More insightful emails passed on by my Shield buddy. This time from Stan Chervin and Kit Boss.
FROM STAN CHERVIN:
Dear Strike Team Members:
Since there was a lot of overlap of information given at the Captain's Meeting today and the Screenwriters' Meeting last night - not to mention the wealth of information sent to you by the WGA or available at unitedhollywood.com - I'll summarize the main points of what I feel you may not be aware of.
1. DON'T BELIEVE NIKKI FINKE. ONLY BELIEVE PATRIC VERONE
Many of us consult Nikki Finke's website Deadlinehollywooddaily.com for any news or the latest updates. Clearly, the Companies know that. So for the first three days of negotiations last week they systematically and with great pre-meditation "leaked" to her news about their "revolutionary" new proposal and how it should resolve the strike quickly. She posted the information, we all read it, and when the Companies proposal turned out to be nothing more than the same cuts, rollbacks and unfair compensation they've been offering since July all of our hopes, dreams and expectations of a happy resolution to the strike were dashed.
THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE COMPANIES WANT!! They want to raise our expectations, then dash them, then hope we'll be so demoralized we'll accept whatever low ball offer they put on the table. Because that's what they've always done.
It's not going to work this time.
The Companies have always worked with (and succeeded) using one principle tactic: Divide and Conquer. Raise their hopes, crash them down - divide and conquer. Lower their expectations, throw them a bone - divide and conquer. Drive them down to their absolute bottom line, offer them a mere pittance above it, hope enough writers are desperate enough to accept it - divide and conquer. Tell membership their leaders are crazy or strike-happy - divide and conquer. Spread lies and rumors about "other" writers going back to work - divide and conquer. Use "pattern negotiation" to reach an agreement with another guild first - divide and conquer. Divide and Conquer is all they know.
If we never let them divide us, they will never conquer us again.
And I can tell you, from personal experience, Nikki Finke often gets stuff wrong. So, do not believe anything you hear - a rumor, a report on a web site, a tip from a knowledgeable friend, anything! - until you hear it from Patric Verone.
2. "WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE THE NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE THAT GAVE AWAY THE INTERNET."
Patric Verone, John Bowman, David Young and everyone on the Negotiating Committee, the Board of Directors and the WGA staff know the importance of this contract. They are not going to accept a bad deal. They will stay at the table and negotiate for as long as it takes to get one. The first step, however, is for the Companies to make a serious and fair proposal. They are still waiting for that. One way to get that is to respond to their latest proposal with a strong show of unity on our part, renewed numbers on the picket line, a continued show of force by the showrunners, and further withholding of services.
There's a lot of gamesmanship to negotiating. Sometimes that means walking away from the table for a few days.
Have faith in the Negotiating Committee. They know that the Internet is the future, not just for the WGA, but for all unions in this town. They will never accept a bad deal.
3. THE STRIKE IS WORKING!
We all know what it means to "win": a fair deal, a just contract, and, above all, we all go back to work. Because the end goal is so concrete and specific, we often lose sight of the fact that we are currently winning!
Here's what the strike has done so far:
- We have effectively shut down television production. Out of 180 television shows, only 12 are still in production
- Despite false rumors and lies spread by the Companies, the showrunners continue to deny services. At most, only ten have gone back to work. And, for every show runner who went back, four have fallen out. The show runners are not going back to work because there's nothing to go back to. We have effectively halted this season
- If the Companies do not reach a deal soon, they will lose NEXT season. They know that. The pressure is on them to make a deal.
[As a side note, no one can quite figure out why they haven't made a deal yet. Their continued refusal to make a realistic offer lacks any rationale or logic. Consider this: if CBS gave us EVERYTHING we asked for, it would cost them only $4.1 million for all of next year. Right now, they are losing $2 million a week. Go figure.]
- The advertisers are asking the networks for rebates, buy backs, discounts and CASH BACK! The strike has hurt the companies where they feel it the most - in their pocketbook. Even though they knew a strike was coming, the networks foolishly sold ad time at inflated rates. Now, they are paying the price. This is a direct result of the strike.
- Of the 150 features due to start filming in the next two quarters, upwards of 75 - almost half of them - are in danger of falling apart because of the strike. Major movies, like Angels and Demons, Pinkville, Nine, and State of
- Finally, and appropriately, the WGA denied the Academy Awards broadcast a waiver. This broadcast earns millions of dollars for ABC. Money that will be lost because the show cannot be written.
4. THE DGA CAN'T HURT US
You hear a lot of talk on the line that if the AMPTP cannot make a deal with the WGA they will begin negotiating with the DGA, get them to take a lousy deal, then come back and force the WGA and SAG to take the same crappy deal.
It doesn't work that way.
First, the DGA isn't stupid. They see our strike is working. They know that whatever deal we get, they will get. They are willing to wait for us to make a good deal which they can then exploit. The same is true of SAG and the IA. These unions WANT us to get a good deal.
Second, if the DGA is stupid and makes a lousy deal, that same deal will not stick with the WGA or SAG. We will hold out for a fair and just contract.
Finally, 1,400 WGA members are also members of the DGA. That's more than 10% of their total membership, including some of their most prominent feature directors. These dual-members are binding together and speaking up to tell DGA leadership NOT to negotiate before we have a deal, and NOT accept a lesser deal.
5. NUMBERS COUNT
Every day the Guild counts how many picketers are on the line. SO DO THE COMPANIES! If they see the numbers go down, they will believe it is a weakening of our resolve or a show of disunity.
The Negotiating Committee cannot bring the Companies to the table. They cannot get the Companies to make a fair offer. They cannot the get the Companies to bargain in good faith.
Only the members can do that. We are the backbone of the strike. We are the strength the Negotiating Committee needs to get the contract we deserve.
For them to do that, we need to continue to show up in big numbers. WE cannot fall victim to the Companies use of disinformation, of divide-and-conquer tactics, to lull us into the belief the strike is almost over so we can stay at home. We need to be on the line every day. As another member put it: "This is a strike, not a vacation."
Make sure you're out there, on the line, or working at the Guild headquarters. More importantly, if you know a writer who IS NOT picketing, make sure they are out there with you. Numbers count.
6. THIS TIME IT'S DIFFERENT
Over the last 20 years, the AMPTP has negotiated over a 100 contracts with the various unions that represent film and television talent. They have used the same techniques - raising hopes then dashing them, lowering expectations, divide and conquer - to win each of those negotiations.
IT IS NOT WORKING THIS TIME. It's not working because of all of you and all the hard work, commitment and unity you've demonstrated. As a result, they do not know what to do.
One reason for our strength and unity is communication. Because of the Strike Captain structure, an articulate leadership, professional staff, and the internet, WGA membership is extremely well-informed about the issues, about what's at stake, and just how bad the Companies' proposals have been. As long as we communicate and remain well-informed, we will win. We will only lose if we lose our unity and that will only happen if they keep us from talking to each other.
Have a great weekend and I'll see you on the picket line on Monday.
FROM KIT BOSS:
Hey, Team Carpool:
Today's Captain's meeting -- where we heard from David Young, Patrick Verone and John Bowman -- was both inspiring and bracing, like a sharp slap on my taut, bare bottom from Marsh's cold hand.
I share with you these highlights, with liberal borrowing from the re-caps of other Captains who've done a lot of typing so I don't have to:
In a nutshell, this week's "negotiations" confirm that the studios are engaged in a giant MINDFUCK... their plan is to raise our expectation of a quick settlement (through press leaks, e.g., Nicki Finke), only to dash those hopes with wholly unacceptable proposals. It's an effort to make us despair and make us believe that our only hope for resolution is to quickly drop down to OUR BOTTOM LINE, of which they're only willing to give us a tiny fraction. Their hope is that we'll cave and accept a shitty deal. Apparently, it's a tried-and-true technique of the AMPTP over the last thirty years (and is corroborated by an internal AMPTP memo that the WGA has gotten hold of and hopes soon to publish). The message from our leadership: don't let their plan work, stay strong, and keep pounding the pavement.
I know some of you have started to doubt the efficacy of picketing for hours on end. I posed this question to David Young, who made it clear that pickets are still (for better or worse) the barometer by which the studios (and the world at large) judges our resolve. He is absolutely convinced that our show of force on the lots and locations is what drove them back to the negotiating table -- and that they are still watching us. Now, especially, for signs that our resolve is weakening and our unity may be ready to crumble.
Young's assessment: Our negotiation leverage is only as strong as our presence on the picket lines.
I know that the value of picketing isn't easily quantifiable or observable as cause-and-effect; and it requires a leap of faith to take David Young's word for something none of us can actually see with our own eyes.
But another captain, Alfredo Barrios, who has done both lot and location picketing over the last four weeks attests: "I believe that our show of force really plays on the executives' minds. Psychologically, I think it makes them uncomfortable and the idea that we will not back down starts to build in their minds... and trust me, they're afraid of a lengthy strike. They have a lot to lose -- the rest of this TV season, pilot season, and many, many features in various stages of development and pre-production."
"Lately, studios have been deploying executives to location shoots to try to back us down from our picketing -- which has been reaping havoc on their productions. I have seen the look in the executives' eyes: they are fucking afraid and weary. And when we don't back down, they go back to their offices and tell their bosses. And we make it clear that we're gonna keep coming at them. Now, they're trying to defend against our location pickets by taking out fake permits, hiring extra security, locking off bigger sections of locations, etc. It is costing them money and lots of effort. And yet, we still find a way to get to them... And they keep wondering, when are they gonna stop fucking with us? That's pressure. That shows resolve. That translates into negotiation power. So... keep showing up. It matters. That's what will ultimately settle this thing for us... on our terms."
Next week, we'll maintain the same picket schedule that we followed this week, and avoid any changes that might cause confusion. The goal: Show the studios that we're as strong as ever, and we're not going to sit still while they try to bone us.
For those who want to read more about exactly how bad an ass-rape the studio's latest offer would amount to, and why we're taking a two-day break from bargaining, I encourage you to check out unitedhollywood.com for the posting: Some Answers: Real Numbers, and what Really Happened in the Negotiations
Rest assured, Guild leadership is busy considering what should happen next, picket-wise. Strike co-ordinators will meet next Thursday to discuss (among other things) options such as consolidating our forces at fewer locations. Here at Universal, we'll be offering people a chance to take a break from the line for a few hours next week and get trained on location picketing, which figures to become much more important in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, let's help each other try to even out the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster the AMPTP is trying to make us ride. Don't believe the rumors (like the one that droves of showrunners are going back to work, when in fact the number amounts to only 10 out of more than 100 -- not enough to get the networks out of the pickle they're in). Try to keep a sense of humor. (The Captains have: After hearing about the 10 showrunners, someone shouted: "Who are they?” And then, when Verone and Bowman wouldn't name names: "C'mon. We just want to talk to them.") But also, stay pissed at the studios -- it makes those three hours of daily picketing FLY.
Also, I'm happy to report you can expect a few Christmas gifts to arrive early:
--Visits to every picket line at every studio on Monday from members of the negotiating committee or WGA board. A great chance to get your questions answered by the people who spent last week at the negotiating table.
--More t-shirts (including spiffy new styles available only at special events, such as a run of 2,000 for next Friday's Freemantle rally in Burbank, noon-2pm. You'll not only have a chance to get a new t-shirt, but strike a blow against the reality dreck that the networks will have to rely on to plug the gaps left by the shows we're shutting down, and exploits the people who write it.)
--More economic damage to the networks. Ad Age reports that they'll have to GIVE CASH BACK to their advertisers because the ratings for all that reality and re-runs will be so shitty, and they won't have enough inventory for make-goods.
--Direct pressure on advertisers from a group of more than 100,000 consumer activists that we can access through the data base of our sister unions and a scary piece of technology called "Robo-Call."
--No more news blackouts. WGA Prez Patric Verone promised. "Never again will we leave our members in the dark."
--No WGA waiver for writers to work on the Oscars telecast.
--A firecracker up