Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #196: What Can Unions Do?

Things don't look too good for the Hollywood unions. SAG is going on strike, the WGA is angry about the studios not living up to their agreement, and just about everybody is getting screwed over.

What can they do?

Well, here's a short plan for the unions to eventually get the upper hand.

1. NEVER FORGET PRIORITIES. Too many times unions, especially in show business, get distracted from their ultimate goal by internal politics. The end of a contract term is not a good time for divisions to suddenly pop up. They should be settled long before then, so a strong united front can be presented. This is because the AMPTP has made negotiations into war, not business, and in war, there is only one goal: Getting the best contract they can get.

2. PLAN AHEAD. As soon as a contract is signed, plans should be made for the next contract. That means getting resources together, preparing a grassroots alternative media campaign, and knowing exactly what they want, and how they can get it. This also means putting together a big war chest for the worst case scenario of a strike, and figuring out what your opponent will do against you, and develop the proper countermeasures.

3. REMAIN CALM. There will be problems, and no matter how well you prepare, there will be some who break away. And when livelihoods are threatened, tempers can get short, but you cannot lose your temper. Anger is a tool of your enemy, and whatever they do to you, just shrug it off and enact your plan to neutralize it.

The big media companies will always try to make the showbiz unions look like a conclave of rich spoiled brats having temper tantrums. Do
not prove them right. Always calmly state your case, work to get your word out, and do not let them set you up. You should also never give them anything they can use against you in the future, like publishing a list of people to be shunned for breaking with the union. That just allows the AMPTP to compare you to McCarthy, don't let them do it.

4. BE UNITED. One of the biggest problems with the Hollywood unions is that while their contracts all tend to end at the same time, they all negotiate separately. Now sure, each union has different needs, but they have more in common than they think. Now you will have some union leaders, who shall remain nameless, playing silly games, trying to jockey themselves as the last union standing over the others, but since they usually share a lot of members, there are ways around them by replacing that leadership.

Then all the Actors, Writers, and Directors can present a truly united and powerful front for their shared goals. The AMPTP will try to divide and conquer, but that resisted with strength, leadership, and, most importantly, a plan.

5. FIND ALLIES. The self-fulfilling idiocy of the major studios hurts more than just the writers, directors, and actors. Pretty much everyone is getting a royal screw job by the upper management.

Who can they go to?

Try the agents, they're losing their 10% commission on that lost money, and while this may sound a little out there, they should also look to the individual and institutional shareholders and investors. The silly games played by the studios to keep from paying the creators, are also screwing many of the shareholders and investors out of their dividends. In this uncertain economy, no one can afford to piss away money in a tax-dodge. Every investment has to earn or be dumped.

Promoting a simpler, more cost effective, and more profitable business plan can undercut the standing of the management. That's because in Hollywood, only the management seems to profit, through pay, perks and power, while shareholders and investors often don't see the dividends promised by that management.

The unions should make it very clear to these potential allies, that they are not revolutionaries, out to bring capitalism to its knees while stout men in overalls break wind in the palaces of the mighty, but reasonable people, with reasonable demands facing an unreasonable system.

In real capitalism there is always a way for everyone to walk away happy that I call the "double thank you moment" where both sides say thank you, because both got what they wanted. Studio management doesn't like that, because it whittles down their own cut of the pie, but investors love it, because it not only makes that pie bigger, it makes other, fresher pies.

Hopefully this plan might help someone make a better deal someday.

No comments:

Post a Comment