that strike thing : part iii : hello serf kids


mermaidOkay back to the strike —

So. I have been having this convo over on A Writer Dodging Bullets.

I figured as long as I was going to talk, which I was sort of hoping not to do — I should bring it here too.


Yours Truly….

It is important to understand this [strike] is not merely about “more money.” Studios and networks did not just refuse to pay royalties on works being distributed to new media — which have provided the companies an 80% increase in profits [but the creators of the material nothing] or at least that is what they are telling shareholders, ahem — they also demanded roll backs. In other words, they did not just refuse to pay a royalty for resold works, they also told writers they were cutting current pay and health benefits. That is like walking into your boss’s office on the day you are due for a pay increase and being told instead your check is about to get cut by a third. Fun yes?

[*They also went after separation of rights one more time. This is something screenwriters have always owned because in the early days no one knew separation of rights would ever have any value at all so it was the one thing writers got to hang on to in the early days and I did not put that in the original post because no one outside the industry knows what the hell separation of rights is, but read Alexandra Sokoloff’s description she explains it in part pretty well. Bottom line, they demanded 76 roll backs. 76 times “give me what you have now and fuck you on what you want or need in the future.” The mind boggles.]

This was on purpose. The companies were pushing for a strike and walked into meetings with the full intention of posing impossible scenarios. Now they are claiming they will not go back to the negotiating table unless writers stop the strike. However, it was the networks and studios that walked away from the negotiating table in the first place. So, currently 12,000 writers are on strike and out of work. [At least one writer has been run down on a strike line so far because studios are encouraging executives and producers to use strikers on the line as targets. See that on the news yet? Thought not.] And a whole lot more people are out of work because, with the writers on strike, nobody has any material to shoot. You will not see this covered on the news though. The studios and networks own the news stations.

The actors’ and directors’ guilds are supporting the writers’ strike because their contracts come due this spring and if the networks and studios can break the writers’ backs, actors and directors are next.

[While I posted that as straight up on a writer dodging bullets, the television and studio corporate collective has historically pitted the directors’ and writers’ guilds against each other to undermine and ensure control of both writers and directors. Both unions have fallen for that over and over again and my impression is the corps will try to use that wedge in the immediate future again. If it works one more time, we are just not fool me once or fool me twice stupid, we are fool me every time morons.]


Arm Jerker J….

Thanks for commenting, Max. I was hoping you would. And this puts things in perspective. But I guess I’m really bothered about all this because where does it all end?

I wish I could rise up and picket my low salary in the journalism field but do you think they would take such a strike seriously? I really do sympathize, don’t get me wrong. But I’m worried about where this stops. There should never have been cut pay and the insurance—but how high of a price are we all paying?


Yours Truly….

The question is not how high a price do we pay for a strike. The question is, How high a price do we pay if we do not strike?

The answer is, Too high.

When you ask where this will end, you are looking at the equation backwards. Corporations are smashing the worker. Workers’ pay goes down and down. Pay for corporate executives goes up and up. The gap between the two is huge, growing geometrically and daily, and moving, literally, towards serfdom. On all fronts. Not just for writers for screen and television. For every working man and woman in this country. Ask where that ends because that is the problem. Not workers demanding fair pay. Corporations stripping working men and women of even the resources to stand and ask for fair pay. Pressing them into standards of service that workers must ascede to because there are no other terms or options left to them.

Someone must take a stand. That is what we are doing. Taking a stand. And you better hope we win. If we don’t, the spiral continues. Not just for us. For every working man and woman in this country.

I am also exhausted by people who swipe at screenwriters as if we all make a lot of money and are just being greedy or asking for too much. We are negotiating minimum pay here and asking for a royalty. That is a crime now? A royalty is a small percentage of net profit — not even gross, just net. Minimum pay barely effects the dogs at the top of the ladder. It effects dogs at the bottom of the ladder. The people who receive the least. And median numbers are skewed. Basing an estimation of what every day writers for film and television make on a median number is like saying all writers of books make big bucks because J.K. Rowling’s paycheck got thrown into the pot before making an estimation. Yeah, you throw J.K.’s paycheck in there, it looks like book writers are all living pretty high. Hell, throw King and Ludlum and Grisham and Clancy in there too. That ought to bring the median up some. They are the million dollar writers however. How accurate is any “median” on a chart that includes their numbers when it comes to the writers in the middle?

Not too freaking accurate. So please stop suggesting writers for film and screen are making unreasonable demands or being greedy or overpaid. We are trying to get by. In a system that was stacked against us going in. And we are paying a real heavy price for it and are probably also one of the last bastions standing between complete corporate take over of the worker in this country because, if corporations take Hollywood down? Who is left to stand and fight?


*the last writers’ strike took place in 1998, it lasted five and a half months, left a career count in its wake that today is still uncounted because who really counts dead screenwriters?, cost the industry an estimated five million dollars, and the network conglomerate nine percent of its viewing public — that nine percent has never returned


where the art work comes from :
that is mer02 by ian sanderson

where this convo comes from :
that is from a writer dodging bullets

the widening pay gap between workers and management :
pay gap widens between ceo’s and workers

important posts on writers strike….

toni mcgee causey :
surrendering america

alexandra sokoloff :
why we strike

schindermania :
running down the show runners [no kidding, with a car]

bbc :
the strike now the strike then

nicki finke :
cool someone remembers john sell out the writers wells —
[oh wait sorry that is me talking]
strike vote in for wga

10 Responses to that strike thing : part iii : hello serf kids

  1. I was wondering why the strike was not getting much [if any] news coverage. This answers a lot. Control over the news – this does not surprise me, per se, but it does disgust me.

  2. Pingback: Get Paid WRITE! « Irregular Bones

  3. Pingback: Strike! « OY GIRL

  4. I was happy to have had the discussion with you. Opened my eyes quite a bit.

  5. Max, sometimes I’m a little slow. You writers don’t even get any sort of royalty for your work???

  6. max

    There is an agreement in place for a royalty for television reruns and video tape and dvd sales. It is inadequate and based on a very old agreement reached last time there was a strike [1988] and needs to be redressed. There is no royalty for work sold on the internet or cell phones or itunes or any internet or wireless media. That is what the fight is about. The studios are reselling our work more and more places as the technology market grows but refuse to pay a royalty for it.

  7. Excuse my ignorance but, don’t musicians or bands receive royalties for everything that is copied from them?

  8. max

    The whole royalty thing dates back decades and gets really ugly. All those old blues players in the early recording days? Never saw a royalty. They’d end up getting at times 25 cents for a song and never see another quarter. The guys who created Super Man the comic? No royalty. The comic has gone on to make not just millions, but billions of dollars if not more. Early screenwriters? No royalties. No copyright, either, but that is another story. Over time, the outrageousness of paying someone 25 cents for a song and going on to make millions billions or more off it tipped the scales in the music industry and musicians fought back, but there is still a lot of abuse. I just do not know how that all works because I do not work in that industry. I do know music is meaner than Hollywood — which is hard to pull off because I think Hollywood has Wall Street beat in the mean department. And it usually all comes back to technology. Every radical technological advance — records, eight tracks, dvd’s, silent film, talkies, television, video tapes, cable, dvd’s, internet, phone broadcasts, each time a new form of distribution shows up, it is like the law — there is no precedent established so there is nothing in contracts for it and getting something in contracts for it, getting a royalty in new mediums, is always a fight.

    The irony is, the people who get nasty about paying for rights or royalties are the same people who protect their own ownership of those properties with the fist of God. Disney Studios once sued the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences for using Snow White’s image during an Oscars ceremony. Recording companies have sued musicians for coming out with a new album that sounded “too much like the artist” and so was interpreted as “competition” to the label’s “property” i.e. the artist’s previous work. And the music moguls almost wiped Napster off the map with lawsuits. But whatever I know about music is pretty broad and usually linked to motion picture I do not personally work in that world so do not know the particular ins and outs of it.

  9. schinders

    hey max. belatedly, thanks for linking to me. i still get clicks over to my blog. but, i’ve moved! if it’s not too much to ask, would you mind editing the link? my new site addy is www. .
    write on!

  10. max

    Hello Schinders. The link goes to a specific post about the car swerving at the picketer. It supports the content of this post. A generic link to schindermania won’t go there and does not support this post.

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