dga.jpgBack on December 6, 2007, Directors Guild Of America President Michael Apted, Negotiations Committee Chair Gil Cates, and National Executive Director Jay D. Roth received a letter from 300 of the joint WGA-DGA members asking them to refrain from entering negotiations. Supposedly the DGA is going to announce on Thursday a start date for its negotiations. This letter sure makes it sound as if they expect to wrap up the talks by the end of January. (My understanding is that the DGA’s hired gun, uber-attorney Kenny Ziffren, has put together a New Media proposal that has significant — and what the agents are telling me, potentially positive –consequences for the other guilds.) Here’s the text:

Dear Member,
We didn’t want to let too much time go by before we answered your letter. We want you to know this response comes from our heartfelt understanding of the difficult times we are all in together.

The DGA Negotiations Committee had its fourth meeting yesterday and we discussed your letter. We mention this so you will understand that this response reflects the very open discussion we had with your fellow Guild members.

To begin with, we understand the importance of new media and its potential impact on all our futures — and on those who follow us. DGA has spent close to 18 months developing research, meeting with outside experts, and talking to our members about these issues. They have been discussed by the Board and the Negotiations Committee for well over a year.

We understand well the importance of protecting our members. We will not rest until our members get a fair and equitable deal for the work they create in both old and new media. Since its founding, the Guild has consistently fought hard for that goal. For more than 70 years we have managed, often without fanfare, to negotiate good deals for all of us and we are proud of the strength of our Basic Agreement. We have no intention of letting our members down or betraying the rights of the directors who went before us. There is a reason that few in the industry ever accuse the DGA or its members of being pushovers. We’ve never been that and we don’t plan to start now.

This issue is not between the DGA and the WGA. To make that the fight only strengthens the other side. But sharing a goal is not the same as sharing tactics and strategy. And our differing views of the best way to achieve our goals may lead us to act differently. Traditionally our negotiations start early and usually are done by January. This has been our pattern for the past 20 years for a very simple reason: We believe — and our experience shows — that this is the most effective way to negotiate the best deal. The WGA has made a different decision on how to handle their negotiations. Out of respect for them, we have done what you asked for in your letter — we have refrained from commencing our own negotiations. And, at the same time we have refrained from commenting publicly on our thoughts about the direction of their proposals and the progress of their negotiations.

But the reality is that WGA and the AMPTP have been meeting since July — and, despite a strike that has put tens of thousands of people out of work, they seem nowhere near reaching a deal. Each passing day, more people are unemployed. We are getting calls from members who are worried about their economic livelihood and their families. We’re sure you feel the same concern for yourselves and the people who work for you.

Because so much time has gone by without any resolution, we find ourselves faced with some hard questions. Is a fresh perspective — and additional muscle — needed to get the job done? Is it our turn to sit across the table from the AMPTP? What we know is that we cannot abdicate our responsibility to our members by putting their fate in the hands of another union whose tactics and strategy we have not been able to influence. Our members expect the Guild to fight for them when things get tough. We promised all of you we would do that in our most recent membership letter. We believe this is the essence of responsible unionism, which is the least you and all our members have a right to expect from us.

Sincerely,

Michael Apted
DGA President

Gil Cates
Chair, DGA Negotiations Committee

Jay D. Roth
DGA National Executive Director