JMS on Usenet


Subject: Re: WGA Strike 90%+ vote to strike
Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2007 16:43:17 -0700
From: "" 

System keeps glitching mid-send...trying one last time.


Let me jump in here for a second to try and turn the discussion a bit,
in that the situation as it affects writers is vastly different than
in any other union.

First, to the non- or anti-union folks, a question: when you go into a
book store to buy a copy of a novel by your favorite author, do you
mind that roughly twelve percent of the price of that book goes to the
author?  Or do you feel that he's entitled to that royalty?

Most folks, I would suggest, are totally okay with that idea.  They
wrote the book, the publisher published the book, they're both
entitled to get something back from the publishing of it.  That seems
only fair.

The situation with the WGA is really no different.  It's a way of
ensuring that artists -- who live in a very different world than the
9-5 universe everybody else lives in -- receive some regular form of
compensation to keep them alive and solvent during the often very long
periods of time required to create the next thing.

Leaving off such catastrophic events as being laid off or fired...most
people go to work every day in expectation of a paycheck that will
come regularly.  Writers don't.  They get paid when they a) write, b)
finish what they write, and c) someone decides to *pay* for what
they've written.

It's not uncommon for writers to go a year, two years, even longer
without working in their chosen field.  Doesn't matter who you are.
After William Goldman won his first Oscar, he didn't work again for
almost five years.

The royalties formula in books, and the residuals formula in tv/film,
is all that allows writers to keep doing what they're in the period
when they're *writing* and not *selling*.  Take that away, and many of
the works of literature and film that we've come to enjoy would not
exist because the writers involved would not have been able to create
them, they would've been forced to go out and seek employment

Prose writers have the authors' guild or SFWA or other organizations
that watchdog publishers and provide assistance and information on
royalties, contracts, health insurance and the like.

TV/film writers have the WGA, which is a much more complex
organization because the permutations and ways in which monies can be
hidden, and by which revenue streams are delivered, are all massively
more complex.

There was a time, back in the 30s and 40s, when writers got nothing
more than a script fee for their work, even though it might take a
year or more to write that script.  And a lot of talented writers fell
by the wayside.  The creation of the WGA changed that and brought into
par with the prose writers whose royalties you would seem to feel are
right and proper.

And those can't be negotiated person-by-person because the studios see
us as individually replaceable.  Only collectively can there be any

I've had my problems with the WGA over the years, some of them have
become nearly legendary with the WGA.  But if the WGA did not exist,
there would be no way for most writers to survive doing what they love
to do.

As to this coming labor action, when you go into the store next and
buy a DVD and a book, look at the two of them and know that the author
of the book gets a full twelve to fifteen percent of the price...and
the author of the DVD gets, *at most* four cents per DVD, and most of
the time literally and absolutely *nothing* for it...and ask yourself,
"Why the difference?"

That's the question at hand at the WGA as well.