by Gerry Conway
LB’s NOTE: TVWriter™ has been getting a lot of email asking us – mostly in a more subtle way – what the big deal is about the result of the latest negotiation with the AMPTP and why are we, the members of the WGA, so thrilled about the result.
Good questions, for sure. And my good buddy Gerry Conway has some good answers, right here, right now (and also on his blog, where this short but perceptive reaction originally appeared just a few days ago):
Just got an email from the WGA negotiating committee, and for the first time since I became a member in 1978, I believe the Guild has achieved the impossible– we pushed back against the studios’ greed and intransigence without having to destroy or damage careers and livelihoods in the process.
I became a member at a time when union power in the United States was under assault by the growing countervailing power of mega corporations, and, after 1980, by the resurgent power of a growing anti-worker conservative political establishment. The 1980s was a traumatic time for the WGA, as a series of strikes forced by the studios’ refusal to negotiate fair terms for new media (and even, in the case of VHS sales, refusing to comply with deals they’d previously made) did serious damage to the careers of many writers, actors, directors and craftspeople – as well as to the lives of hundreds and thousands of supporting workers throughout the state. That decade left all the unions in Hollywood weakened and demoralized through much of the 1990s and well into the early 2000s. It took the rise of the internet and the apparent willingness of the studios to try to break Hollywood unions once and for all in the mid-2000s to finally bring writers back together again. The strength the Guild showed ten years ago, and the passion and determination of an idealistic younger generation of Guild members, is why the Guild was able to stare down the studios this year– and force them to blink.
I may be overly optimistic, but I see a parallel between the Guild’s victory over the studios this weekend and the victory of the Democrats over the Republicans in the budget battle, also this weekend.
In both cases the power to force their will upon a smaller, apparently weaker opponent seemed to be with the ruling establishment– the studios in one case, the Republican Congress and President in the other. Yet in the end the power was more apparent than real. Historical forces decide– in the 1980s, history was moving against unions, workers, and progressive politics. In the 2000s, history is moving against corporate economic dominance, wealthy elites, and conservatism. Despite momentary victories– weakening financial regulations, current electoral triumphs– the cultural order that’s held sway since Reagan’s election in 1980 is crumbling. That flush of victory Republicans perceived when Trump was elected may turn out to have been the flush of a breaking fever.
Congratulations to my brothers and sisters in the WGA. May ours be the first of many future victories for workers and unions and people-first policies yet to come.
Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.