By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not in town this week and not staying obsessively absorbed by the hour-to-hour non-news non-movement of the possible – and some say inevitable – WGA strike as of Wednesday night.
I say again… for clarity’s sake… that the huge mistake many of the writers keep making is that they believe, 1) they will bring the studios to their knees by striking mid-TV-season, and 2) that they studios don’t believe the strike will happen and therefore, that is why they aren’t giving up anything at the negotiating table already.
The reality is, 1) that millions will be lost, but hundreds of millions are at stake and the WGA is not the studios’ biggest problem and 2) that the studios will continue to hold out on anything with the WGA that will been seen as precedent when they seriously negotiate with SAG next spring/summer.
Everyone gets so caught up in the details that the big picture gets lost. WGA can strike. WGA can settle for a deal that doesn’t have rollbacks, but doesn’t force much progress either. But what they can not do is to win new, industry-changing concessions by striking while everyone else keeps working. In the end, it is always the people in the union who can least afford to be on strike who spend all the time on the picket lines and end up leaving town by the time things settle down while the well-paid writers cut back on travel and extravagances before making up for the downtime in a hurry when the strike ends, either juggling multiple high-profile projects pushing for start dates or selling that spec they wrote during the strike.
I am not against the unions taking an ax to the studios. But they must shut it down all at once and they must be willing to win a war of attrition. You can’t win a war of attrition one union at a time. And this crap about “don’t let the studios prepare themselves” is more crap… as though they hadn’t anticipated this coming… back to misconception #2. Smart business people consider all the possibilities and contingencies before they decide how to position themselves. It is not emotional and it is not reactive.
I wish I could say that I believe that a strike is a winning idea, but not only don’t I see it, but every time someone explains why it is a good idea, it seems to be based on the notion that the “other guys” are dumb or short-sighted or acting purely out of arrogance. “They” may be those things, but “they” are the buyers, not the sellers and they know it.