Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

The Writers Guild Strike

Rate this topic


Strangelove
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am a bit surprised that no one in the Objectivists blogosphere seems to have provided any commentary on the current strike being undertaken by the Writers Guild of America (I make this statement based on the meta blog on this forum's frontpage) I am also surprised that no ARI editorial or letter to the editor has been posted yet explaining their view.

There is only one article on Capmag.com which even approaches the issue (which itself has a disclaimer explaining that this is an older article from 2001). It argues that the issue is not the terms of the strikers, but government protection provided to unions and guilds and how this prevents individuals who are not members of unions to be able to enter into contract with the producers and directors of television shows and movies:

http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=5040

While I agree with that legal point, I am reminded of what Thomas Sowell has said in some of his other articles, that there is nothing fundamentally wrong if workers decide to picket and present demands for changes in employment terms as a unified group (whether such action makes economic sense is another argument.) Additionally, I find myself sympathetic to the demands of the strikers.

As I understand it, the current rules regarding royalties that writers get for their work does not take into account the sales from DVDs or from content being posted online. For example, if a TV show is broadcasted to a traditional TV set, the network would have to pay the writers some sort of royalty. However, if the network decides to put the show up online instead, they have no obligation to either credit the writers or pay them.

An example of this are the recent Battlestar Galactica "webisodes", short two-minute episodes which were put online. The writers wanted credit for their work but the network deemed it was simply "promotional material" and so did not need to be credited. To understand why getting credit is important, it is my understanding that if they are not credited the writers can not put the work they did on their resumes, after all, how can they claim it if they were not credited?

Now as the lines between "TV" and "Internet Content" become more and more blurred, the likely hood that more of more material will be distributed online through digital means (Youtube etc) becomes greater, so it makes sense that if the existing writer's guild contract with the networks is not able to deal with this accordingly, then a change must be made, and if negotiations to come to an agreement that deal with this reality fail, then a strike to demonstrate the problems that will come if the writers can not write (and thus fill the networks with badly conceived reality TV shows) does not seem completely unreasonable.

At this point I feel tempted to make a comparison between the writer's strike on their creative output and the Atlas Shrugged "Strike of the Mind" but I feel that the similarities are obvious enough.

With this in mind, why have not more Objectivists come to the defense of the writers for trying to get the necessary economic and contractual credit that the writers deserve for their creative work? Is it because the defense of the need to reward the creative energies of the writers is being taken up by a union? And so there is just an implicit (and possibly legitimate) guarded bias against taking the same side as a union? Is it because this does not resolve the underlying tensions about the powers that unions have under the current laws? Or is it because they don't think that there is a case to be made in getting all worked up about new forms of media distribution?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can't speak for other Objectivists, but I suspect the reason there hasn't been a lot of writing/blogging about the matter is that there's no substantial philosophical issue involved. The current standard contracts don't give writers credit for certain types of work, they want those contracts changed. In what way does Objectivism provide a distinct view on this issue?

I've only skimmed a couple of articles on the strike, but, for what it's worth, it sounds to me like the writers are clearly in the right.

-- Spiral Theorist --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How can this not be a philosophical issue? It would seem that this is a dramatization of many of the conflicts present in Atlas Shrugged (members of society wishing to illegitimately profit from the creative and productive energies of others). I would normally expect Objectivists to blog in support of those ideas. So I am curious if the reason that they don't is because of how this is being done by a union, or if there is some other reason that prevents them from rushing to the defense of the writers as productive and creative members of the industry.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, I've been aware of the strike but I haven't really been keeping up with it too much because a friend of mine is really supportive of it and fills me in on the details.

Why Objectivists haven't really commented on it yet? There could be a number of reasons. I for one have been meaning to make a thread like this one, but I forgot about it. It might depend on where they get there news coverage, and the fact that the shows some Objectivists watch aren't affected by the strike. Some shows I watch are being cancelled because of it.

We do have a large group of "right-wing-on-everything" type people here who follow Fox News to the letter, and since I don't watch Fox I'm not for sure if they made it an issue or not. Usually if they do it sends the blogosphere spinning out of control. Also, all the cable news networks might not be covering it because they don't like the end of the deal they are on.

Some Objectivists might be confused about or ignorant about the principles of the matter and see the words "strike" and see some familiar Hollywood faces involved and instantly dismiss this as evil-communist-liberals pushing their evil-communist-agenda.

Who knows? Guess we should wait and see if people answer themselves. :D

I agree with SpiralTheorist. The writers deserve compensation for shows watched online. There is really not much dispute to it. Go writers.

For the record, I agree with Writers as well on this one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing no one has pointed out is that the very existence of a union obscures market prices. The purpose of a union is to raise wages by creating a monopoly. This is not inherently coercive, but it does obscure the wages that would exist in a competitive market. If the Guild did not exist, then the market would set competitive wages according to the laws of supply and demand, and the dilemma of how much an employee "deserves" would not exist. In a competitive market, individual writers could only demand what the market would bear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with David on this one.

If writers want raises or more compensation then they should do it as individuals, quit if they need to and find another job, not use unions to artificially inflate their value.

Try to imagine the absurdity of unions with your own job. Imagine you're unhappy with your pay, you discuss it with the people you work for (assuming you work for someone) and they decline because they can, you're only worth so much. So instead of quiting if you disagree, you hide under the wing of a union and demand it by force.

If there's any Government protection for this Union its even worse. The Government should be hands off on this, and if anything, protecting business from any unfair actions by unions.

Edited by Dorian
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The writers deserve compensation for shows watched online. There is really not much dispute to it. Go writers.
What tells us that they do not get all they deserve? Suppose a publisher signed a deal with an author, giving the author a certain amount of royalty per book sold, but reserving to the publisher all rights to money from any potential movie. If the author agreed to the deal, then he may be making a good deal or a bad deal (and the same for the publisher); but there's no coercion involved.

I don't know enough about the writer's issue; but, it sounds like they're being paid for their work published in certain media, and not for others. If they think its now time to negotiate a new deal, that's fine; but, I don't see any reason to root either for them, nor for the other side.

The details of their compensation contract simply, lead to the question of how much they are being paid. For all I know, they are already being paid more than they might get if the law did not protect unions. Or, perhaps they are underpaid. However, unless one really understands the industry, I don't think one can have a view on the amount of their compensation, and it's impact. It's definitely not enough to read much into the current structure of their deal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For all I know, they are already being paid more than they might get if the law did not protect unions. Or, perhaps they are underpaid. However, unless one really understands the industry, I don't think one can have a view on the amount of their compensation, and it's impact. It's definitely not enough to read much into the current structure of their deal.
And this I think explains perfectly satisfactorily why there is no ARI Op-ed on the matter. It is the right of the writers to refuse to agree to sign a new contract that doesn't include residuals for dowloaded content; it is the right of the producers to refuse to let the unions have jurisdiction over reality shows. The studios are just trying to make more money -- that's a good thing. And the writers are just trying to make more money -- that too is a good thing. I haven't seen anything that tells me that the studios or the writers are clearly being evil, so I can't even imagine what side at ARI editorial would come down on.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Isn't the union in question a coercive labor union, i.e., a union that employers are required by law to deal with, and that employees are required by law to join?

If so, then the particular issues prompting the strike are irrelevant. What is relevant is that the union is violating the rights of each side and that the strike itself amounts to a gun being put to the heads of the studios (or whoever it is that employs the writers). This immoral means invalidates the ends, no matter what they are.

If it isn't coercive, then of course the writers have a right to strike, and the outcome will be determined by negotiation and/or civil suits.

The strike itself is probably not being covered more than it is because the one recycled article says everything that needs to be said.

Mark Peters

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's great. But this issue isn't about unions.

Both the WGAE and the WGAW (12,000 members total) are both labor unions, so I am not sure why you are saying it isn't an issue, as such. I read about this over a month ago when it grabbed my attention when I saw "Writer's Strike", but after reading 2-3 articles about it, I lost interest. It's the word union that did that for me, plus reading that "members were told that all writing covered under the WGA agreements must cease when the strike starts."

But what I did enjoy reading about was this: QCFA donated a block of tickets to see their production of Monna Vanna to the strikers and here's why:

"The donation could be perceived as charity, but it's really more of an investment," said Quent Cordair, owner of Quent Cordair Fine Art in Burlingame, California, which is backing the production. "The writers have some free time on their hands, and we think that there could be no better way for them to use some of their time than to take in and experience one of the greatest dramas ever penned. Our hope is that one or two of the writers may be inspired by this play to reach for higher heights in their own writing, to create more exalted characters and more captivating, romantic story lines, when they return to work."

:thumbsup:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But what I did enjoy reading about was this: QCFA donated a block of tickets to see their production of Monna Vanna to the strikers and here's why:

Ooh, that's a clever move!! Of course that's assuming those writers who watch the play don't just reject it out of hand for being bourgeois and shallow since it's not some negative-sense-of-life-and-therefore-"deep" art.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made a few remarks about the strike a month ago here. The only significant philosophical issue is government involvement. I'd love to see studios soliciting scab scripts, but even if they were legally allowed to do that, they probably wouldn't.

The thing I can't stand about the writers (and the same goes for the union side of any labor dispute, by the way) is that they cannot resist getting up on their socialist soapboxes at rallies and pickets spouting off their 'noble socialist ideals' and other union bilge. And haranguing Ellen. I'm not really an Ellen fan, but she did say she was crossing the picket lines because "sweeps is more important."

~Q

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...