WGA and AMPTP now in all-out battle

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WGA and AMPTP issued some fairly negative statements this week, assuring little chance they’ll get back to the negotiating table anytime soon. The general theme seems to be, “Who ‘ya gonna believe?”
After negotiations had broken off again, WGA West president Patric Verrone said the AMPTP moves were "actions that have shown a total disregard for their responsibilities to the creative community and the below-the-line workers that give so much to our industry. Still, our resolve is unwavering, and our utterly reasonable goal of achieving a contract for writers that allows us to keep up in a booming global industry is still the focus of our efforts."


WGA East President Michael Winship sent a message to guild members, the first three lines of which have become somewhat of a mantra for WGA: "They lie. And then they lie again. And then they lie some more. Because the AMPTP wants to create confusion, doubt, fear and dissension. They want to divide and conquer, to undercut our proven solidarity. They are spending a fortune—money that better could be used to help cover the comparatively small amount we’re asking for—on newspapers ads, political spin doctors and crisis management consultants specializing in union busting. The bottom line: Don’t believe a word the AMPTP has to say. If I hadn’t seen and heard it with my own eyes, I might not have believed the extraordinary depths of their dissembling."

Meanwhile, AMPTP issued its own missive, dubbed “Setting the record straight, version 2.” It says the WGA’s organizers made a variety of statements over the past three days that were factually inaccurate. Over the weekend, various WGA spokespeople indicated their surprise that the producers opposed the WGA’s efforts to expand the union’s jurisdiction over reality television and animation.

The Facts: Since the start of negotiations, the AMPTP has repeatedly told the WGA that the union’s proposals on jurisdiction in reality television and animation were completely unacceptable.  The record is clear: Notes from the negotiating sessions reveal that the AMPTP specifically rejected jurisdictional expansion into reality television on July 18, October 5, October 25, October 26, and again on November 4. These same negotiating session notes reveal that the AMPTP specifically rejected jurisdictional expansion into animation on July 18, October 5, October 25, October 26, and November 4.

Various WGA spokespeople have repeated the claim that this strike is about sharing the revenue from new media markets.  For example, SEIU President Andy Stern told the Los Angeles Times, "This really is the first significant 21st century strike. It’s raising the issues, as work changes, about how prosperity is going to be shared."

The Facts: The negotiations did not break down over new media issues.  Instead, the negotiations broke down primarily over one of the most old-fashioned issues of all: The desire of the WGA’s organizers to increase their own power and prestige by expanding the jurisdiction of the union over reality television and animation writers.  These jurisdictional expansion efforts have very little to do with the concerns of the working writers who are on strike.

WGA Statement
Patric Verrone told the Associated Press that, in reference to the studios, “I don’t really feel like they are negotiating.”

The Facts

Mr. Verrone was not even present at the decisive negotiating session on Friday, December 7th.  Instead Mr. Verrone attended a rock concert and rally held to support the WGA’s still-unsuccessful attempt to organize reality television writers.

WGA Statement

In a letter to members WGA East President Winship writes, “If I hadn’t seen and heard it with my own eyes, I might not have believed the extraordinary depths of their dissembling. Last week in Los Angeles, I sat in the caucus room as we waited for the studios and networks to come to the table and negotiate. And waited. And waited.”

The Facts

Mr. Winship may have been in the caucus room, but he never entered the negotiating room, where the negotiating committees from both sides met.  The fact is that neither Mr. Verrone, who was at a rock concert rally, nor Mr. Winship saw fit to sit across the table from the producers for this critical negotiating session.

WGA Statement

John Bowman told Entertainment Weekly that “we could’ve gotten this done in two days if they’d come in wheeling and dealing, and they’re not.”

The Facts

The WGA’s organizers refused repeated requests by the producers to begin negotiations much earlier, in the spring of 2007.  Had negotiations begun when the producers wanted them to start, perhaps the industry would not now be in the midst of this strike.

WGA Statement

WGA East President Winship said in a letter to WGA members that “we were told that we would be receiving the second half of” the producers’ proposal.

The Facts

Mr. Winship apparently does not understand what happened in the negotiating room on Friday.  The WGA’s negotiating chair, John Bowman, admits in his Entertainment Weekly interview that the producers put more on the table during the day on Friday.

“Q:  Does the WGA think any parts of the producers’ counter-offer on Friday were reasonable?

A:  I think they might publish it on their website; you can sort of look at it. I mean, it certainly was less movement than I would have liked, but nevertheless, it was enough for us — we wanted to stay there and counter and keep talking.”

WGA Statement

WGA negotiator John Bowman wrote “The AMPTP insists we let them do to the Internet what they did to home video.”

The Facts

The AMPTP’s proposed New Economic Partnership offered to share producers’ revenues from the Internet with writers.  Because the producers appreciate how quickly the Internet marketplace is changing, the New Economic Partnership’s Internet provisions would sunset in three years – thus allowing all of these issues to be re-examined anew in light of marketplace changes.  The WGA’s analogies to the relatively stable home video marketplace are therefore unfair.

WGA Statement

In a letter to WGA East members, organizers provided a lengthy description of the most recent bargaining sessions – much of which is completely incorrect.  For example, the WGA East letter says “instead, the AMPTP asked that we break off into smaller groups."

The Facts

The WGA itself suggested a series of "sidebar" discussions at which they insisted on setting aside the critical issue of new media to discuss production of documents, transfer of electronic data, expedited arbitration and the timing of residual payments from MyNetwork TV and the CW.

WGA Statement

The WGA East letter also says that “on Friday, members of the negotiating committee waited all day AGAIN, until the end of the day and week, 6 pm, when the AMPTP finally made a presentation."

The Facts

AMPTP presented its updated New Economic Partnership proposal at about 2:30 p.m. and waited several hours for the Guild to respond.

WGA Statement

WGA negotiator John Bowman told Entertainment Weekly that “what they’re doing is they have this sort of bargaining history with us.  They always give ultimatums. They say if you won’t do this we won’t talk to you anymore. Like the night before we went on strike [Nov. 4] they said, ‘Before you take DVDs off the table, we won’t give you an Internet proposal.’ And we took DVDs off the table and they didn’t give us one.”

The Facts

The AMPTP never demanded that the WGA withdraw its DVD proposal as a pre-condition to making an offer on Internet residuals.  In fact, the AMPTP’s actions proved otherwise, as the AMPTP presented the WGA with a wholly new TV streaming residual proposal before the WGA withdrew its proposal to double DVD residuals.

 


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.