"We have 48 hours. We don’t want to strike. What we really want to do is negotiate."
That’s WGA negotiating committee chairman John Bowman speaking about the union’s statement that 12,000 members will officially go on strike as of Monday morning. DVD residuals and an extension of the current residual formula to permanent electronic transactions (i.e. film downloads) have proved to be the massive sticking point, with Bowman emphasizing that the guild remains open to a deal so long as studios and networks don’t insist that residuals cannot be upped.
Three thousand members met at the guild’s largest meeting in history. There, as the WGA’s site reports, "writers heard the WGA Negotiating Committee’s report on the status of negotiations. The Negotiating Committee reported that the AMPTP had called a halt to negotiations by demanding we accept the extension of the current DVD formula to new media."
The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, meanwhile, fired back at the WGA with more than a little bit of high-minded venom. The AMPTP’s web site highlights a statement from president Nick Counter:
"We are very disappointed with [the WGA’s] press conference and the action they took. Their press conference was full of falsehoods, misstatements and inaccuracies and we’ll respond at an appropriate time."
But more to the point, Counter responds to the residuals issue with a blank negation of the WGA’s interests: "In short, the DVD issue is a complete roadblock to any further progress."
In other words, the networks and studios, famous for accounting that teaches lessons to the mob, wants to keep their bags of money half-full.
Keep an eye on both the AMPTP’s site and the WGA website, which is being continually updated with current info. Currently there’s a call out for strike captains and strike teams, which makes it sound like the guild is trading coffee shops for Klendathu. The site emphasizes that all writers must be part of a strike team, and that captains will "Captains communicate with fellow members, identify and recruit other member leaders, and mobilize fellow members to participate in actions to support the campaign for a good and fair contract."
Keep that last phrase in mind: a good and fair contract. Doors remain open over the weekend for last-minute talks and a deal, if only narrowly, since that DVD residuals sticking point is unlikely to be dealt with. A strike isn’t good for anyone, but neither is an inequitable deal for the writers who are constantly on the low end of the pole. For the sake of the many friends of CHUD who make their living pounding out scripts, here’s real hope for a fruitful weekend of talks.