Monday, November 05, 2007

Good Night, and Good Luck

Even given the sorry state of the labor movement in US, you'd be hard pressed to come up with a more clownish or ineffective union than the Writers Guild of America. Don't take my word for it, though, just ask any of the old-timers how that 1988 strike worked out for them. (I'm kidding, of course; there are no old-timers left in television news.) The Guild's entire 30-man negotiating team probably drove to the latest round of talks crammed into a single car.

But like an itchy infection that flares up from time to time, my CBS past keeps coming back to haunt me. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I am, it appears, a WGA member. (Here's how that went down, in case you're wondering why I have so little affection for my own union: I was hired as an associate producer, which is technically considered a non-writing position, but over the years I produced a few stories, for which I would receive a writing credit. Every time this happened, CBS paid the WGA - of which I was not a member - a fee just slightly north of a thousands bucks. In other words, free money! Several thousand dollars over the years funneled in my name into WGA coffers! For this, the WGA rewarded me with a very hostile letter demanding that I join the union, and dunning me close to three grand for retroactive unpaid dues. I responded with my own collection of increasingly menacing memoranda displaying my facility with both legalese and the American urban vernacular - a combination that so impressed them, apparently, they decided a writer of my caliber [and several colleagues in a similar position] should be invited to join the Guild free of charge. These guys are so crooked, they had to be screwed into their chairs at the negotiating table.)

So, having been effectively drafted into the WGA, it turns out it's not that easy to leave - or at least, I can't figure out how to do it. Every couple months I get a newsletter and a notice updating me on my WGA pension, currently a whopping $1,406. (Whatever else I may feel about them, knowing that all my living expenses from June 28, 2032, to July 1, 2032, will be covered does allow me to sleep a little better at night.) Just when I think I'm out...they pull me right back in!

In other words, I'm on strike. This website may loathe its own union, but it has a longstanding policy against crossing picket lines. Besides, if anyone can make the corrupt meatsacks at WGA look like Joe Hill, it's the network weasels they're striking against. It's an unappealing choice but, frankly, not a very difficult one.

Of course, as far as this site is concerned, I'm also management. So while half of me is going on strike for the foreseeable future, the other half is happy to cash in on the reality-programming, user-generated-content horseshit that's been marginalizing writers for several years now. So here's the deal: If you've always wanted a blog, but couldn't be bothered to put in the 20 minutes a day required to actually maintain one, this is your chance. Got something to say? A product to push? Looking to start a fight? Are you my non-WGA-member wife? Burro Hall wants you! Write what you like - include links, photos, etc, sign your real name or a nom de plume, email it in, and as long as you're not a WGA member, I'll publish it without paying you a peso. If we all band together, we can break this strike I am currently on.

5 comments:

Julie said...

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(Silence in solidarity with my union brothers and sisters. The benefit of my union, perhaps unlike yours, is we get legal representation when we kidnap students to Mexico. That's dues workin' for ya. Beat that, writers' guild. foxnews.com/story/0,2933,308139,00.html .)

Not Burro Hall said...

If the WGA had to pay legal fees every time a tv producer sexually harassed an underling, it would have gone bankrupt 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to entertain your Mexamerican readers with my twangy, offhand musings on life in America's Breadbasket, but I have what's known as a trabajo.

Burro Hall said...

Okay, Dad, I get the point.

O$ said...

GOONS HERE. HIRED GOONS.

If it comes to it, I want you to know I'm ready to show up at your door with a van full of hired goons to bust that pink-commie union of yours. Even if it means you having to sign off on your own ass-kicking. We're having a special this week on abdominal bruising: The tried and true Charlie Bronson technique of filling a sock with quarters is a favorite among the boyos. Extra charge for a beating with an orange-filled pillowcase. (citrus ain't cheap)Let me know.