A new email credited to Tim Lea sees the AMPTP’s tactics as unionbusting:
It may seem that we are dealing with an irrational entity. The damage they are doing to our industry far exceeds any bottom line financial impact that would result from acceding to our demands. Calculations vary, but estimates of how much this strike is costing the studios run as high as $20 million dollars a week in lost production, lost revenue, penalty clauses in advertising commitments, etc. Over the course of the contract we’re currently attempting to negotiate, the Guild’s proposals will cost the Studios some odd shy of $200 million dollars. On the surface, it doesn’t add up.
The obvious insanity of blowing up the entertainment industry defies logical explanation, which makes clear the salient point: we’re not yet dealing with the people who are in a position to say ‘Yes’. We face a group, the AMPTP, whose self-described mission is to “function as a bargaining unit for over 350 signatory companies.” (Check out their website — it’s a hoot: amptp.org..) They don’t actually make anything. Their sole function is to ‘bargain’. In other words, their job is to say ‘No’ for the studios.
The reason we are talking to this group, and not to the actual decision-makers, is that the studios and corporations they represent are not yet ready to negotiate. They calculate that they have time before this year’s TV season is irrevocably damaged, and that they have a little more time before pilot season for the 08-09 season is under threat. With the added and increasing pressure on show-runners as force majeure clauses kick in, the studios hope to dent our resolve in the execution of the strike, and to create fatal divisions within our membership.
While the behavior of the AMPTP makes this seem true, I do believe that they have been giving the authority to say ‘yes’ in the past. This doesn’t affect the over-all analysis, because whether or not they say ‘yes’ or the studios say ‘yes’ in the end, they are holding out as long as they can to test the mettle of the union.
There is nothing irrational or random about any of this. The first entry in a Google search of the term Union Busting provides a link to the home page of a union-busting firm. They’re quite up front: “It’s about winning,” they say.
[T]here is an industry devoted to union-busting with refined strategies for dealing with union activity. And for a price, they’ll pack their kitbags and show up, ready to take on whatever union they’re pointed at. They have bullet points:
· Most strikes are won or lost before they begin. Preparation is often the best deterrent.
· Employers must know where they are before deciding to allow a strike. Our Labor Dispute Audit® [somebody wrote that!] form will assist in that evaluation.
· Almost all strikes bring with them the union’s corporate campaign. Our counter corporate campaign helps the client keep its varied stakeholders onboard.
· Maintaining operational effectiveness is the key to withstanding the effects of a work stoppage.
ANHS identifies the key issues a struck company faces. It is significant that in all these areas, the WGA strike is already having a huge impact. The studios were unprepared; they were caught in an untenable production cycle; they were caught by surprise by our PR blitz and are suffering substantial hits to their share values; and they are completely unable to maintain output without our active participation.
We have been effective, so the second phase of their crisis management has kicked in. They are now trying to break the strike. This tactical adjustment merely is another aspect of their overall strategy, which is to gain control over ‘New Media’ by breaking the unions. First us, then the rest. The Internet will be a non-union town.
The tactics of this past week have been about breaking the strike. Raise hopes, dash them. Present an ‘Economic Partnership’, then plead helplessness as we reject their proposals. (Key elements, which bear further discussion in another forum, of which an example: they told us five months ago that fixed residual formulas were too onerous for New Media; we proposed a percentage formula — you make money we make money [and the obvious reverse]; they come back with a fixed residual formula. Even the federal mediator remarked that this seemed a little crazy.)
In his book “Confessions of a Union Buster”, Martin Jay Levitt details the techniques he learned in his many years attacking unions. A key element is the demoralization of the union members during any industrial action against the company. Taking away people’s hopes, their aspirations for a quick resolution to any labor dispute – that was Levitt’s job. “If you [can] make the union fight drag on long enough, workers…lose faith, lose interest, lose hope.” This from a recognized expert in the field of union-busting.
The well-orchestrated anti-union campaign is nuanced and calibrated to human emotion. The union buster may offer a deal that creates an illusion that management recognizes its mistakes and has learned its lessons, and is trying to find a way to resolve the problem. Management really has changed, and management deserves a chance.
Okay? Confessions of a Union Buster. There is an AMPTP policy document that details how to deal with ‘negotiations.’ It essentially ends every paragraph with this simple idea: Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer. Conquer? Our ask doesn’t even match inflation! Conquer what? Why? What’s going on?
The New York Times today: “The nearly month-old strike by screenwriters has entered a new and perhaps uglier phase, revealing the conflict for what it has been all along: not so much a tiff over industry economics as a struggle for power over Hollywood’s perceived digital future.”
And the corporations hope to smash our union around this issue. No Internet. No DVD’s. No jurisdiction. No transparency. No nothing.
At the SEIU rally on Thursday, the marchers began and ended with a prayer. They bowed their heads and prayed for direction and guidance and thanked their God for the opportunity, the voice, the courage, the belief, to express themselves in their struggle. They connect their struggle with their belief. They believe, and we must believe.
The issue is quite simple. While we may all have notions of tactics or strategy or which gate to picket or whether to have Christmas lunch on Peter Chernin’s front lawn, it all boils down to this: What are we striking for?
What do we believe?
Is our purpose singular and clear?
The companies don’t attack us on this question, because it’s the one question only we can answer. It’s also the one question that will decide whether we win or lose. Do we believe that this struggle, this sacrifice we are all making, is worthy? Are we of one heart? One mind? Do we look at each other on the picket lines and see brothers and sisters? Is our belief strong enough to carry us through to the end?
Only we can know. The companies hope the answer is no, and they will wage a psychological war to make us think the answer is no. The companies will try to convince us that we do not believe. And each of us, as individuals, must decide. Because if the answer is no, we have already lost.
I don’t see signs the will of the writers is breaking, so I think the AMPTP has miscalculated. If there is one thing that seems to hurt the writers, it is that a lot of below-the-line employees are now getting fired. They feel bad about it because they are human beings.
There is a rumor that the AMPTP is going to exploit this humanity by starting a whisper campaign of blog posts, op eds and e-mails purporting to be from unemployed below-the-liners imploring the writers make a deal.
But currently, there is no reasonable deal the AMPTP will let the writers make. So it is the studios that anyone with half a brain can see should be blamed. Everyone wants to get back to work but them.