Thursday, November 29, 2007

Employment Is Cooperation

The Democratic candidates refused to cross a picket line of striking writers yesterday (thus canceling their debate), affirming their general support for the guild strike. As private citizens, it is their right to support or not support whomever they wish and they were put in the position to make one decision or the other. But their actions contribute to a disturbing conclusion emerging about the strike: the writers are downtrodden workers and the studios are the greedy extortionists.

Such a story is simplistic and deceptive. Employees are not victims and employers are not slavers. They work together in mutual cooperation; a strike is not a rebellion. To my knowledge, neither party (the Writer's Guild or the studios) use the law to force one to cooperate with the other. But the studio is increasingly seen as immoral and greedy.

This is no doubt in part due to the seemingly reasonable request of the guild--compensation on new media. Yet studios shoulder most of the risk for new projects and the risk is high. Most shows fail tremendously and it makes sense that the studios are trying to shoulder against that risk with enhancing the gains from the rare success. The point is it is not at all clear what the compensation--if any--should be. There are too many factors to take into account. Outsiders should be the last people to take sides. Let the informed decide for themselves.

1 comment:

cupritte said...

I agree that Employees are not victims and employers are not slavers, however sometimes there is good reason for the employees not to cooperate.
I actually don't know anything about the writers strike, so I will not use that as my example. I am writing simply base on my previous experience with my employers.
As an employer you have a number of bargaining chips you can use if an employee is not up to par. You can "write them up" meaning take disciplinary action, without actually punishing and leaving a paper trail for later consequences, you could demote the employee or you can fire them. As an employee, you can quit, or if you are daring enough you can write a letter stating your grievances, and if things do not change quit. The problem I have found with writing a letter is that the employer may react, but they will usually only involve the writer of the grievance letter in the solution... perhaps giving this individual a raise, and issues that are more global (pertain to the entire staff) are left unaddressed. This unfortunately in the long run solves nothing. A strike however shows the employer how important their staff members are, and lets them know they want something done.
I do think that strikes are often overused by labor unions, and the like. I think that if 25% of the staff are considering quitting their jobs over the issue, it is understandable to strike. In the case of the writers, the problem with that premise is that if they were to quit their current jobs as writers, assuming they would still like to write, they would go back to a job with the exact same problem. Hence the strike. I don't think that this demonizes the studio, it simply means that the writers collectively have decided that they want more... and quitting won't allow them to do that.