel for opening this country's eyes to the charm of the dorky black man? I think not. Can Steve Urkel help me get a script under the door? No longer, my friend. He can't help me pay for a cup of coffee. I'm a forgotten man. My most treasured creation, Steve Urkel, is almost forgotten, everywhere but on TVLand. It's gone, all gone. Life carries on, the Olson twins grow up, and Fridays are never the same again. I support my brothers on the line, so that they do not suffer the same fate as me." And with that he turned away from me, walked into the water, dropping on to his knees in the surf. "URKEL," he shouted, opening his arms to the waves, "Urrrrrkelllllllll!"
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:02 PM on January 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


ZachsMind, you are either ignorant of labor practices or a jackass grinding an axe.

If the UAW works out a contract with Ford, if GM goes on strike, that does not make the Ford workers scabs.

The WGA worked out a deal with Letterman. He's Ford. He's doing nothing wrong. And you stamping your foot saying "yes he is" doesn't make it so.

Your hysterical use of an incredibly loaded word (scab) does nothing to promote your point of view, but instead makes you seem like a whack job.

Now, if one writer crossed the picket line and went back to work for Leno, who has no deal, that writer would be a scab.

Do I really have to explain this to you?
posted by Ynoxas at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2008 [10 favorites]


I don't get how you can call producers who write their own material scabs.

I mean, if the board of directors for Ford Automotive decided to fire all their workers and build the cars themselves, would they be scabs in the UAW's eyes? They're not hiring outside the union, so by definition there are no scabs to get angry about. Oh, but they're the scabs because they do it themselves? Ludicrous.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But [Stewart & Colbert]'re doing the shows, as I understand it, ad-libbed.

They're good. But they're not that good.


Colbert is a good deal closer to being that good.
posted by Artw at 11:22 PM on January 14, 2008


ZachsMind, you are either ignorant of labor practices or a jackass grinding an axe.

I don't know if it's accurate, but it seems like he storms into every WGA thread shouting, "SCAB!" at everyone who posts near him without the intention of listening to anyone. It's getting to the point where I expect to see a MeTa callout one day.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:46 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a scab, in the sense that I have the temerity to go to work tomorrow, even though someone, somewhere is striking.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 12:01 AM on January 15, 2008


*buys Zachsmind some triple antibiotic*
posted by dhartung at 12:01 AM on January 15, 2008


ZachsMind is right.

The only reason Stewart et al aren't being pilloried for being traitorous little shits is because the American public are too fucking stupid to realise celebrities are not gods.
posted by fullerine at 12:20 AM on January 15, 2008


You can see I wrote that comment without any WGA help.
posted by fullerine at 12:21 AM on January 15, 2008


I don't care if he's right or wrong (and I think many of the people he yells at make very interesting, if not completely valid points), his repetitive, abusive rants are just getting old.

And then this gem:

Screw those of you who are splitting hairs. I'm going to bed.

Remember, when you want to win an argument on the Internet, ad hominem insults work best when you follow them up with your stated intent to leave the discussion entirely.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:31 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Colbert, Stewart- they're in a crappy situation. They are on strike as writers, but they have separate union and contractual obligations as entertainers, as well as producers. There huge timebombs written into entertainment contracts if you fail to deliver for anything short of an Act of God, and I wouldn't expect anybody to take a 10 million dollar fine for the team.

Yeah, that's what this is all about, and I'm pleased that someone is so candid about it. Everyone mentions how the talk shows staffs would have been fired if the hosts hadn't come back, how the hosts have an opportunity to educate the public, etc. But all that is a little insincere. Let's be real: if striking didn't mean these guys would be taking a multi-million-dollar pay cut, they'd be out there in the lines.

And the more I think about that, the more I think they're culpable. As a union member, headspace, you genuinely are in a position to ask someone to take a 10 million dollar fine, and you don't think you can ask someone to do that. I doubt I could either. But from my perspective, from the outside, it looks like they are shirking their responsibilities as union members in order to keep a fat paycheck. It's hard to say that's not scab behavior. Given the money involved, it might be unreasonable to ask them not to be scabs, and they might be deserving of our sympathy (insofar as anyone that rich deserves sympathy for losing a few extra million -- unlike a lot of the strikers, these guys could easily bounce back). But I think the maxims of their actions are pretty clear: they are flouting the rules of their union for personal gain.
posted by painquale at 12:36 AM on January 15, 2008


I'm unclear on how cutting deals with the WGA management makes working for the struck-against bosses not scabbing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:13 AM on January 15, 2008


Attitudes and mindsets like Zachsmind are why I sometimes think that unions have long since outlived their usefulness. Never mind the thousands of people who have done nothing wrong and were happy who are now out of work because a smaller number want to walk out and bar anyone else from doing their jobs. What the hell ever happened to quitting if you don't like the conditions of your employment? It's worked for all us IT people the last 20 years I've been in the workforce....
posted by barc0001 at 1:31 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


barc0001, that really only works when there's the potential for another employer offering better working conditions. It doesn't so much work when all of the employers are offering equally crappy terms.
posted by kyrademon at 3:14 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


What the hell ever happened to quitting if you don't like the conditions of your employment? It's worked for all us IT people the last 20 years I've been in the workforce....

The difference is that us IT people have generally had another job waiting when we quit the job we didn't like. For a large part of the workforce that's not an option, and I expect the IT gravy train is on the verge of leaving the station before too long.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:15 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know about this writer strike. When I worked in advertising, it was, "Oh so you want more money? Then go somewhere else."

Seems to me that these writers are a bunch of whine bags. Be grateful for what you have.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:56 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


PainQuale: "ZachsMind, I think you're probably right about Ellen and Leno et al., but it's a hard sell to claim Dave's a scab."

I don't care if the WGA added fries with his order. His deal was only for his people, and is not helping the rest of the writers out there. By going back to work, he gave the network what it wanted, and didn't hold out with the other writers for an equitable deal that would suit everybody.

DAVID LETTERMAN CROSSED THE PICKET LINE. HE'S A SCAB. END OF ARGUMENT.

barc0001: "What the hell ever happened to quitting if you don't like the conditions of your employment? It's worked for all us IT people the last 20 years I've been in the workforce...."

You are kidding, right? Please tell me you're kidding.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:25 AM on January 15, 2008


There's a picket line in front of the Ed Sullivan theatre? It must consist entirely of Zach walking back and forth by himself.
posted by grouse at 4:36 AM on January 15, 2008


I'd be inclined to take a stand about this "strike" - if kids were starving, work hours were horrible, working conditions were beyond the pale, and if there were actual deaths occurring because Management was oppressing the workforce.

But it ain't so. Some entertainment industry writers - not as well paid as they COULD be but certainly not starving - are pissed because they COULD be paid more.

Fuck em. I can't take it seriously, at all. It's just bullshit, and its irrelevant bullshit because they write shit, anyway. TV writing ain't high art.
posted by disclaimer at 4:37 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ynoxas: "ZachsMind, you are either ignorant of labor practices or a jackass grinding an axe."

Flattery will get you nowhere.

"If the UAW works out a contract with Ford, if GM goes on strike, that does not make the Ford workers scabs. The WGA worked out a deal with Letterman. He's Ford. He's doing nothing wrong. And you stamping your foot saying "yes he is" doesn't make it so."

That. Right there. That's the 'splitting hairs' I have been talking about. The reason why unionizing doesn't work in this country is right there.

Well how about if we do X? That's not really wrong is it? Well then if we can't do X, how about if we do Y-1 so it's like doing X but not really? Okay so the union and the bosses are disagreeing with A, B, and C, but if we go over here instead and get the work done this way it's not quite the same is it?

Not quite. And you can probably get away with it. Doesn't make it right. This ain't algebra. This is people's livelihoods. This is the future of an industry we're talking about.

You can't have this half assed. If the bosses are getting their way during a strike - any of it - then it lessens and cheapens the efforts of those actually walking the picket lines. It allows the bosses to hold out that much longer before they can cut a deal.

The end result goes back to individuals weighing their need for immediate concerns like bills and food versus the more long term concept of getting paid a fair wage and benefits which meet the value of their time and resources. Oftentimes the immediate concern wins out when you've got no one backing you up. THAT's what unions are for.

barc0001 said the IT industry's been doing fine without unionizing, but the turnover rate in this industry is bupkus, and while some people are getting paid more than they're worth, the vast majority are barely making ends meet, provided they can keep a job at all - add into that the fact that nowadays most people gotta pay their own way to keep up with insane workloads of training to keep up with industry changes, whereas a couple decades ago the companies were footing the lion's share of that bill, and you got yourselves a trainwreck.

I ain't a member of the WGA. They never lifted a finger to help me personally. In fact, if I were in a position to take a job from a union writer now, and the money was good but it wasn't the deal they're wanting? I'd probably take the job knowing full well it meant being blacklisted from WGA supported businesses for the rest of my life.

Why? Cuz they ain't helping me get a job now, so I might as well be blacklisted already. At least then I'd be ON a list! LOL! I'm in no position where my supporting them would make a difference. However, that attitude doesn't support the cause either. I'm not union, so technically crossing the picket line wouldn't make me a scab, would it? *bzzzzzzt!* If you cross the picket line, you're helping to scab over the bosses' wounds. Anything more than that is rationalizing, splitting hairs, and doesn't help to get the job done.

Lettterman IS. Or rather, he WAS in a position to make a difference. He's already signed up to be union. He shoulda stood by the union to get the best deal for everyone in said union - instead he cut a deal that just saved his neck and the necks of those under his umbrella.

I'm looking at this sitch as an outsider. I have no self-serving reason to pick a side. I simply call it as I see it. Letterman is a self-serving tool. He coulda supported the whole profession, but all that mattered to him was getting his show back on the air - his immediate concerns. Therefore the bigger picture of a fair compensation for the future of the profession of writers got shafted.

I can't make this any more clear for you. You can split hairs all you want. You know I'm right.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:57 AM on January 15, 2008


You know I'm rightwrong.

Fixed that for you.
posted by grouse at 5:01 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but it's the union's job to represent its workers. And if the WGA cut a side deal, by definition there is no scabbery. What you have instead is a weak-kneed union. It says more about labor relations in this "compassionate conservative" environment than it does any specific employer.

What you are essentially asking is that employers bear economic burdens to make up for the lack of a meaningful regulatory environment in which to operate. If Jon Stewart is susceptible to liquidated damages on account of being unable to produce TV shows due to the strike, it's Congress's job to render such clauses unenforceable. Would you also expect David Letterman to patch the potholes on his street in L.A. if the city shut down?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:47 AM on January 15, 2008


ZachsMind, you are either ignorant of labor practices or a jackass grinding an axe.


Either?
posted by hermitosis at 6:23 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's mildy alarming to me that I can't find the "Writer's Strike Math" video that headspace linked to on The Daily Show Website. Nor is it anywhere to be found on YouTube. So much for not being in control of the AMPTP?
posted by Phire at 6:34 AM on January 15, 2008


That. Right there. That's the 'splitting hairs' I have been talking about. The reason why unionizing doesn't work in this country is right there.

it's not splitting hairs - they came to an agreement - just like eventually, every other local will come to an agreement with their employer if the strike is to end

if my local had gone on strike that would not have made the people at the other plants scabs because they belong to a diiferent (or no union) and work at locations not covered by our contract

I'm looking at this sitch as an outsider.

an ignorant, non-union card holding outsider - in fact, by your logic, anyone who works without a union may as well be called a scab

good luck making that stick
posted by pyramid termite at 6:34 AM on January 15, 2008


Funny how people tend to be sympathetic to people who write crappy TV shows, but completely unsympathetic to songwriters who have been raped by the rampant illegal music downloading so often defended on Metafilter. But that's another subject, I guess. By the usual MeFi logic, the writers are just going to have to find some other way to monetize their work.

I for one am thrilled by this strike. I hope it continues 6 more months and that by the time it is settled, people have given up, mostly, on all the crap TV they've been missing. The death of TV entertainment would be the best thing to ever happen to the United States. Let's make all culture free. It wants to be free.

Anyone who has ever downloaded a torrent version of a WGA-written show has no business calling anyone else a "scab."
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Funny how people tend to be sympathetic to people who write crappy TV shows, but completely unsympathetic to songwriters who have been raped by the rampant illegal music downloading so often defended on Metafilter.

Yeah, that's probably because most songwriters aren't losing shit as a result of illegal downloading. Nice segue, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:08 AM on January 15, 2008


I just want BSG to be completed. I don't care if all of Hollywood blows up, as long as BSG is completed.
posted by schroedinger at 7:08 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, striking writers aside for a second.. how many folks have picked up on some of the newly appearing shows done by indie artists?

http://www.getmiro.com - miro media player. Quite a bit of free content available. I've started watching some of the tech blog videos again.
posted by drstein at 7:11 AM on January 15, 2008


I really don't get why people are pissed off that the writers dare strike. Their are people that are clearly making money off their work from DVD sales and the like, and they want a cut of the money.
posted by drezdn at 7:14 AM on January 15, 2008


kittens, you're completely wrong. Why is "most" the criterion anyway? Isn't "some" enough justification? "Most" WGA writers aren't losing much either, most of the time, because they are unemployed.

Nice self justification, though. I'm used to it around here. MeFites can be the most self-righteous people on the planet if anyone suggests they might actually be ripping people off by downloading music (or anything else of IP value) illegally.

If you buy a legally downloaded track, the songwriter gets a certain amount of money. If you illegally download the same track, s/he does not. It's that simple. You can tell me you wouldn't have bought the song if you had to pay for it. Good for you. You also would not have enjoyed the fruits of the songwriter's work that way, so no harm, no foul.

I don't know why I argue. A whole generation has decided it's OK to steal from musicians and songwriters (like me - just to make the issue non-abstract). Attack the messenger and lob ad homs at me all you want. If you illegally download music (or TV shows) you are a thief of the livelihood of creative professionals. And that makes you no better than a "scab" who crosses a picket line, and really a lot worse in some ways.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


What on Earth does Microsoft have to do with any of it?
posted by jjg at 7:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Funny how people tend to be sympathetic to people who write crappy TV shows, but completely unsympathetic to songwriters who have been raped by the rampant illegal music downloading so often defended on Metafilter.

I don't think the comparison works. File sharing is among individuals and may not actually represent lost sales since the individuals may be unwilling to pay for the music and would go without if they had no other choice. Meanwhile, the writers are asking to be let in on real revenue based on the extended use of their product by their corporate employers.

[not a file sharerist]
posted by effwerd at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let me get this straight. If someone writes a script for a movie and gets their friends to direct in it and act in it and they release it on the internet, but none of them are members of WGA, DGA, SAG, etc, that's okay right?

Because that's the WGA's biggest problem, not digital downloads of the Office. The moment there is an effective way to monetize YouTube viewings for the content maker, the industry as it currently exists is dead. At some point, YouTube is going to have its Gone With The Wind or its Wizard of Oz, the landmark piece of work that demonstrates what the new medium is capable of and how people interact with it.

This country has 300 million people in it, and about 1.2 million watch Letterman. Big deal. More people are on YouTube. I wonder how many TV shows have fewer people watching than Metafilter has unique visitors. What's that number?

Some of you WGA members are posting comments in this thread. Doesn't that make you scabs? Doesn't that violate WGA rules against working below scale? Aren't you enriching mathowie by creating content for his site that is insightful and "insider" that the rest of us want to read?

Because if you think that this is somehow different because it's not "on TV", you've succumbed to the same ossified 1983 mindset of the networks and the producers that has driven viewers away.

People do not watch television anymore. They do not want to watch television anymore. If someone tells me there is a particularly funny episode of the Simpsons or the Office I should see, then I just download it. More likely I look for the specific clip they recommended on youtube. Oh well, I guess people didn't get compensated because I didn't see the four car ads or razor ads that I wouldn't have seen if I was watching live anyway because I would have changed the channel.

If there's a movie I want to see, I have netflix.

I'm with fourcheesemac. Kill the industry. But doing so won't kill the medium.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:33 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Accusations of scabbery aside, I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned here that Jon Stewart has been pleading with the WGA to land a deal similar to Letterman's agreement. The reason that "A Daily Show" is not on-air as "The Daily Show" is that the WGA is apparently picking and choosing who is or is not deserving of a deal, despite the fact that there are many in the industry - Stewart for example - who are more than willing to pay the writers in exactly the same terms as Letterman has chosen.

Unions by and large have done a great deal of good for the US. I've worked in areas with weak union presence, and I know how shitty the benefits can be compared to the same jobs in states with stronger unions. No argument there. However, we also have to acknowledge that strong unions are also one of the reasons that US companies are shipping jobs overseas. I don't begrudge an auto worker the wages he or she earns, but when unions continually push for more, companies make cutbacks to stay in business - and these cutbacks do not come at the level of middle management or CEO paychecks. They come in the form of fewer jobs for the workers who are in the union. I also am wary of the motives of union leaders. Ostensibly, what they do is to promote actions which benefit the members, but as with any organization, once it becomes large enough it becomes easy for leaders to take actions that benefit themselves more than the rank-and-file members. Any person in a position of power is going to be tempted by that, and union leaders are as human as the rest of us. During a recent strike at my university, I overheard a conversation between a striker and a passerby; the pedestrian asked the man picketing where in the university he worked, and the answer was "Oh, I don't work here, I work for the union; my job is to travel the country to support our members wherever they are striking. I was in California before this..." Basically, if no local unions anywhere are on strike, this guy is out of work. It really doesn't seem like that is a productive thing for the union to do - it isn't in the best interests of the union members to keep people on payroll who do nothing but encourage strikes for the sake of striking.

Of course my interpretation of that conversation is colored by my impression of the situation at the university; the strike was not successful, I really felt that it wasn't necessary, and it negatively impacted my family. With the WGA strike, I do think that they have a legitimate complaint and that the industry is being unnecessarily unreasonable about coming to terms with the union. But that is what happens with unions, isn't it? Interactions between unions and management seem to follow some magic rule that ensures neither side will be able to come to any kind of reasonable resolution. When my university unionized the graduate students, interactions with the administration went from fairly friendly and professional to coldly acrimonious overnight. It really amazed me to see how quickly both sides adopted the stereotypical attitudes of union and management. A bit eye opening, for certain.

I truly wish that in these kinds of disputes those of us on the sidelines could keep our own emotional involvement in check until we have had a chance to carefully weigh both sides of the issues. It is really hard to do so, mainly because each side will be bombarding the public (and their members) with skewed propaganda intended to garner support for their position. It's also difficult because nearly any union leadership tends to promote support for other striking unions, in the interests of solidarity, without much regard for how good the reasons for the strike may or may not be. Kneejerk accusations of scabs, strikebreaking, etc. are going to be par for the course, in this strike and in every future one. I just wish that wasn't the case, but from my perspective it certainly seems to be.

Pillory me if you will, just trying to be as honest as I can with myself on this.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:45 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Funny how people tend to be sympathetic to people who write crappy TV shows, but completely unsympathetic to songwriters who have been raped by the rampant illegal music downloading so often defended on Metafilter.

I think the situation that songwriters find themselves in is precisely the situation that the WGA is trying to void by going on strike. You see, *so* many major contracts with labels give NOTHING to the artists for online sales. Absolutely NOTHING.

Need a good example? Radiohead. They get absolutely nothing from online sales of everything before "In Rainbows". Absolutely nothing. As for artists that are "fortunate" enough to have online sales included on their contract, how much do you think they make per sale, even now that the overhead for online sales is a minuscule fraction of what it is for CD sales?

Now all the major networks started selling shows in iTunes, and started talking about online distribution of their shows. Do you think it is a coincidence that the WGA decided to strike?

I wish that music artists had something like the WGA to back them up. Instead, the RIAA poses as an entity that cares about the artists, while in reality they only represent the interests of the labels and record companies, because they still allow for such screw-job contracts to exist.

A lot of it is due to the music artists' lack of education about their business, and lack of proper representation.

Kudos to the WGA.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 7:47 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you illegally download music (or TV shows) you are a thief of the livelihood of creative professionals. And that makes you no better than a "scab" who crosses a picket line, and really a lot worse in some ways.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:28 AM on January 15


In understand that legally you are correct. And yet, by watching it on TV or hearing it on the radio, and not filling out a ratings book and not paying attention to the ads, I am compensating them? How is the creative professional compensated for my viewing, when my viewing habits are completely unknown to anyone but myself?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:51 AM on January 15, 2008


What a mess.

Anyway: it's necessary to repeat, once again, that strikes are a very powerful but extremely blunt weapon. Like, say, a chainsaw. And to solve a dispute like the WGA one, you need a lot of precision. So what the WGA put themselves in a position to give someone a haircut using a chainsaw. Which is doable, if you're VERY careful. They haven't been, really.

The scab/not scab debate is of no interest to anybody but Zachsmind (and his own personal demons, deeply uninteresting to anybody else). But many places are cutting separate deals, and many more will follow. A LOT -- let's repeat this once again -- A LOT of below the line people are losing their jobs because of the WGA strike, a lot of them. Popular support or not (Hollywood writers as part of a non particularly pleasant industry aren't exactly as admired as, say, nurses who care for terminal patients, it is healthy to remember) the WGA strike has put a lot of people who'll never benefit from the WGA deal in the position of having to look for a job or two if they want to keep paying the rent.

Was the WGA's strategy clear? Was their timing well planned? I think it's very safe to say the answer to both questions is no. "We'll strike until they give us a deal" is not a thorough a game plan, it's a tantrum. And if you're bluffing and they call your bluff, good luck with that.

The producers come across as the usual meanies, but really, Hollywood producers are about as liked as lawyers are, maybe less. The DGA seems to be coming out as the grownups. The WGA? They come across as people who may be capable of writing the formulaic stuff that gets produced -- TV or cinema, there's very little difference, it's all about formula and the lower common denominator -- but certainly their negotiation skills are sorely lacking.

There's no deal in sight, a lot of damage has been to their cause by Letterman-style seperate deals, and many no-name barely-middle-class below the line people are already in deep shit.

Personally, I couldn't care less, 99% of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood is of no interest to me, esp. the movie industry is big on blockbusters and very light on substance -- the interesting films are mostly coming out of Asia and Eastern Europe and, yes, France. But still, a union's strategy needs to be airtight. The WGA's strategy, as of now, gets a C-
posted by matteo at 8:00 AM on January 15, 2008


(unless of course below the line people are happy to be working at Starbucks or Target now instead of their old jobs; in this case, if they are indeed happy of this, I'm ready to concede that point. I still think they'd rather have their old josb, esp since a WGA deal wouldn't mean shit for their own future finances)
posted by matteo at 8:03 AM on January 15, 2008


Accusations of scabbery aside, I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned here that Jon Stewart has been pleading with the WGA to land a deal similar to Letterman's agreement. The reason that "A Daily Show" is not on-air as "The Daily Show" is that the WGA is apparently picking and choosing who is or is not deserving of a deal, despite the fact that there are many in the industry - Stewart for example - who are more than willing to pay the writers in exactly the same terms as Letterman has chosen.

They didn't "pick and choose." Letterman and his company WorldWide Pants own The Late Show outright, and as such the deal was made between the WGA and an independent company, as was the Weinstein deal. Jon Stewart is the Executive Producer of The Daily Show, but he doesn't own the show- Viacom does.

The WGA's demand in the gestures from Stewart were that the WGA specifically NOT pick and choose- in other words grant the waiver to one specific Viacom property. Their demand was that if CBS/Viacom wanted Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to get their writers back, then the offer had to be extended to ALL shows owned by CBS/Viacom.

Guess who decided then that it was time to "pick and choose." It wasn't the WGA.

I sympathize with Stewart's position and completely understand why he's frustrated that the deal didn't go through... but he really needs to realize the major differences between himself and Letterman in terms of their association with the strike- Letterman is the owner of a production company, and Stewart is an employee of one of the companies refusing to pay his writing staff.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:13 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Not sure how many of you caught Bill Maher's thoughts on the strike on last Friday's Real Time With Bill Maher ... I found what he said quite interesting (in the first quarter of the linked video clip).
posted by General Zubon at 8:15 AM on January 15, 2008


Sorry if the Daily Show Math link is bunged, here's another try. If that one misbehaves, simply type Daily Show Strike Math into Google and it will come up. Delightfully, it's housed on the Comedy Central website for the show.

As for the timebombs I mentioned and didn't elaborate on- it's not $Crazymoney once. It's $Crazymoney every time they fail to perform. So if Daily Show has 20 episodes a season (I dunno how many it actually has,) Stewart could be fined on his production contract $10 million dollars PER EPISODE he fails to deliver.

These guys can't simply quit- if they quit, they incur the fine, and that's far and above a reasonable hit anybody should be expected to take. They're not getting paid as writers, neither are any of the other writers. And they're taking advantage of their forum to raise awareness about the strike, for the writers. I think that's the best possible compromise the situation. It's simply not fair to ask these guys to incur a $200,000,000 hatefine on top of their already lost wages. I realize they're wealthy guys, but the whole damned point of the strike is fair compensation.

Oh, Zachy, I realize that it's not sexy to read and research, but go check out what fi-core means in this strike. Then you can howl scab-scab-scab with impunity. I'll even join you.
posted by headspace at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2008


The reason that "A Daily Show" is not on-air as "The Daily Show" is that the WGA is apparently picking and choosing who is or is not deserving of a deal, despite the fact that there are many in the industry - Stewart for example - who are more than willing to pay the writers in exactly the same terms as Letterman has chosen.

No, Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, was a different situation because it was a company-wide agreement to the WGA's terms. Which is why Letterman and Ferguson are the only unstruck shows on tv at the moment. Worldwide Pants agreed to the WGA's terms that would have originally been presented to the entire AMPTP (but the AMPTP left negotiations before the WGA even presented the terms), which means Worldwide Pants pays digital download residuals. Weinstein Co. and United Artists have also agreed to the WGA's terms.

The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, on the other hand, are owned by Viacom. Stewart and Colbert tried to work out a deal for their shows similar to Letterman's, but Viacom is a major player in the AMPTP, and it's still not willing to return to the larger negotiations. What Viacom did was try to get a deal for only two of its own shows. "Put our flagship shows back on the air and screw the rest," basically. And by the rest, I mean not only all of the other scripted shows on Comedy Central, but also the shows on Logo, BET, Spike, TV Land, Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon, Noggin, The N, Nick Jr., TEENick, MTV, VH1, MTV2, CMT, MHD as well as movie productions that fall under Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Republic Pictures, MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies, and Go Fish Pictures. So Viacom wanted to cut a deal for two shows. On one channel. There's your picking and choosing.
posted by Tehanu at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


kittens, you're completely wrong. Why is "most" the criterion anyway? Isn't "some" enough justification? "Most" WGA writers aren't losing much either, most of the time, because they are unemployed.

Nice self justification, though. I'm used to it around here. MeFites can be the most self-righteous people on the planet if anyone suggests they might actually be ripping people off by downloading music (or anything else of IP value) illegally.


I'm not sure what "nice self-justification" is supposed to mean -- I buy the things I own, thanks -- and I don't want to help you hijack this thread with this tired bullshit, either; I get the impression this is a much-ground axe of yours, and it doesn't have a whole lot to do with the subject actually under discussion. As said above, though, the idea that anyone is being "robbed" by illegal downloading is predicated on the notion that this is material people would otherwise buy legally. I don't think there's any reason to believe that is true. Additionally, I know it's not true that legal sales benefit the performers or songwriters in any significant way (unless those people have great contracts, and that only happens if you're huge, and a side-effect of hugeness is that you're already swimming in money), and you know it, too. Everyone knows it, because this debate is like from 2001 or something. Get over it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:32 AM on January 15, 2008


Was the WGA's strategy clear? Was their timing well planned? I think it's very safe to say the answer to both questions is no. "We'll strike until they give us a deal" is not a thorough a game plan, it's a tantrum. And if you're bluffing and they call your bluff, good luck with that.

On the WGA's strategy.
posted by Tehanu at 8:54 AM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


A LOT -- let's repeat this once again -- A LOT of below the line people are losing their jobs because of the WGA strike, a lot of them. Popular support or not ... the WGA strike has put a lot of people who'll never benefit from the WGA deal in the position of having to look for a job or two if they want to keep paying the rent.

This is what really irritates me, mostly because I've been bitten by it myself in the past. There are a lot of people who are being hurt by the WGA's antics that aren't going to get a whit out of whatever deal is eventually made.

The writers are certainly within their rights to strike, but I'm tired of their (and labor's in general) holier-than-thou rhetoric. There's a shitload of collateral damage every time a union decides to go on strike, and it's not just some vaporous "management" that's being punished. I'd have more respect for them if they'd stop pretending it's some epic struggle between good and evil and admit that it's just a salary negotiation where hostages are being taken.

I'm not against the concept of unions in general; in fact they seem like a pretty good idea, a nice hedge against what would otherwise be pretty destructive market forces. But what I resent is the legal entrenchment they've gained. If you can get a large percentage of all the people capable of performing a job to voluntarily join a union and bargain collectively, wonderful. But if there are people out there willing to do your job, who are just as qualified, I don't think you have any right to get more. At that point, you're just putting someone else out of work; there's no moral superiority there, just greed.

Screenwriting doesn't seem like it's specialized enough, or in high enough demand, to really be unionizable. There are too many college grads sitting around who are probably qualified to do the job, and would happily do it for a lot less than the union writers charge -- and, at least to me, if they can do it, they ought to be doing it. There doesn't seem to be much benefit to Joe TV-Watching Public to keeping a caste of 'professional' screenwriters alive on life support if the job could be done by amateurs for beer money. (I'm not saying the job could be done by amateurs or non-union workers successfully, but obviously the unions are terrified of this, or there wouldn't be the everpresent furor over "scabs.")

If you need a law that forces a company to negotiate with a union instead of just seeking non-union replacements, it's a signal to me that the union is doing something wrong. If they want to bargain collectively, than get everyone who's capable of doing the job to join up, instead of just the people currently doing it; then they'd have some actual claim to be representing "workers" in a field generally, rather than just a cartel trying to stave off outside competition.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:57 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kisses to you too, kittens. What you believe to be true and what is actually true are not the same things. I study this subject, among several others, as a professional academic interest, and the debate is not "from 2001 or something," but quite current (and changing rapidly). And you don't "know" the first thing about the business if you think only very famous songwriters make money ("in any significant way?" what's that mean?) from legal sales. I still get a check from BMI every once in a while, and I am not a famous songwriter.

I apologize for suggesting you were self-justifying (though I have to say it still sounds like it, because you're so black and white about something that isn't). Maybe you buy all your music, which is wonderful of you. But a lot of people don't. And just because you put the word "know" in italics doesn't make it the last word on the subject.

This is a derail, and I guess I am sorry I started it because it never gets resolved (obviously) by yelling at each other. But it does amaze me to see all this sympathy for the striking WGA writers expressed by people I've seen defend the illegal downloading of music.

The illegal downloading of television shows would take money out of the pockets of WGA writers if they won the strike, because among the major demands they are asking for is internet residuals. That's the connection topically; there is surely an ethical connection as well.

But let's back off on the snarking. You "know" you're right. I don't think so. End of argument unless we want to start slinging facts instead of opinions.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:58 AM on January 15, 2008


"Their demand was that if CBS/Viacom wanted Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to get their writers back, then the offer had to be extended to ALL shows owned by CBS/Viacom."

I had not heard that bit - thanks for clearing it up. Makes more sense to me now why they are in that situation.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:00 AM on January 15, 2008


Screenwriting doesn't seem like it's specialized enough, or in high enough demand, to really be unionizable. There are too many college grads sitting around who are probably qualified to do the job, and would happily do it for a lot less than the union writers charge

Now that's the kind of talk that really make the WGA writers feel like they should put your needs above theirs.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:06 AM on January 15, 2008


I'm a layman in all of this, but it seems there must be shades of grey. Anyone whose argument consists of shouting "scab" and "you know I'm right", I feel, will not easily make any friends nor convince others of their viewpoint. Also, what's with the all caps? I thought this was about writing.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2008


Also:

splitting hairs

MORE LIKE PICKING SCABS AMIRITE
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now that's the kind of talk that really make the WGA writers feel like they should put your needs above theirs.

Huh? I never implied that they should, and I'd never really ask (well, outside of some really extenuating circumstances) anyone to do that. I fully expect them to look out for their own interests. What rankles is when union members play the whole Marxist class-warfare 'solidarity' bullshit. They seem to be asking for sympathy from the public and I'm not buying.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:31 AM on January 15, 2008


But let's back off on the snarking. You "know" you're right. I don't think so. End of argument unless we want to start slinging facts instead of opinions.

No offense, but it's not really an issue I care about all that much. My objection, like I said, was to your hijacking of the thread; that what you were saying struck me as kinda bullshitty was merely annoyance on top of annoyance. But I'd be happy to go on about this with you in a thread that's actually about the subject of illegal downloading, should one pop up.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:42 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


There doesn't seem to be much benefit to Joe TV-Watching Public to keeping a caste of 'professional' screenwriters alive on life support if the job could be done by amateurs for beer money.

Yeah, um, you kinda don't get it. You can't spit in public without hitting someone who'd happily write an episode of their favorite show for five bucks and a peck on the cheek from Eva Longoria. And there are plenty of writers unemployed by Hollywood who could write this stuff as well or better than anyone in the field. That's not the point. The point is that money is made, and whether the writer makes five bucks or fifty thousand, it's the same profit coming in. Who deserves it? Just because there are people who would work for peanuts doesn't mean that peanuts are all they've earned.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:48 AM on January 15, 2008


That. Right there. That's the 'splitting hairs' I have been talking about. The reason why unionizing doesn't work in this country is right there.

What?

You have a very different opinion of what "splitting hairs" means. You must mean the phrase "the very crux of the discussion".

There are over a million members of the Steelworker's union. If a tiny plant in Topeka goes on strike, that does not automatically mean the other 999,950 have to go on strike or else they are scabs.

You're just plain wrong. I'm sorry, everyone likes to be right. I know it sucks. But you've let your rhetoric get in the way of your reasoning.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:50 AM on January 15, 2008


ZachsMind writes "Not quite. And you can probably get away with it. Doesn't make it right. This ain't algebra. This is people's livelihoods. This is the future of an industry we're talking about. "

Yes, and the people you blame came to amicable agreements that were what the writers wanted, which is the whole point of the strike, so the union blessed it. You're tilting at windmills. The WGA is not calling Letterman a scab. You're not even close to being involved, so I have to take their word for it.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2008


Now that's the kind of talk that really make the WGA writers feel like they should put your needs above theirs

They can do whatever the fuck they want in their salary dispute, but to act as if they're Buddhist monks in Burma being tortured by the junta sounds kind of, you know, shameful. It's not about democracy, it's a salary dispute.

It's sad to realize that Vaclav Havel, jailed because of his opinions, had more restraint -- and manners -- in his writings than the Hollywood writers rhetoric in order to squeeze more money out of their masters. And frankly, his plays are also slightly better than the average Hollywood piece of shit that comes out of the average WGA member's laptop.

So please lose the victim act, try to get your money, enjoy the good press coming out of your nice PR fund (several hundred thousand dollars, by the way, by the WGA's own admission) and concentrate on getting better, more skillful negotiators as your union representatives next time this happens.
posted by matteo at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2008


fourcheesemac writes "This is a derail, and I guess I am sorry I started it because it never gets resolved (obviously) by yelling at each other. But it does amaze me to see all this sympathy for the striking WGA writers expressed by people I've seen defend the illegal downloading of music."

You can't stop people from downloading music (or WGA-written shows, for that matter), short of draconian measures. You also cannot control an unorganized mass of people whose only trait they share is that they downloaded some copyrighted material without paying for it. You can't negotiate with them. You can't find their spokesperson. The WGA and the AMTPT are organized entities with specific goals and negotiating powers, who are trying to hash out the terms of a contract. They both have spokespeople and talk to the press on a regular basis. Downloaders? Not so much. The music industry refuses to rethink their business models, which is hurting the artists, and the industry gets most of their money anyway. Your point is a red herring.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:11 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm WGA since 2000 and the people working at Letterman are not scabs.

End of that argument.
posted by wfc123 at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just because there are people who would work for peanuts doesn't mean that peanuts are all they've earned.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at there. If you have a choice of two people, one who's willing to write you an episode for $500 (or whatever), and another who's going to charge twice as much and wants a cut of all the downstream profits, it's kind of a no-brainer who you're going to go with. That doesn't really strike me as a particularly tricky moral issue.

There are lots of industries that don't work on a residuals basis. Heck, I work as a consultant and I don't do stuff like that -- if I tried, I'd be out of a job, because some other consultant would offer a comparable 'product' with fewer strings attached; a better value for the money, in other words. And I couldn't really fault the client for taking them up on it -- I would, in their position. As a result, I sell my labor at rates set by the market's demand for my skills, just like most people in the world, and perhaps it's time for the writers to consider asking for cash on the barrel-head, too.

If the end result is that screenwriting is no longer a viable full-time employment option, because there are just too many people willing to do it for cheap, so what? I've got a whole stack of hobbies I'd like to do professionally, but it's just not going to happen because there's insufficient demand. Writers aren't special.

But anyway, I don't really have a problem with the WGA trying to get the best deal possible for its members. I expect them to, just like I expect the studios to chisel them in order to get the best deal possible from their end, also. That's business. What I resent are the laws that force employers to negotiate with unions who don't represent the labor/talent pool.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am completely ignorant of the details of this strike; what follows is just (limited) common sense. (Common sense to my mind, at least.)

It seems to me that Zachsmind has a point, but doesn't take this thing far enough. If Letterman, Stewart, Colbert et al make deals w/ the union so that they can start running their shows again, it takes the edge off of the strike. The point of the strike is that nobody in Hollywood is writing and as a result, the suits feel the pressure.

But by allowing cutting deals with certain shows, it's the union that is cutting it's own legs out from under itself. It makes its strike weaker, because the suits don't have nearly as much pressure on them.

As a result, it's the union that is screwing things up for it's own members. Now, if I was a member I would not be happy w/ the union allowing these side deals. It would make me consider crossing the picket lines and going to work. So (were ZachsMind) a WGA memeber, I would say: you're right! They're scabs! And your union is approving of their scabbery! So your union sucks! Break the strike!

There's a good chance that I'm completely wrong here. Feel free to point out the flaws in my logic. I seriously just want to better understand this thing.
posted by nushustu at 11:45 AM on January 15, 2008


If the end result is that screenwriting is no longer a viable full-time employment option, because there are just too many people willing to do it for cheap, so what?

When the networks and film studios start making "beer money" off what they produce, okay, I'll agree with you. Until then -- sorry, but no.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:11 PM on January 15, 2008


Television differs from IT workers because of the control the major studios have in the industry. Although some mefites argue that TV is dead, for 99% of america primetime still rules, and primetime is controlled by a handful of corporations.

When you discuss the IT version, you mention how the market will force you to work for what the next guy will work for, but you're overlooking the fact that the market affects the bosses as well as the developers. If your boss is only willing to pay you peanuts so he can maximize his own profits, odds are his competitor will be willing to hire away his top developers, which will eventually put him out of business. TV is different, because there really isn't an option for a competitor. If I develop the funniest show tomorrow, I still can't broadcast it across America.

Maybe some day, all content will be delivered online, and then if someone wants to underpay his staff, he'll lose his staff to the next guy. Eventually, the market will force a balance. The best writers will be used (since the public is only willing to pay the same rate and will choose the best content), and the writers will maximize their profits (since it will no longer be economical for the next guy to hire the top writers away and produce his own show). However, this is far from reality of the industry today. Viacom (just to name one) wields an incredible amount of power over what makes it in front of viewers, which is why I believe the market powers are only really affecting one side of the equation. Hence the need for the union to protect the writers.

I'm not affiliated with the union, or any union for that matter, that's just my opinion on why the IT comparison doesn't work.
posted by Crash at 12:52 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048:
"If you can get a large percentage of all the people capable of performing a job to voluntarily join a union and bargain collectively, wonderful."
&
"What I resent are the laws that force employers to negotiate with unions who don't represent the labor/talent pool."


Some unions work like this (closed shops). In some trades (or crafts) you have to join the union, and pay dues before you're eligible to apply for a job. Also, I'm pretty sure that this is how the WGA, SAG, et al work. Not quite what you're getting at, but the end result of that preference in practice.

Personally I'm much more in favour of open shops. When you get hired, you become part of the union. I prefer my local to represent my workplace at the table rather than an entire trade, including people who could but don't work here.
posted by dr. moot at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2008


All this "Other people are losing their jobs OMG!" is horseshit. The rest of the unions in Hollywood support the WGA. The whole "Don't strike because other workers might be hurt!" is boss-fellating idiocy; good unions support each other against the bosses and resist such efforts to pit worker against worker.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:10 PM on January 15, 2008


And what is this "TV writers write shit so I don't care" nonsense? Do you really think that TV writers write what and how they do because that's what they find the most satisfying to write? Listen to DVD commentaries sometime, management is far more responsible for what goes into the final product than any writer.

Jesus, people never get tired of blaming victims. At least it's no longer fashionable to blame rape victims.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2008


Some unions work like this (closed shops). In some trades (or crafts) you have to join the union, and pay dues before you're eligible to apply for a job. Also, I'm pretty sure that this is how the WGA, SAG, et al work. Not quite what you're getting at, but the end result of that preference in practice.

I should have been a bit more clear. Actually the 'closed shop' thing seems totally unacceptable to me, but forced bargaining seems almost as bad. They both lead to the same effect, though, which is to close out non-members of the union from working in a particular sector, despite being qualified and potentially offering a better value for the employer's dollar than union members.

I prefer my local to represent my workplace at the table rather than an entire trade, including people who could but don't work here.

As you should! It makes sense that you'd want the union to represent only the workers that are actually employed, once you're in and have a job there. Naturally, you want to protect your position. But it doesn't do much good for the people standing out in the proverbial unemployment line, so as a matter of public policy I don't think we should necessarily force companies to negotiate with unions. What's good for the current union membership may not be good for the workforce as a whole.

If we didn't force employers to negotiate with unions, the unions would have to (in order to remain effective) attempt to organize all the potential workers in the sector, rather than just the ones currently holding the jobs, and would probably do a better job representing workers rights generally, instead of just protecting employees against those other workers who'd do their jobs.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2008


disclaimer : Fuck em. I can't take it seriously, at all. It's just bullshit, and its irrelevant bullshit because they write shit, anyway. TV writing ain't high art.

Shhh, what's that under the bridge over there?

I totally agree though, no TV show has ever exhibited any artistic qualities. Ever. The medium itself completely and totally is antithetical to any kind of artistic integrity. I would go so far as to say, in the 70 or so years that TV has existed, it has been a complete vacuum; totally bereft of anything of lasting value.
posted by quin at 2:04 PM on January 15, 2008


Um... if someone can do the job as well as a union member, why wouldn't they join the union?

"Funny how people tend to be sympathetic to people who write crappy TV shows, but completely unsympathetic to songwriters who have been raped by the rampant illegal music downloading so often defended on Metafilter. But that's another subject, I guess. By the usual MeFi logic, the writers are just going to have to find some other way to monetize their work."

That's retarded, here's why: Illegal downloads don't really make anyone money. If songwriters wanted a piece of the ad revenue from an MP3 blog (Reaganyouth would have been one to hit up), I'd support that, and would expect ASCAP or BMI to make a deal. But where the dissonance comes is that there's no real money being made from illegal downloads, and often no money (for artists/writers) being made from legal downloads. If musicians unions wanted to go on strike against the record companies for screwing them, well, hell, I'll support that picket line in a second. But attempting to conflate the two issues is axe-grinding bullshit, and an attempt to force your personal issue into a topic where it doesn't really belong.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on January 15, 2008


PS—I just spent $60 on albums I'd already illegally downloaded, but now own.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on January 15, 2008


If you've downloaded a couple of hundred songs in your life, a five-dollar donation to SoundExchange should cover the amount lost by artists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I've been on strike (for ten months once) and some management people worked our jobs. They were scabs. But, in my case, there were legal decisions that said these people didn't have to do work they weren't hired for. The courts would protect them if they refused an order to do someone else's work. I don't know how that applies to Jon Stewart exactly since I suppose his contract puts him in a different position. But that makes me ask how come his contract doesn't have a provision about not crossing a picket line? And, since the sale of the writers' product on-line and other "non-traditional" ways is at the heart of this dispute, Stewart's creating content for Comedy Central is not helpful to the union. The object of a strike is to starve the industry of the workers' output, those non-workers who create more output are scabs.
As for Letterman: if the union's strategy was to sign individual contracts with employers who met their demands, then he's not a scab.
posted by CCBC at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2008


But that makes me ask how come his contract doesn't have a provision about not crossing a picket line?

It does. Unfortunately, the line reads "You will too cross a picket line to perform non-struck duties." It is, in fact, one of the provisions that the AMPTP laid down with their "New Economic Partnership" - a contractual guarantee that WGA members would not strike in solidarity with any other creative unions (IE- they know they're going to try to peg SAG later this year, and they don't want us helping.)
posted by headspace at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2008


No one should sign a contract that includes that clause.
posted by CCBC at 2:37 PM on January 15, 2008


What a bizarre thread. Let me see if I can parse some of the arguments that have been made here:

1) When employers accede completely to union demands, so the union ends the strike against those employers and lets the employees of that company return to work ... the employers and employees are scabs. This is true as long as any other company, anywhere, has not acceded to union demands, and arguing otherwise is "splitting hairs".

2) Unions suck because they tried to guaranteed American workers things like 40-hour work weeks, reasonable pay, and safe working conditions, causing some employers to respond by hiring workers in other countries without unions which do not have 40-hour work weeks, reasonable pay, and safe union conditions. This is clearly the fault of the unions, and has nothing to do with the employers or the need to improve working conditions around the globe. This country has frankly been destroyed by the fact that some people are as a result unemployed instead of working a million hours a day in the mercury processing pool with no benefits for twenty cents an hour.

3) Because many television writers are not actually in danger of starving to death RIGHT NOW, there should be no sympathy for them and they're just a bunch of crybabies. There's absolutely nothing inherently unfair about executives earning a salary seventy thousand times that of the people in their company who actually do the work; it's just the American way. Paying workers a fixed salary rather than some calculable percentage of the income they helped to create is a natural law and cannot be changed, and it's certainly nothing anyone should consider an issue of fairness.

... What?
posted by kyrademon at 2:49 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


(I'm afraid the "non-payment of royalties to creators by purchasers could be viewed as roughly morally equivalent to non-payment of royalties to creators by sellers" does seem fairly logical to me, though.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:55 PM on January 15, 2008


My objection, like I said, was to your hijacking of the thread

I explained why the issue was related to the thread.

Who the fuck died and made you Queen of the Filter anyway? You "hijacked" the thread just as much by responding as if I was baiting you somehow.

The issue is entirely relevant. The WGA is claiming that the studios should be paying them higher residuals for internet downloads, or residuals at all. One of the arguments the studios use against them is the one you tout -- downloading doesn't affect the market value of your work. Or something roughly to that effect.

So I withdraw my words of conciliation and toss a nice stinking bloom of fuck you too at your feet. You're an idiot.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2008


Does zachsmind come into every single WGA strike thread and spew the same tired shit over and over again? Christ, it's like deja vu.
posted by tehloki at 4:08 PM on January 15, 2008


Oh, go fuck yourself, fourcheesemac. No one gives a shit that you wrote the MC Skat Kat rap for Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" twenty years ago and your corporate masters still send you a check for eight dollars once a decade so you feel compelled to defend them in a thread completely unrelated to the subject. Shut the fuck up, you tiresome windbag.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, a more appropriate place for "isn't it funny/horrible/emblematic of the hypocrisy of this site that Mefites find _________ objectionable, but __________ just fine? I ask you, shitfaces, explain yourselves" is probably MetaTalk, not an ongoing thread that can only become about your talking point -- however tangentially related it may or may not be -- if we change the subject altogether (which, being that some of us are even in WGA, for fuck's sake, I don't think most people are eager to do).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:46 PM on January 15, 2008


If you've downloaded a couple of hundred songs in your life, a five-dollar donation to SoundExchange should cover the amount lost by artists.

Off-topic, but WFMU spent a day playing music by artists that SoundExchange can't find (anyone see Kraftwerk lately?).
posted by armacy at 6:57 PM on January 15, 2008


nushustu: "If Letterman, Stewart, Colbert et al make deals w/ the union so that they can start running their shows again, it takes the edge off of the strike. The point of the strike is that nobody in Hollywood is writing and as a result, the suits feel the pressure. But by allowing cutting deals with certain shows, ...it's the union that is screwing things up for its own members."

Nushustu managed to succinctly summarize and distill what I'd been trying to say. Thanks, dude.

...

My mistake is that I'm blaming the big name producer/writer types like Letterman and Stewart for caving, because they WERE in a position to turn this strike around in favor of the writers. I thought they fumbled. Fact is, they never had the ball. The union did. Ya know whut? You're absolutely right, MeFites of Triskellion. I'm wrong to defend the WGA.

It's the writer's guild that shot itself in the foot by telling the big names they could go back to work with limited temporary deals. If Letterman can cut a decent deal for his people, why can't Joe Schmoe Writer cut a similar deal for himself? And if he can't? Fuck him. The fact he couldn't cut a deal for himself proves he never deserved it in the first place.

I'll let ya have the word "scab" back. No need to let the word have any venom or bile or acid to it. No need for it to mean someone who crosses the picket line and lets corporate bosses win especially since these big names ARE in most cases corporate bosses. The WGA has proven itself a failure. It can't help the average writer cut a decent deal. Kill the union.

From now on, its every writer for him or herself. Being a writer shouldn't even be considered a decent profession in Hollywood. Hell, all ya need are a thousand monkeys and a typewriter. The producers are the real heroes here, and the producer/writer combination are the super heroes! If you can't maintain creative control of your work in a deal you cut yourself without help from a pathetic excuse for a union, you don't deserve any respect, and being a shit faced little pipsqueak of a writer means nothing. We should line them all up and shit on them. HEY! They're all lined up in California right now, aren't they? Let's go down to the picket lines tomorrow and shit on all their heads. They got it comin' to them. Damn stupid writers!

Thanks MetaFilter! I'm now thoroughly convinced that I was wrong and you're right!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:03 PM on January 15, 2008


ZachsMind, you have managed to continually miss the point every single other person here has been trying to get across to you. Nonetheless, I will try one more friggin' time:

Stewart and Colbert: Have crossed picket lines to do shows. Employees of Viacom, which has made no deal with the WGA. Are very arguably scabs, yes you are right. Have nonetheless elicited sympathy from some because of the difficult position they were placed in, and WGA has publically chosen to blame Viacom rather than them for a number of reasons, but yes. Your point of view is valid and makes sense.

Letterman: Not an employee. Owns his own shows. Is essentially a tiny network all to himself. Has agreed to the WGA's demands, so they have ended the strike with regard to the tiny Letterman network. Has NOT crossed picket lines to do his shows. Is NOT somehow getting around the strike for his own show. He has AGREED TO THE UNION'S DEMANDS. The fact that his show gets its writers back is not counter to the Union's goal, but is in fact SHOWING THE OTHER NETWORKS THAT IF THEY AGREE TO UNION DEMANDS, THEY GET THEIR WRITERS AND SHOWS BACK. Would be entirely stupid and pointless for the WGA to continue to punish him, because that would show other networks that they can agree to union demands and still get nothing. NOT A SCAB. YOUR POINT OF VIEW ABOUT HIM IS NOT VALID AND MAKES NO SENSE.

I do not know why you continue to conflate the two situations, and accuse others of splitting hairs when they point this out, when the two situations are not only completely different, but in fact entirely opposite in every regard. What Letterman has done is the ENTIRE point of the WGA strike, and it is baffling to the rest of us that you cannot see this. And please note that we are NOT SAYING THIS about Stewart, Colbert, et al, despite the fact that you continually act as if we are. They are scabs, but ones who have elicited some sympathy, because of the difficulty of their position. Your argument that they should not be doing their shows makes sense to many. Letterman is not a scab, and your argument that he should not be doing his show makes sense to no one.
posted by kyrademon at 7:48 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


No one gives a shit that you wrote the MC Skat Kat rap for Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" twenty years ago

If this is true I most certainly DO give a shit.

Try to fight it but I'm telling you Jack.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:41 PM on January 15, 2008


No one gives a shit that you wrote the MC Skat Kat rap for Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" twenty years ago

i do, i do!
posted by pyramid termite at 8:44 PM on January 15, 2008


If we didn't force employers to negotiate with unions

do you know what a negotiation is like these days for a lot of employers?

"here's our best offer, take it or leave it"

"but but but ... we think this would be more fair and you really ought to do this"

"here's our best offer, take it or leave it"

"the membership voted it down, you have to give us better than that"

"here's our best offer, take it or leave it, but now you don't get the signing bonus and the first year's raise, which makes it our new best offer"

(you think this is satire, don't you? my god, this is exactly how it is - they actually have the nerve to make the offer worse and then turn around and describe it as a NEW best offer)

*3 more years pass*

"if you don't give us a better offer, we're going to strike"

"we're keeping the plant running anyway - and we just bought a company with other sites just as yours - and land in mexico is SO cheap these days, to say nothing of the labor ... here's our best offer, take it or leave it"

*signs the same contract they were offered 4 years ago, minus 4 years worth of raises*

"cool! yeah, it's time for 7 days a week overtime! and we're writing people up for everything we can think of! YOU'RE GOING TO PAY FOR GIVING US WHAT WE WANTED"

i swear i'm not making this up

you see, under this lousy ass administration, "good faith negotiating" means nothing else but you sat in a room for a few minutes every month and listened to the union whine about the shitty offer you've put in front of them for the umpteenth time - it doesn't mean you have to compromise, it doesn't mean you have to change anything, all it means is you have to listen to them whine about it

i think it's got something to do with the laborer being worthy of his hire and all the rest of that fundie bible stuff

and that's what employers "have" to do - my god, it's soooo tough ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:04 PM on January 15, 2008


Wow, Tehanu's link about the WGA strategy is definitely worth a read, with a fascinating take on the position of the lawyers in this dispute.
posted by mediareport at 9:08 PM on January 15, 2008


ZachsMind writes "Thanks MetaFilter! I'm now thoroughly convinced that I was wrong and you're right!"

Well, I would like to make one more point, though I'm not sure if you'll keep reading this thread anyway. Call it sentimentality or what you will, but if there is one thing Letterman is known for in the business is treating his people well and sticking by them. Many of his bits involving his crew are just inventions to give his staff speaking parts, thereby increasing their income - you get paid per line. I have a very hard time believing that he'd deliberately do anything that would even give the appearance he wanted to screw over his writers or cross the union picket line. That's just not something he'd do. You get to a certain point in the business, work with many of the same people for decades, and you don't want to foul it all up being greedy. I understand that you have a different view of it and feel you are being supportive of the writers, but those very writers disagree with you here.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:15 PM on January 15, 2008


You're all a bunch of agitpropists.

If anyone who doesn't smell like the docks or a coal-mine needs me I'll be at the club.
posted by oxford blue at 3:25 AM on January 16, 2008


OxfordBlue: "If anyone who doesn't smell like the docks or a coal-mine needs me I'll be at the club."

This is just like my opinion on abortion: I don't have a vagina so my opinion (beyond my opinion that regarding what happens inside a vagina, only opinions of those who have vaginae should matter) shouldn't matter.

If you aren't working for an industry that's really had to fight for and with unions, you suck. That's what Oxford Blue is saying here. And he's got a point. I'm certain he's got a point. I don't know what it IS, but he's got a point. I had to go look up 'agitpropist' by the way. I think he just called me a communist. That's pretty fuckin' funny. Y'know, I tried to get into that club of Oxford Blue's, but they said no cuz I wasn't a communist. So there ya go.

KyraDemon: "What Letterman has done is the ENTIRE point of the WGA strike, and it is baffling to the rest of us that you cannot see this. "

But! But! But!

There's this line. Right here!

*points at picket line*

See that guy over there?

*points at David Letterman*

He crossed this line! Lemme go look up 'scab' real quick.

*looks up 'scab' in a dictionary*

"person who crosses picket line"

I know he 'cut a deal' for his company, but there's still other writers in other companies who don't have deals. They're still out picketing. There's STILL a line here.

*points at line*

*blinks*

*points at Dave, who's buying a hot dog from a vendor on the other side of said line*

*blinks*

*points at line*

*drops dictionary to ground for emphasis*

*points at Dave*

*blinks again*

*points at line with one hand, and Dave with the other*

*blinks hard*

So if your definition of scab is "person who crosses picket line but not really" then my definition of president could be "person who's dragged this country and the constitution through the dirt the past seven years but not really." If that's the case, that's quite a relief, cuz here I thought all this time George W. Bush was in the white house meddling with inalienable rights. I must have been wrong. I'm so relieved.

*blinks hard again*

*points at Dave*

*points at picket line*

No? Really? All right then, have it your way.

*shrugs, and the dictionary explodes*
posted by ZachsMind at 4:54 AM on January 16, 2008


There's this line. Right here!... *points at picket line*... See that guy over there?... *points at David Letterman*... He crossed this line!

There is no picket line in front of Letterman's theatre, except in the imagination of ZachsMind. Which is also the only place where Letterman is a scab.
posted by grouse at 5:11 AM on January 16, 2008


ZachsMind gets like this sometimes, folks; it locks into an attention-seeking groove and can't get out. Sometimes its funny, honest. Probably best to ignore him here, though.
posted by mediareport at 5:27 AM on January 16, 2008


Wait, did 4cheese really write the rap part of that Paula Abdul song? Or was that a joke?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:36 AM on January 16, 2008


Wouldn't the animated cat have written his own words? For street cred, if nothing else.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


He crossed this line! Lemme go look up 'scab' real quick.

i love it when people mistake political rhetoric for truth

Wouldn't the animated cat have written his own words?

he did, but the meow mix people threatened to sue
posted by pyramid termite at 6:01 AM on January 16, 2008


Worldwide Pants CEO Rob Burnett said. "We were able to give them pretty much what they wanted."

Yeah, right. Pull the other one.

Dave's production company didn't so much convince the network to comply with the WGA's demands, but promised they'd pay the financial difference between what CBS/Paramount will pay, and what WGA is asking.

For the duration of the strke.

CBS said in a separate statement that the network controls the Internet exploitation rights for both programs "and will comply with any eventual negotiated agreement between the AMPTP and the WGA."

The line exists. Dave's just paying off the WGA to keep that picket line from appearing in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater. It's still there for everyone else.

You may be fooled. I am not.

MediaReport: "ZachsMind gets like this sometimes, folks; it locks into an attention-seeking groove and can't get out. Sometimes its funny, honest. Probably best to ignore him here, though."

Yah. Pay no attention to the truth. You're getting your late night fix. What do you care?

Why should you care what this does to thousands of people's livlihoods? You don't think writing is a viable occupation anyway. It's not like coal mining. Why are writers arguing? They should be thankful for what they get.

Pay no attention to the invisible midget behind the curtain. Lookit all the smoke and mirror. How pretty.

*points at picket line*

*points at Dave*

Don't pay attention to that.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:11 AM on January 16, 2008


*looks up 'scab' in a dictionary*

"person who crosses picket line"


The Random House Dictionary defines scab as:
4. a worker who refuses to join a labor union or to participate in a union strike, who takes a striking worker's place on the job, or the like.
The OED:
4. b. A workman who refuses to join an organized movement on behalf of his trade; in extended uses: a person who refuses to join a strike or who takes over the work of a striker; a blackleg; a strike-breaker. orig. U.S.
The key word there is REFUSES.

Did Letterman REFUSE to participate? The Late Show was shut down until the first of January, when the deal was finally cut with the WGA. That sure doesn't sound like REFUSING to me.

And the strike against Worldwide Pants is OVER. They SETTLED with the WGA by AGREEING TO WHATEVER THE UNION GETS. The broader strike CONTINUES against non-struck companies but is OVER against orgs that the WGA has settled with. (Note the Weinsteins and Tom Cruise's United Artists also got settlements.)

Let's put this as simply as possible. Let's say the UAW announces they will strike the three US automakers -- GM, Ford, Chrysler. The Big Three hold the line, but eventually Chrysler breaks ranks and signs a deal with the UAW saying that whatever the union gets from GM and Ford they'll get at Chrysler. The UAW then lifts the pickets and the UAW workers return to work at that point.

Under your reasoning, the Chrysler workers are now all SCABS, even though there's a settlement and no picket. Would you agree with this assessment?
posted by dw at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2008


WHY DO YOU EVEN BOTHER?
posted by smackfu at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2008


ZachsMind: You are truly so ignorant on labor issues that you really should refrain from trying to discuss this subject.

I'm not saying you are stupid, you could be a nuclear physicist for all I know... but I am saying quite strongly that you are ignorant of labor practices. I'm not sure you really understand what a union is, what a strike is, what a picket line is, and what a scab is.

You are making wild guesses based on your flawed, simplistic impressions of what these things are.

For god's sake, there was a MEMBER of the WGA in this thread, who stated, unequivocally, that Dave's show is not being struck against.

Do you understand that when a union goes on strike, they don't strike against "the universe" but against their individual employers?

You do know that, right? Or do you think that "on strike" is some sort of mystical state of being? Maybe you think the union is some sort of amorphous energy-being who is everywhere at the same time.

Whatever you think, you are wrong. And everyone has grown tired of telling you how wrong you are.

And for the record I don't watch late-night TV. I watch about 3-4 shows per week on television, and I'm pretty pissed off that those have been locked in reruns for what seems like a very long time.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2008


"For god's sake, there was a MEMBER of the WGA in this thread, who stated, unequivocally, that Dave's show is not being struck against."

You are absolutely right. World Wide Pants is paying the union to keep the picket line away from the Ed Sullivan Theater, but Paramount/CBS still refuses to cater to the WGA's demands.

This is with the union's blessing. I'm not questioning that.

World Wide Pants is providing written content to the network during the writer's strike. This harms the efforts of said strike. With regards to the latenight timeslot, it lets CBS off the hook.

You can call me stupid all you want. Make this personal. I don't care.

I'm not blind. I'm not deaf. I'm not dumb.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:14 AM on January 16, 2008


Well, 2 out 3 ain't bad.

WWP's is not the same thing as CBS. If every show was independently produced by companies like WWP, and every single production company settled with the union, it wouldn't matter if CBS never did.
posted by Crash at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2008


I'm not saying you are stupid, you could be a nuclear physicist for all I know...

ZachsMind: Well, I didn't call you stupid, in fact I specifically said I didn't think you were stupid. But, that you were apparently ignorant of the entire body of knowledge regarding organized labor.

But, since your reading comprehension is so low that you can't even read a direct statement and comprehend it, but in fact come to the opposite conclusion, then yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and call you stupid.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:47 AM on January 16, 2008


Ummm, Zach?

I was kind of being sarcastic.

I don't agree with you.

My apologies if my previous post was too complicated.
posted by nushustu at 12:19 PM on January 16, 2008


Well, that was amusing, if predictable.

"How can you say he's not a scab! He crossed a picket line! Scabs are people who cross picket lines! How can you ignore the picket line! If he crossed a picket line, he's a scab, and he crossed that picket line! Why don't you pay attention to the picket line?"

"There isn't a picket line there. He didn't cross one."

...

...

...

"Doesn't matter!"


Zachsmind, if you wanted to engage in a reasonable discussion about whether the WGA made a wise decision with regard to World Wide Pants when CBS technically holds the new media rights, or whether or not Stewart, Colbert, et al should be forgiven or held accountable for their activities considering the immense financial and contractual pressure on them, many people here would have been happy to talk to you. The problem is not your opinions, although it is true many people here disagree with you, but with your manic aggression, bizarre hyperbole, and pig-headed tendency to hold to believing that certain statements you have made are right when they have been clearly demonstrated to be factually wrong in every regard - all of which make you come off as a frothing lunatic.

In short, shouting louder is, in fact, failing to win over the people complaining that you are shouting too loud, especially when you seem to think they're saying they can't hear you and refuse to believe otherwise.
posted by kyrademon at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2008


"There isn't a picket line there. He didn't cross one."

This has so turned into The Argument Sketch.

"I've told you once..."
posted by ZachsMind at 6:32 PM on January 16, 2008


Yes. But you have incorrectly assessed which character you are.
posted by kyrademon at 9:42 PM on January 16, 2008


On a related point, anyone who talks trash about TV needs to firstly watch The West Wing, and secondly get the hell of my lawn.

Sorry your application got rejected Zach; next time try making friends with the owners of the local mill or shipping concern!
posted by oxford blue at 12:52 AM on January 17, 2008


"Yes. But you have incorrectly assessed which character you are."

No no no. Hold your head and go 'WAAAAH!' Try it again.

*bonk*
posted by ZachsMind at 6:34 AM on January 17, 2008


It seems to me that Zachsmind has a point, but doesn't take this thing far enough. If Letterman, Stewart, Colbert et al make deals w/ the union so that they can start running their shows again, it takes the edge off of the strike. The point of the strike is that nobody in Hollywood is writing and as a result, the suits feel the pressure.

Actually, Letterman's writer-written show should provide more competition for the other production companies (who are running re-runs or non-writer-written shows), and thus add to the pressure on the producers to agree to the unions demands.

That Leno's show still had higher ratings is just sad, because he wasn't as funny as Letterman before the strike. And Letterman doesn't set that high a bar. Sometimes I think that Leno only has an audience because even young people forget that it's not Johnny Carson any more.

As for the illegal downloading - I supose that right now, considering the strike, downloading illegal television would be an action to support the writers. You don't want to add to the download or DVD revenue, afterall.*

Note - this comment is entirely in jest, and not an advocacy of anything. Downloading television without paying is copyright infringement and just as illegal as speeding. They are the same, well, except that speeding kills people. I'm off to wear bumper stickers on my forehead against speeding.
posted by jb at 9:26 AM on January 17, 2008


Update: The director's guild (DGA) and AMPTP reached an agreement today. Note that it still needs to be voted on by the DGA later this month. Analysis of the fine print by the WGA and others is still in progress, but the AMPTP has basically offered the WGA the same deal.
posted by Tehanu at 5:51 PM on January 17, 2008


NYT: Tentative deal reached in writers' strike. So is this what the writers were hoping for?
posted by grouse at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2008


So is this what the writers were hoping for?

That's what they're deciding now after yesterday's meeting. The WGA's negotiating committee, board, and council have all approved sending the deal to the membership for a vote. Members are debating some specific terms some people are still skeptical about in preparation for voting, but the general bits I've read from WGA member blogs and reporters quoting them sound pretty optimistic. It does not include some key things they wanted, but it will be the first contract ever to include residuals from new media, and that is no small achievement.

Writers with production duties can return to work tomorrow. There will be no picketing Monday or Tuesday, but the strike is still on until at least Tuesday night. In the meantime, members will vote whether or not to continue to strike, with the results counted and announced Tuesday night. Over the next few weeks, there will be a vote on whether or not to ratify the deal that's on the table.

NYT's reporting on this issue has left a lot to be desired. Namely, any attempt at accuracy and objectivity. Maybe they're getting a bit more objective (less "arty glasses and fancy scarves"), but they're still not all that accurate.

Writers had demanded a much bigger share of returns from downloads and Web streaming than they had received in the past from the distribution of shows on older media like cassettes and DVDs, as well as expanded jurisdiction over reality television and animated features.

This for example is not entirely true. The WGA wanted more residuals from DVDs, which if agreed to by the AMPTP would have increased their residuals but still not to the level the WGA was supposed to receive in an earlier contract term that the AMPTP didn't honor. back when DVDs were "new," the AMPTP promised that the WGA would get a larger residual amount later if they took a small amount then. DVDs were at the time expensive to produce and not yet an established medium with consumers. "Much bigger" means an increase from 4 cents per $20ish DVD to 8 cents. Writers were supposed to get even more than the 8 cents years ago. They were really demanding that they get some of the residuals they were promised long ago.

The NYT statement is entirely untrue for "new media"-- meaning downloads and streaming from the internet. The WGA currently receives NOTHING for new media. It is all considered "promotional" and therefore not eligible for residuals.

I suppose "expanded jurisdiction" for reality and animation may be an accurate way of saying "people writing these things want to join the Guild and currently are not allowed to by studios."

The term that seems to be causing the most uncertainty is a window (17 days for some kinds of content and I think 24 days for others) of free content reuse on the web. Any story on the new contract that leaves this out is really skirting the heart of the matter.

Better information can be found at United Hollywood.
posted by Tehanu at 2:50 PM on February 10, 2008


Summary of the tentative agreement [pdf].
posted by Tehanu at 6:05 PM on February 10, 2008


The strike's officially over. Writers return to work tomorrow. The vote to return to work was 92.5%.
posted by Tehanu at 9:06 PM on February 12, 2008


Anyone counted the cost in terms of number of dead dramas?
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on February 13, 2008


Recent TVGuide summary of the status of various shows that were on the air when the strike started.
posted by Tehanu at 2:23 PM on February 13, 2008


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