It’s been five weeks since the Writers Guild of America West and East went on strike against the TV networks and the movie studios. The walkout has been hitting much of film and TV community pretty hard, though it has not affected animation that much. (Most animation writers, including those working on feature films, are represented by The Animation Guild, which is not on strike; those TAG members working on TV shows which have WGA contracts , like The Simpsons, are being affected in various ways; for more details on this aspect of the strike, check out the The Animation Guild Blog.)
The issues involved center around residuals for the so-called new media outlets, such as the Internet; the WGA wants a share of the pie for its members, while the studios (mostly owned by multinational media conglomerates) are resisting. The producers are now hoping to accelerate their negotiations with the Directors Guild of America, whose contract expires in June, in hopes of playing one against the other; the DGA, for its part, has already made a tentative deal with TV networks on “news, sports and operations.” (For the producers’ side of things, check out the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers website.)
How this will all end is not clear. But, with the American presidential primary race in full bloom, it strikes me that film and TV workers in Los Angeles and New York are fairly lucky. Going through such a prolonged strike is no fun, especially for strikers and other film and TV workers who have been put out of work for the duration. However, the film and TV industries are at least represented by unions with some degree of clout. This is not always the case with other unionized sectors of American industry, which, e.g., airlines, seem to negotiate from weakness rather than strength. (The real problem is the small percentage of unionized private sector workers.)
One wonders if next year’s elections will change things that much. The Democratic Party and its candidates rely heavily on the labor movement to get them elected, but recent history does not bode well for union-friendly legislation if the Democrats get back in power. I hope I’m wrong, as the American worker deserves better.