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How Labor WILL Win The Strikes
Six Fronts & 20 Tactics To Wage Peace
I think many of you know that I offer free “paid” subscriptions to anyone on strike, any student, or anyone having financial hardship. The last category was perhaps worded wrong. I want to make clear: any filmworker who hasn’t been able to work as intended — that means you! Just let me know and I will slip you a free pass. Then you can leave comments here and share with friends. FWIW, I love how so many businesses in NYC & LA give discounts to WGA & SAG, but if you want us ALL to really really really love ya, extend that to all filmworkers. Thanks! (and HT to Michael T. for helping me to recognize this!)
134 Days! That’s how long the WGA has been on strike. 61 days now for SAG. These unions are incredible. They are strong. They are on the right side of history. Thank you WGA. Thank you SAG. Thank you all the members that have marched and picketed and empowered their leadership to be strong and brave.
Although the collateral damage to our industry and communities is significant, I believe not only is Labor’s fight worth it, but it is necessary for all of us who work in the creative fields, as well as anyone who benefits from our efforts. This battle is far bigger than fair pay and fair working conditions. These strikes are going to have a profound affect across the globe. To solve all that is at stake requires Labor’s battle to escalate in very particular ways. New fronts and new allies must be quickly brought into the fold. There is a real opportunity before us, but if it is neglected or overlooked, all might be lost.
We need a significant escalation of the asks from the WGA and SAG. The AMPTC (again, I am not calling them “producers” as it makes me ill) could have ended the strike long ago. They showed their hand early with that anonymous quote about sitting it out until the writers sell their homes. The AMPTC has made no real attempt to solve it because they are greedy and self-centered at our and the industry’s expense. They have more than enough capital to solve several times over the wage and staffing issues. They chose not too because not only is that not the issue for them, but because they also get bonused by increasing their cash-on-hand cash flow. The bosses benefit from not being in production. It is gross and I can’t believe shareholders put up with it. I can’t believe their employees put up with it. I can’t believe the media doesn’t call them out more. It makes one think they’ve bought everyone off but the ones who actual make the donuts.
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But the money and staffing is really just the smoke screen for the AMPTC to try to win on the other more crucial fronts. Not only have the AMPTC been preparing for the strikes for a very long time, but they have also gamed it out and they are getting close to getting over the goal line. This is when the good coaches call for a time out and huddle. A new method of play needs to be enacted. We need to go in the opposite direction if we want to really win.
Labor has a hard fight because they are up against several different teams simultaneously. On one hand they are fighting forces that should be enemies. The Studios and The Tech Bros are very different businesses with very different goals. Their differences are so great, they can’t really think of each other as friends – and they shouldn’t. The Studios have been tricked by the Tech Bros at least four times already (as discussed here). These two sides are still united though as they are the tools that are fighting the proxy war for Wall Street. And Wall Street too is just one of the weapons that those who value profit over people employ. It feels overwhelming to battle such a goliath, but it is doable. Everything has a crack, and that’s where either the light or a knife can get in.
It should be Labor’s strategy to first break up the AMPTC. Not only are the cracks there, but it worked the last time. Against all odds, the WGA beat the agencies and defeated their corrupt practices related to their packaging and in-house production by a wise divide-and-conquer negotiation policy. They should do so here to (and I suspect that is already afoot). Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer. When The Studios and The Streamers were not united, The Studios could use residuals to right the wrongs of various business practices and make sure folks got their due. Not only does streaming diminishes the long term value of entertainment, it also erased that useful tool and solution of residuals.
To be effective though, Labor needs to launch several more fronts. On let’s say The Studio Front, we have the splitting or dissolution of the AMPTC, and then let’s say on The Government Front, we have the unions working with politicians on the return of commitment to competition and the enforcement of anti-trust, fin-syn, and the Paramount Decree. While they are at they might as well try to enact new restrictions on privacy and obligations of data transparency. Let’s call the 3rd one The Attack Them At The Wallet Front. From shareholders to employees, getting folks to divest of their shares of all AMPTC companies and abandon their accounts will start to hurt as only money matters to them. The most logical reason they won’t share data is because no one is watching; this may not be the case, but if Wall St. hears it repeatedly they will start to have the stock price reflect it back.
The We Are All In This Together Front or maybe The Play Nice Front would be Front #4. There we have all sides recognize that the priority must be the sustainability of the film ecosystem, as well as it’s innovation and evolution. Here we can examine models – old and new – and make clear what benefits the artist and what does not. The 5th front is the PR War or The Taking Back Of The Vernacular & Good Will Front. This is where we don’t let the AMPTC call themselves producers, where the wage disparity between executives and creatives is pointed out incessantly, where we don’t let them call it a “Labor action” but instead we focus it on their greed and their reluctance and refusal to treat people well.
The Sixth Front is a new one that I have wanted to raise, even without the strikes. From my perspective, I see that the unions are standing up for human rights that the powerful companies are diminishing or outright denying. Our artists’ rights need to be specified and enforced. Artist rights are human rights. To deny human rights should be considered a crime, and that is what is happening right now due to the industry’s current embrace of streaming. The recognition of artists’ rights -- in addition to many other points I will outline --- are how to bring this strike to a close in the only manner that I think makes sense: going beyond wage and staff requirements and addressing the more “existential” issues. Benefitting from the success your work generates is a human right. Just like we cannot put ourselves into indentured servitude, we should not be able to sign away our backend profit participation. Access to the data our work generates, should be recognized as a human right. These are just a glimpse of some of the artist rights I plan to outline in a forthcoming post.
I am going to leave it up to you as to what should be the 7th and 8th Fronts, but I am already smelling victory. The light is thrusting in like a blade.
20 Tactics Labor Could Use To Win The Strike Sooner
1. Emphasize the need for sustainability of the industry as we are truly threatened on numerous fronts and it needs to be discussed, as that is where we can all find common ground.
2. I am sure this is done, but stack ranking goals and the communication of them to the membership is key to maintaining support. I suspect membership cares most about wages — but for me this should be about transparency of data & right to profit participation on a fair basis, as I think it is key to sustainability to the industry.
3. Propose all sides contribute to a think tank for the sustainability and innovation of the industry, so in the future we can all be ahead of such issues.
4. Bring more issues to the table like sustainability, innovation, mental health, and safety that everyone can agree upon to develop better joint problem solving.
5. Divide & conquer the studios from the streamers. The Guilds should separately negotiate with the Studios apart from the companies that are not exclusively in the FKA Film Biz (The Streamers). It would work for movies, but not series. But essentially the same strategy that worked to settle the Agents' packaging fee confilct of interest.
6. Divide & conquer through a targeted & expedited use of the interim agreements for both WGA & SAG, working with large suppliers outside of the AMPTC companies.
7. Fix the vernacular in labor’s favor: the strikes are not due to "labor issues"; they are due to "overlord disregard & greed".
8. Hold forums exposing how sequenced territorial media rights and cable was a far more lucrative business than Streaming — and start campaigning for a return to that method. Prioritize revenue.
9. Work with the agents to devise an alternative formula to back end buyouts from Streamers and publicize it.
10. Refuse to accept back-end buyouts of movies.
11. Make the strategy known to AMTPC so they recognize the public will hold them in poor will (aka not good standing).
12. Campaign heavily for anti-trust legislation to prohibit platforms from making films & series (and to treat Streamers as utilities).
13. Clarify that cinema & series bring new customers to the platforms where they buy a ton of stuff — and the artists that generate new customers should have a share of that revenue.
14. Continue to publicize the wage disparities between CEO’s and others.
15. Have the unions campaign for a billionaire wealth tax.
16. Have the unions campaign for other unions to divest their pension plans from the AMTPC members as they are anti-labor.
17. Consistently threaten to expose the real reason that the platforms don’t want to share the data — that no one is watching the majority of their shows.
18. Recognize that from the Streamers’ POV, the Strike is predominantly about their relationship with Wall Street, and they all have their stock going up as a result. Come up with other ideas to drive their stock down — in the same way that their execs said they wouldn’t negotiate until the Guild members were selling their homes.
19. AI is a great unknown and must be treated as such — while also acknowledging it will progress rapidly. Both sides should freeze on the use of it as a tool in writing or acting (including background face replacement) in three month periods, during which time all sides maintain a task force charged with building protections and use cases.
20. Insist on all AI have BlockChain (or similar) connecting what the Large Langue Model used to teach itself, and an agreed upon royalty is used for all WGA writers who opt in to a royalty set up.
This concludes our three part post on The Strikes. We hoped you enjoyed it. Please be sure to read Part 1 and 2 from earlier in this week. Only “Paid” Subscribers got the full scoop, but if you are currently on strike, a student, or suffering from any financial hardship, let me know and I will provide you with a free full subscription for as long as you need it.