AMPTP Hot & Bothered By WGA Needling

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The long-time Hollywood maxim is that he who loses his temper first, loses.  Well, the AMPTP has pitched a hissy fit today after days and weeks of defiance and needling by the WGA and its members. What did the moguls expect: that they could issue an ultimatum and then walk away from the post-strike negotiations (as News Corp. No. 2 Peter Chernin and the other Big Media CEOs had planned all week and told their pals privately), and the writers wouldn’t portray them as total douchebags?

The AMPTP’s new PR idiots Fabiani & Lehane may be fond of talking tough, but in the entertainment biz the powers-that-be who bully usually end up losing their jobs because no one on the creative side wants to work for them. On the other hand, today’s two whiney missives make the CEOs look like putzes. They do know this strike will eventually end then they’ll have to face the bigwig writers, right?

That’s why I’m now insisting that the moguls need to take back these negotiations from their loathesome spinmeisters and their labor lawyers and their lapdog Nick Counter and start meeting face-to-face with a self-selected group of Hollywood’s top showrunners and screenwriters and work this thing out. As for continuing to demonize the WGA’s Patric Verrone and Dave Young and John Bowman, sure they’re far from blameless. I, too, have written that the strike never should have happened. I, too, have posted that jurisdiction over Reality TV or animation writers — while an important issue because they’re now an oppressed and exploited underclass of Hollywood — isn’t a central issue of this strike, not with New Media formulas so vital to their members’ incomes. On the other hand, it can also be argued that including these writers strengthens the WGA ultimately, so in a sense it does benefit all members. But the WGA leaders can’t be expected to stop pushing on contract terms like those (which have been long-time parts of their proposals) without some inducements from the moguls beyond, “Because we told you to.” Get real. These aren’t your yes men, like IATSE local boss Tom Short.

(Actually, the AMPTP letter below reads as if it were dictated by Short who’s been butt-kissing the AMPTP at every twist and turn of this strike. How utterly embarrassing for him that only 300-500 below-the-liners showed up for the big weekend march intended to speak volumes on their behalf. It turned into just a whisper. I swear more BTL’ers come on my site and make comments than walked in that rally. It’s inexplicable.)

Note to thin-skinned moguls, I can’t believe you’re sweating the small stuff. Note to prankster writers, keep it up. Note to me: Keep posting and try not to get thoroughly sick of both sides in this awful mess they’ve created.

A letter the AMPTP Board of Directors sent today to Companies represented by the AMPTP in the 2007 WGA Negotiations:

By now you know that those in charge at the WGA have injected substantial new doses of vitriol into the important and continuing debate on our industry’s future.  On Monday, in a letter to members of the WGA East, the president of that organization wrote: “They lie. And then they lie again. And then they lie some more.”

Then, someone from the WGA offices happily distributed the link to a hijacked parody website that even many rank-and-file WGA members felt was over-the-top. All of this is happening right along with the WGA’s continuing series of concerts, rallies, mock exorcisms, pencil-drops and Star Trek-themed gatherings.

Amidst this alternating mix of personal attacks and picket line frivolity, we must not forget that this WGA strike is beginning to cause serious economic damage to many people in the entertainment business. While the WGA’s world-class health care benefits remain secure, tens of thousands of below-the-line workers are seeing their health insurance jeopardized by the
continuing strike. In addition, our entire Southern California community is beginning to feel the effects of the grinding shutdown of an industry that is the lifeblood of the region’s economy.

We believe that the best way to end this economic harm is for everyone to understand, in detail, the significant issues involved in this dispute. That is why we will continue to explain our position at every opportunity and promptly refute, with facts, the mistaken assertions made by the WGA’s spokespeople. We will also continue to emphasize what we believe: writers
should be compensated from the revenues created by new media and we have backed this up with several new proposals in this area.

In addition, we believe everyone impacted by this strike should know that negotiations have broken down over the WGA’s jurisdictional demands — demands which have everything to do with increasing the union organizers’ clout, but very little to do with the real needs of working writers. We also want to make clear our determination to do what is right for this industry by   making a fair deal that allows us to compete successfully in a rapidly changing marketplace.  We recognize the importance to your employees and shareholders in creating a modern economic system that works for all of us.

That is our paramount goal — a goal we will continue to work for until it is achieved.
AMPTP Board of Directors

Since that wasn’t enough, the AMPTP spokesman issued this statement today. Note how it calls Verrone’s event a “concert”. In truth, Tenacious D performed two songs — one written for the occasion — at a rally about Reality TV writers outside of Freemantle, one of the biggest makers of the fare. Among those speaking at the rally were Patric, and writer/producers from two Reality TV shows, Temptation and America’s Next Top Model, about the working conditions Also read was a press release from California State Senator Carole Migden, chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee of the Senate.  The release announced that she and her committee will be holding hearings starting February 1st on widespread and systemic abuses of wage and hour laws by the Reality TV producers. Hardly a “concert”:

Talks between the AMPTP and WGA broke down Friday over jurisdictional demands that would expand the power of the Guild’s organizers and have little bearing on the issues that matter most to working writers. As reported in Hollywood Today, the organizers’ focus on union power and not negotiating on new media will be once again demonstrated today at a labor action in Southern California involving Arden Realty and its security personnel that has nothing to do with the core issues of new media. The WGA’s jurisdictional demands have been rejected repeatedly in these negotiations, and in negotiations past, yet they were still front and center at Friday’s negotiating session and at the concert that WGA’s Patric Verrone attended on Friday while the negotiations were going on, as the attached video link –  -and subsequently reported comments from Mr. Verrone demonstrate.

For further reference on the WGA organizer’s insistence on their jurisdictional issues, see WGAW President Patric Verrone’s comment from the concert on Friday (Daily Variety, Dec. 10, 2007, “Strike’s war of words resumes”): “And it’s notable that negotiations melted down a few hours after WGA West president Patric Verrone insisted at a Friday rally outside FremantleMedia’s Burbank offices that reality jurisdiction had been part of the guild’s negotiating package contract from the start and had never been taken off the table. ‘It will be in our next contract,’ Verrone flatly told the crowd.

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