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Despite Writers' Last Minute Concession for Federal Mediator, Well-Funded Strike Enters Day Two

(Jay Leno who says "no writers, no show" -- photo from Yahoo Entertainment)

This very local news on the Writers' Guild strike is just in from the U.K. -- Writers Block Hollywood as Strike Takes TV Shows Off the Air (excerpt below, and kudos for yet another unknown artist of the terse and witty headline). 

On Sunday, a federal mediator made a last big push to avert the strike. The Writers Guild made one big eleventh-hour concession, dropping its insistence on a doubling of royalties from DVD sales but that was not matched by anything substantial enough from the producers to clinch a deal.

After three months of contract negotiations, which never entirely looked like producing an agreement, both sides are extraordinarily well prepared. The writers have commandeered 300 strike captains on both coasts who will direct pickets and other protests, and have amassed a strike fund of about $12.5m (£7m)which they will farm out in the form of loans to the neediest writers and their families.

In the meantime, you can see Jay Leno and Julia-Louise Dreyfus on the picket line (see TV Squad here on Leno handing out Krispy Kremes to strikers) down the street here in front of the famous Paramount Studio Gate if you click on the L.A. Legal Pad's coverage of the strike which links to a Channel 2 newscast featuring those well-known comedians.

We'd love to hear from any of our readers who have experience negotiating labor disputes. 

 Jim Stott in Gig Harbor, Washington?  We mean you Big Guy! 

Comments (1)

Read through and enter the discussion by using the form at the end
Jim Stott - November 6, 2007 2:28 PM

Comments here are not in anyway intended to minimize, diminish or otherwise criticize the hard efforts of the writers, producers or federal mediator's efforts to reach agreement in this ongoing dispute. Often, both parties become "blinded by the sparks" associated with their lack of progress at the bargaining table. In those situations, a psychological phenomenon occurs wherein parties start start to blame the 'other side' through personal attacks; one against the other. As this practice grows, the underlying issues that really need to be discussed are subsumed by the superficial and surface diatribes.

Obviously - to the outsider - settlement can only be reached when the parties focus on the substantive and underlying issues as a mutual and common problem. Often, both sides fail to realize that a problem for one contingent group is ultimately a problem for all contingents. If force, i.e., a work stoppage or lock-out is used as a means for getting the 'other side' to soften their positions, the latent residual feeling caused by such an action is often long-lasting and will materially damage the ongoing relationship between all stakeholders involved.

In practice and theory, writers need work provided by the producers, just as producers need the work-product of the writers. In negotiations, it is this symbiotic internal relationship that is most important. Long after the work stoppage has been resolved, the latent and labile underlying emotional distrust and dissatisfaction will continue; often for years.

The federal mediator assigned to this particular case is exceptionally well qualified. He is a colleague and friend. I have no doubt that his professional services provided in this situation were of the highest quality.

Rarely however, even with the presence of a mediator, negotiations break down and reach impasse. Intractable parties are often the stock-in-trade for federal mediators. It not at all unusual to hear the warring factions self-diagnose their positions as being "miles apart." On rare occasions though, parties are so far apart that their tangential distances and differences, when measured in cost and dollars can be significant.

It would appear that producers and writers are faced with unanticipated outcomes associated with the expotential growth of the broadband internet capacity and online streaming video and audio. On the one hand, producers may see this as a marketing and distribution opportunity, by which they will increase audience participation and marketshare. While at the same time however, writers may see this exploding media as one in which their recognition, compensation and earning potential has been and will be diluted and otherwise diminished.

These complex negotiations are never easy and are often rocky. The challenge to all the stakeholders is to continue the conversation and continue to make progress, albeit ever-so-slowly. Even if their conversations are not face-to-face, but done through an intermediary; they are critically important.

As long as all dialogue has stopped, there virtually is no chance the impasse will self-resolve; thus the stand off will continue indefinitely. This is precisely what happened in the Caterpillar work stoppage which lasted over five years. All communication stopped. Distrust on both sides grew expotentially. Replacement workers were hired. All the while, the union pickets were outside the plant, locked out, while the plant production continued to grow.

While this is an extreme case in labor management relationships, it is my hope that productive conversations, clandestine and off the record or not, continue. This is the only way in which this dispute will resolve without inflicting extensive and long-lasting damage to all stakeholders.

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