DGA leaders told their members tonight that the DGA won’t be the first guild at the bargaining table with the AMPTP this year because “the studios are not yet prepared to address our key issues.” It’s a break from recent tradition: the DGA has gone before the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in each of the last three bargaining cycles. The last time the DGA didn’t go first was in 2010, when pre-merger SAG and AFTRA came to the bargaining table first. The last time the WGA went first, back in 2007, a 100-day writers’ strike ensued.
The DGA’s current film and TV contract expires June 30 – on the same day as SAG-AFTRA’s and two months after the May 1 expiration of the WGA’s contract.
In a message to their members, guild leaders said that “after careful consideration,” the guild’s 80-person Negotiating Committee “unanimously determined today that it is not in our interest to begin negotiations well in advance of our contract expiration. We will work with the studios to schedule bargaining dates for later this spring.”
Which guild goes first is important because whoever it is tends to set the pattern of bargaining for the others to follow, though each guild has its own unique needs that pattern bargaining can’t address. But issues such as annual pay raises and residual rates tend to be set by the first one at the bargaining table and generally are passed along to the next two guilds when it’s their turn.
DGA leaders, however, stressed tonight that “The date we begin to bargain is far from the most important issue. The more important issue at stake is whether the studios will decide to appropriately address the concerns of our members. Those concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight.”
Here’s the DGA’s communique to its members, signed by Jon Avnet (Negotiations Chair), Karen Gaviola (Negotiations Co-Chair), Todd Holland (Negotiations Co-Chair) and Russ Hollander (National Executive Director):
“After careful consideration, our 80-person BA/FLTTA Negotiating Committee unanimously determined today that it is not in our interest to begin negotiations well in advance of our contract expiration. We will work with the Studios to schedule bargaining dates for later this Spring. As you know, our major contracts expire June 30.
“Our approach to bargaining is, and has always been, guided by one simple principle: we will only negotiate when we believe we will win the best possible deal. Sometimes this has meant negotiating several months in advance of our contract expiration, if we feel the Studios are prepared to satisfactorily address our concerns in exchange for the stability an early negotiation can bring to everyone.
“In other negotiations cycles, we have won strong gains by waiting to negotiate until later in the process. Some of our most important gains, including the establishment of our groundbreaking Pay TV residuals formula, have been won when we negotiated closer to the expiration of our contract. Regardless of when we bargain, our history, including recent negotiation cycles, has been that we have achieved industry leading contracts that have protected our members and the business.
“Over the last eighteen months, we have been following our normal, thorough process to prepare for successful bargaining. That preparation includes rigorous research, strategy development, consulting with leading industry experts, building a negotiating committee that represents our diverse membership, surveying and talking with members to develop our priorities, and much more. This process also includes preliminary conversations with the Studios to determine whether they are prepared to address the issues our members care most about. At this point, the Studios are not yet prepared to address our key issues.
“The date we begin to bargain is far from the most important issue. The more important issue at stake is whether the Studios will decide to appropriately address the concerns of our members. Those concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the Studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight.
“It comes down to this: we are partners in this business. This means negotiating a new contract that continues to treat our members fairly and with respect, that recognizes and rewards our vital contributions to this industry no matter how it evolves, that reinforces our shared interest in building a healthy, vibrant, stable business that will entertain and inspire audiences around the world.
“Our process and preparation will continue – expect to hear a lot more from us in the coming weeks and months – until we have won a stellar contract. This cycle’s negotiations are about more than just bargaining a strong contract for the next three years – they are about setting the course for the future of our industry and that is what we are going to achieve.”
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