WGA Strike Primer: 2008 Begins -- Where It All Stands

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET

As Hollywood peers into 2008 shut down, and the AMPTP corporations get set to negotiate instead with a guild not on strike, it's a good time to recap the previous year and take stock at what got conditions to this point.

What precisely has each side demanded that's kept the negotiations from moving forward? And are such matters fair and reasonable?

This is what the AMPTP corporations have insisted on:

1. ...for the Writers Guild to remove its contract request of raising DVD royalties after 22 years from 4-cents, or else the AMPTP wouldn't negotiate.

The WGA remarkably agreed to this in the spirit of moving the negotiations along, believing that New Media was far more critical in the long run. Since the AMPTP corporations got what they wanted here, count that a winner! In appreciation, the AMPTP did nothing in return, and then walked away from the table.

2. ...walking away from the table.

The AMPTP corporations stormed off because they said they were caught unawares that the WGA would actually strike when it said it would strike, the day its contract ended, as it had been saying it might do for the previous month. While many in the AMPTP considered their leaving a clever tactic, walking away is considered a hindrance to actual negotiation

3. ...for the Writers Guild to remove six requests, or else the AMPTP wouldn't negotiate.

The Writers Guild almost considered being accommodating to these demands, too, but then realized it would get them bumbuzzled six-times over. It turns out, if you let the other side tell you what you can even talk about, you lose. It's over, thank you for playing. Not once have the writers demanded that the AMPTP corporations remove a single thing from the table. So, demanding that the Writers Guild remove six requests before you'll even talk, that gets put in the "hindrance to actual negotiation" category, too.

4...walking away from the table.

No, this is not a repeat. This time, they walked away because the WGA asked to discuss several things the AMPTP didn't. Since corporate CEOs are used to getting their way, this meant the Writers Guild was not negotiating seriously. To the AMPTP corporations, you must understand, walking away from the table clearly is a serious form of negotiating. Unfortunately, in the real world, walking away is a hindrance to actual negotiation

5...for the Writers Guild to remove its chief negotiator and Guild president.

Admittedly, this is an intriguing gambit. Well, no it's not, I was just being polite. Now, keep in mind that writers probably dislike the AMPTP's negotiator far more than the AMPTP doesn't like the Guild's because he's been around so much longer. But writers accept how negotiations work: each side gets to pick their own negotiators, and each side has a committee which instructs those negotiators what terms it wants. Besides, around 90% of the WGA is very happy with its leadership, which is perhaps 70% higher than the AMPTP corporations can say about theirs. So, hinting that the Writers Guild to remove its leadership is one more hindrance to actual negotiation.

Okay, that's one bingo for the AMPTP corporations, and four hindrances. Let's look now at the other side of the coin.

This is what the WGA insists on for the negotiations to proceed:

A) ...for the AMPTP to actually negotiate.

There are reports that writers might also be willing to provide a nice buffet lunch, though it will be BYOB.

B)...See A.

And so, there's an impasse. And the AMPTP corporations prepare to talk with directors instead. Such is their choice. It has always been their choice.

The AMPTP corporations chose to offer writers zero for original Internet content, zero for streaming and zero for downloading, which left the Writers Guild no option but to reject the contract. Striking has caused much pain within the entertainment industry, but to do otherwise would have destroyed the WGA - and ultimately would set the pattern for destroying SAG and the DGA. The AMPTP monopoly has walked away from the table twice and are now set to negotiate with a guild not even on strike. Despite protestations to the contrary, they show their blunt disdain for all others hurting in Hollywood as clearly as possible. While their website shows a running clock of how much money has been lost during the strike, it only serves as a reminder that it's their own clock.

Here's hoping they do reach an agreement with the DGA. And that they offer directors what we all know they could have offered writers a month ago. But, well...who knows? Happy New Year. With all best wishes.

Read more strike coverage on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.