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Writer’s Guild Strike Set To End As Soon As Final Approval Comes In, Actor’s Strike Continues On

WGA strike, by "ufcw770", Creative Commons BY 2.0

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After 146 days of the strike, the picketing has at least ended, in anticipation of the final inking of the agreement. So, this agreement to cease striking is tentative, but they expect to fully be done by end of this week. Union leadership has stated that it must deliberate on the final language of the agreement, this after stating that they now have an agreement “on principle”. In the meantime, the union has given the go ahead to cease picketing, while also stating that they “encourage” their union members to stand in solidarity with the actors, who still remain on the picket line.

Here is THR reporting.

So, after the longest WGA strike in history, they have an agreement “on principle”? But I remain skeptical. Why is that?

Have you heard a discussion on the details of their agreement? Have you heard the two-sided back-and-forth representing both perspectives in the debate? How about the issue with payments, or AI, or streaming residuals? No? Exactly.

I’ve been around to see strikes before. Not all of them Hollywood strikes. Guess what typically happens after a strike is resolved? They broadcast it to the heavens that they won, they got these particulars ironed out, and then display their “scalps.” What are the scalps? The tokens of their wins. For example, where once it was a bad incentive structure, now we have rewards for workers. Where once the retirement plans were inadequate, now they can protect their workers with thus-and-so retirement plans, which are far better.

But, as you can see, you can’t see what victories they’ve gained. They’ve agreed on principles, such as what? They want writers to have acceptable pay? Of course they do. They want better retirement? Of course they do. They want AI to remain a tool, instead of a competing player for authorship? Of course they do. It is TYPICAL for both parties in a strike to agree on principle. What workers need is to know is if they are being represented well by the union, in negotiating THE DETAILS of contracts. Not broadcasting this, makes it look like the details may only represent a “modest effort” on their part.

Obviously, a fair number of details will be too much legalese for regular readers to care about. This is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the issues writers care about and understand. These issues and agreement points need to be communicated before I will believe Hollywood has started to care. Put pen to paper and money in place of the mouth.

So, I stand skeptical, until we see that the unions will offer evidentiary “scalps” to their members, which is an evidence that they can negotiate successfully for them. Because if they cannot, how can we say that unions have done more than just avert greater disaster? And in this case, why are writers even part of the union? The disaster they are averting is really the loss of greater income from striking, as opposed to the disaster of working with these particular studios. Writers may have fared FAR better with individual contracts negotiated by representation. Because typically the scorched earth tactics that unions use can actually cause far more damage than benefit to the industry and to each member.

I mean, just look at it this way, if a writer has a choice between a streamer with no residuals and a studio with a better agreement on residuals, well… which one pays off? These are things that unions don’t even mess with, it’s the writer’s choice. They need to do the math to determine that working for the streamer doesn’t pay off, and so if given the choice, they will work at the studio. They should stop working at streamers if they don’t pay you well enough. Will they do this? Likely no, because basic economics says that one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This is only happening because streamers are taking over Hollywood, and so they feel that they need better negotiated contracts with streamers. But if writers refused to work with them the way they ought to have, we wouldn’t have this problem. Streamers wouldn’t have taken over Hollywood at all. Streamers play the long game with IP, meaning that they seek to own it, and control it far more completely than studios. This means that streamers pay out the nose on the day, but not in the long term. They want that long term money. While studios will wheel and deal with you.

With the studios, it’s another problem. They have the lawyers and success behind them to make it hard for you in court to actually capitalize on that agreement. The agreement may be on paper, but executing on it is iffy. This means I can relate to unionized efforts against them when multiple cases of unrealized gains (in this case, contractual infringement) occurs.

But do the unions protect members from these cases? It looks like they can’t do that either.

In my view, the issue isn’t streamers or the studios, but the unions. The unions have failed to hold court and assess the issue accurately. They have failed to hold studios and streamers accountable. And they have failed to protect their members from very substantive harm by the industry. Most of this harm isn’t bad contracts, but unrealized or violated contracts by studios, and failure of reps to acquire acceptable deals from their employers, making it not worth their time to work with reps or with unions in the first place.

What are you paying for? I don’t know, but what you’re getting is obviously not paying the bills, otherwise this strike wouldn’t have made sense.

Regardless, we will see what comes of this tentative arrangement, and if SAG-AFTRA can ink something soon as well. But, I’m telling you, if scalps aren’t displayed, it means that they brought nothing home to brag about, accept a return to business as usual.

Good luck to those who’ve been shafted, and understand that sometimes you get cheated by both sides who care more about the appearances and the politics than they do about your loyalty to the collective.

I truly hope it will work out best for the little people, instead of for the massive multinationals who have zero loyalty to American greatness in entertainment.

Armored handshake, by “Sodacan”, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 

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