After days and days of silence from the studios’ and networks’ side of the strike, I just received this somewhat cryptic statement from AMPTP President Nick Counter: “The WGA is using fear and intimidation to control its membership. Asking members to inform on each other and creating a blacklist of those who question the tactics of the WGA leadership is as unacceptable today as it was when the WGA opposed these tactics in the 1950s.”
Let me explain. The Alliance representing studios and networks and other entertainment owners is upset over what it sees as a “rat squad” operating under WGA auspicies to “inform on members breaking strike rules and to snitch on anyone who works as a scab,” as a source explains to me. Finally, after some bumbling, the AMPTP issued an addendum to explain the issue more fully through — what else? — a Variety story.
Actually, the AMPTP is days late reacting to the WGA’s strike rules as well as to the news release that the guild was setting up a WGAW Strike Rules Compliance Committee (SRCC) comprised of 12 WGAW members whose “mission is to discourage violations of the Guild’s Strike Rules by investigating allegations that writers are undermining our strike efforts by engaging in strike-breaking activities or scab writing and, in appropriate instances, by recommending action against such writers. By doing so, we hope first and foremost to discourage such writers from breaking the Strike Rules.”
UPDATE: The WGAW responded to the AMPTP today with the following statement: “Mr. Counter’s charge is as offensive as it is untrue. To accuse the Writers Guild of America of blacklisting, when it was we who suffered the most from it in the past, is simply Mr. Counter’s desperate attempt to divert attention from the fact that it was he who walked out of the negotiations, and it is he who refuses every day to return to the table. The WGA has an offer on the table and is ready and willing to meet with the AMPTP any day, anywhere.”
Of course, the great irony here given AMPTP’s ire is that, according to the guild’s website, the WGA’s online strike-breaking form “is currently unavailable” so to report an incident of strike breaking or scab writing for investigation, members have to call “the WGAW strike tip hotline”.
I certainly heard complaints from various TV showrunners right after the walkout started how unnerving it was to have the strike captains on their staffs watching them closely with an eye to informing on any strike rule-breaking activity. On the other hand, I’ve got to say it’s rather naive of the AMPTP to think that the WGA would not try to enforce strike discipline. That’s just Labor 101.
And it is also hilarious that the AMPTP is using a Variety story about the “Compliance Committee” to make its case for it. Between all the paid ads that the AMPTP is placing in the trades, and all the free publicity it’s giving them, The Alliance is the best friend that Reed Business and Nielsen publications could have now, just when the trades’ credibility during this strike is being scrutinized and questioned by media critics on both coasts.