Thursday, November 08, 2007

Who Gets The Pieces of the Pie

I'm always surprised how many people fail to be sympathetic to striking workers simply because they perceive them to be "well-paid." Certainly one can always find a more worthy cause, a more desperate case, someone more "deserving." But ultimately this is about whether management gets to screw workers, and that's something we can all be concerned about whether it's janitors, Hollywood writers, or even millionaire baseball players.

The main issues for the WGA are rather simple - when the studios repackage their work until the end of time in new and exciting media formats, how much residuals should they get (if any). If you fail to "sympathize" with striking writers, you think that management should just expropriate the value of their work forever. In other words, you sympathize with management.

And of course plenty of writers aren't "well-paid" in that they don't always find consistent work. The writers for more high-profile shows who have steady jobs are probably making a decent living, and they're the ones we see on the Youtube clips, but to a great degree the strike isn't about them - or at least it's less important for them - and they're supporting the strike on behalf of both current and former less employed writers and, even more importantly, future writers who will see whatever gains the union has made over the years demolished because they're "writing for the internet"... when everything is on the internet.

Right now this is about a few extra pennies per DVD sale and getting a tiny chunk of whatever money is being made from putting teevee shows on the internet. But in the future it'll all be on the internet, or something even more exciting. If they don't lock in a good deal now, there may be no good deal in the future. Absent a good contract result, technological change may essentially bust the union.