Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rethinking Reality, continued

For the explanation of why organizing reality in order to put teeth into our strike threat has proven to be a misguided approach, please see the previous post below.

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As long as we're in permanent confrontation mode, constantly threatening to strike, and at the same time telling the studios that we're hell-bent on organizing reality so as to use it against them, we can expect the studios to put up the fierce resistance that we've seen to organizing those shows, while we keep diverting our finite resources toward that cause.

It's time to think about moving away from a "means to an end" approach to reality, and shifting to a "do the right thing" approach.

First off, we need to honestly define what "reality writing" is. For the last couple of years, we've been willing to call editors writers, shredding the MBA language which has always defined us on the theory that having more people in our union will make us stronger. (And it may well not, anyhow; the more diverse the union, the harder it is to get people to hold together over issues which don't usually affect all writers equally.)

Instead, let's convene the strongest committee we can, ideally comprised of reality showrunners who are also WGA members. Let's charge them with suggesting a definition of "reality writing," toward identifying the people who fairly ought to be covered by the Writers Guild.

Then let's go to the studios and offer to talk about organizing these writers under a separate WGA MBA, similar to the newswriters.

By taking off the table the very concept of organized reality as some sort of wonder weapon which we're itching to use against the studios, we'd remove the most powerful incentive they've had to resist. And the most important benefits these writers would receive -- health, pension, minimums -- are in the areas where even the studios have often shown willingness to be fair for fairness's sake.

We'd finally be doing right by the writers we've been claiming we want to help, getting them real benefits instead of treating them as pawns.

Again, I wouldn't be suggesting this if we hadn't just seen that we could wage such an effective strike even without reality. But we did.

Let's not be slaves to dogma. Let's learn from what we've gone through, let's actually do something meaningful for these writers, and let's start using our staff and budget resources to better enforce the contract we already have, in the interests of the members we already have.