Thursday, November 15, 2007

IATSE vs. WGA, courtesy of Deadline Hollywood Daily

Click on this for the whole story....
And god bless Nikki Finke.

Bitchslapping Between IATSE & WGA: Why Tom Short Is Pissed At Verrone Et Al

...But comment about the following here:

Sources tells me that Short's furious letter sent on Tuesday was prompted by a Los Angeles Times profile on Dave Young that ran the day before and one quote in particular from the WGA chief negotiator -- "Much to his delight, the 48-year-old labor leader says he himself was treated like 'a rock star' last week at a host of rallies and pickets that he orchestrated all over Los Angeles and New York."

davidyoung.jpgA source close to Short tells me he objected not just to Young's choice of words, but more to Young's seeming enjoyment of his new-found notoriety while IATSE members were thrown out of work. Young, for those not in the know, is not a Hollywood writer; he has been a union organizer of garment workers, carpenters and construction laborers.

Here is what Short says specifically about Young in his latest letter: "As the motion picture and television industry looks at the possible cost of over $1 billion and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, your executive director David Young is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as delighted he's being treated 'like a rock star' at rallies and says, 'I just lay back and look at the havoc I've wreaked... I'm not going to apologize for that.' This is hardly the point of view of a responsible labor leader, someone dedicated to the preservation of an industry that has supported the economies of several major cities for decades.

Short ended his letter on a somewhat concilatory note -- "it's time to put egos aside and recognize how crucial it is to get everyone back to work, before there is irreversible damage from which this industry can never recover." But it still begs the question why Short isn't also bitchslapping the AMPTP which, after all, is the side now refusing to enter back into settlement negotiations with the WGA. (For details, see my LA Weekly column, Deals, Lies & Backchannels.)

"That's a good question, a really good question," a source close to Short told me today.

labor01.jpgAlso today, Verrone wrote the following missive in response to Short's letter: "As I’m sure you know, for every four cents writers receive in theatrical residuals, directors receive four cents, actors receive 12 cents,and the members of your union receive 20 cents in contributions to their health fund. To put it simply, our fight should be your fight. We’ve received support from the Teamsters, the actors, many IATSE members, and unions throughout the world.


Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Why is it every other union in the world can have a civil discourse about this, but IATSE has to turn it into a school yard brawl?

Ridiculous. And embarrassing. And divisive. And pathetic.

Gee, I'm sorry "David Young" felt like a rock star. Excuse the f*** out of him for having a human emotion, being proud of his work and his union, and allowing him to be swept up in a difficult moment and find something positive about it.

I'm glad Tom Short feels that egos need to be put aside to solve the problem.

I would suggest, maybe, that he start.

Steve Hulett said...

I've said this elsewhere, but this isn't particularly unusual in union-land, organizations sniping at each other. Everybody has their issues. As Finke points out, there's been lots of bad blood for awhile now.

But these dueling PR campaigns are white noise. The core issue is, the AMPTP isn't at the table; the WGA isn't at the table. So somebody has to make the move and get the parties talking again.

Steve said...

It is unusual that at a time when unions are backing the WGA, IATSE seems to be going to war with them.

Tom Short's statements are more crass and less sensitive than the people the AMPTP.

It's bad form, I think. Especially considering his union ALSO represents writers.

Anna said...

as an IATSE member, I'm embarrassed. apparently, the word solidarity has become passe.

Matt Wayne said...

Just in case people here missed it, the following was posted among the comments under the linked story. It speaks directly to 839's dilemma:

To the Writers’ Guild members -
Please ignore the psychotic ravings of that asshole Tom Short.
Short does not speak for his IATSE members, only for his friends the Producers.
The vast majority of rank-and-file IATSE members support you in your strike, because YOUR issues are OUR issues, too.
Short has sold us out in every contract negotiations since he stole the Presidency without an election, and he will continue to do so.
Short has never worked in this industry, and has no idea what a labor union is all about. Fortunately there are REAL Labor Unions in this industry - WGA, SAG, DGA.
We IATSE members support your strike efforts and we wish we had leadership with some balls.
Instead, we got Short.

Douglas C. Hart
IATSE Local 600, 33 years, First Camera Assistant
IATSE Local 52, 36 years, Grip
Member, Local 600 National Executive Board, and High on Short’s “Enemies List,” as he is on mine.

Comment by Douglas C. Hart — November 15, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

Steve Hulett said...

Couple of points:

People need to know the labor history of the movie industry. The things going on now are of a piece.

President Short has his own approach and style to the job. I'm not going to sit here and defend it, because I have differences with it, and have for years.

OTOH, I've been an IA member through three IA Presidencies, and have known two of the top kicks. And Tom Short has negotiated better contracts -- by far -- than his predecessors.

A lot of the griping of IA members come down to this: 1) Short is autocratic. 2) There are a variety of contracts with varying rates, many of those rates below the minimum in the IA-AMPTP basic agreement. But there's a reason:

The IA in the late eighties and early nineties repped maybe 50% of movie and television work where it hand previously had close to 100%. And know what? When you are that deep in the hole, you organize to get back in the game and often negotiate concessionary contracts.

What a lot of IA members complain about is that many are now working under contracts outside the basic agreement that have lower rates.

But nine-ten years ago, IA members were working for the same companies that are now under a contract with no minimum rates. And NO pension and health benefits.

I think the recent spat boils down to this: The IA considers the WGA a raider of work in its traditional jurisdictions, so it tends to be hostile.

The DGA and SAG doesn't consider the WGA to be raiding their work areas, so they tend to be less hostile. And like I say: this stuff is all white noise. The issues are and continue to be:

Does the WGA have the leverage to get the contract it wants? And will the parties sit down and hammer something out sooner rather than later? I mean, it's important to the community.

Anonymous said...

If they get more, how does IATSE benefit in the short term? Long term?

How will this change things for the better for IATSE if they make ground?

I am not being cynical here. Simply interested.

Steve said...

Well, three fold:

1) Anything the WGA gets can be used as "exhibit A" in any other negotiation for animation writing under the 839 umbrella, which (as you know) gives ZERO residuals (which blows).

2) It doesn't MATTER how it affects IATSE. Unions fighting for their members deserve the support of other unions who support their members, not this ridiculous pissing match that seems to be going on. Speaking as someone who holds dual membership, it's embarrassing.

3) But if you're going to be SUPER cynical, it benefits IATSE because, like they did with reality, they can come in and undercut more aggressive unions as they play patty cake with the studios. That, of course, is if you choose to be super cynical.

Me, I'm going to say it's one or two. Because I am not super cynical.

Steve Hulett said...

Couple more points:

1. The IA and its members do NOT get residuals in the way that many WGA writers (live action tv, live action feature, prime time animation) have.

What they get is residuals paid into the pension and health plan. Much the same as WGA daytime animation writers get.

2. Re reality: Remember that the WGA announced -- after earlier cooperation -- that it was going to organize tape editors in the IA's jurisdiction. The WGA had every legal right to do this, but it helped launch the jurisdictional war that the Writers Guild ultimately lost.

3. I'll be super cynical, Steve. The way the dynamics work are this:

Companies most want to be non-union because it gives them the most cost flexibility (Pixar or Blue Sky Animation are two examples.)

Next, they want the union that will cost them less money. In my experience, the IA is more expensive than the Office Workers union, less expensive than the WGA.

Doesn't mean that the Writers Guild can't organize various writers; it can. Just means that in some circumstances it's tough to get to a contract.

It's about .... have I said this? ... Lev-e-rage.