Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Beaten Like a Yellow Dog

Apparently the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison wrote a "blunt" response to the proposed WGA contract. In his response, he begins: "THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG."

"My Guild did what it did in 1988," he continued. "It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGA folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day."

His colorful words, of course, have received mixed reviews. Sadly, though, his words reflect the truth. All the guilds appear to have been beaten by a simple tactic employers traditionally used in a labor dispute - the lockout.

As I warned in December, the AMPTP never had any intention of settling early with the WGA and did not bargain in good faith. They slowly "locked out" SAG and DGA members before their contract was up, in an effort to weaken their resolve before talks start. In the process, they also locked out everyone associated with production.

Lockouts frequently failed in the history of labor disputes. But industrial corporations hadn't yet talked the entire working class into mortgaging their souls for trinkets.

It would be interesting to know how much money workers in the industry, in whatever capacity, knowingly or unknowingly, owe to a subsidiary of GE, which owns NBCU. And even more interesting, how many felt the pressure of their debt owed to arms of the conglomerates?

Union members used to tithe to strike funds in order to help cover what people needed - food, clothing and shelter. It would be impossible to create a fund to cover the debt payments of most workers.

The "need" to own a $4,000 1080p 52" high definition Sony Bravia LCD TV would outweigh the wisdom to strike until one makes enough money to pay for it (because one can get up to 12 months of no interest or payment sthrough a Sony Financial Services credit card). Once one has it and a new BluRay player, DVD's direct from the Sony online store can be enjoyed such as the "Bourne Ultimatum" or the "Exclusive Seinfeld Series DVD Gift Box", a Sony Style exclusive. And tomorrow they can go to work for a Sony Pictures production. Does anyone remember the concept of a "company town." This is the new "company town", except Sony Pictures has no need to own the land under your house.

So the workers now quarrel openly among themselves, in the process making the employer's only real weapon - the lockout - an extremely effective tool in the ongoing process of accumulating riches.

Ellison is right, but is talking to people on their way to work whose new iPhones are blasting conglomerate-owned music too loudly to hear him. The old song hasn't been revised to say "16-frames and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt." But it should be.

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