Tag Archives: WGA

WGA Strike is over

From the LA Times:

More than 90% of the 3,775 writers who cast ballots in Los Angeles and New York voted to immediately end the work stoppage, capping the entertainment industry’s most contentious labor dispute in recent history.

“Rather than being shut out of the future of content creation and delivery, writers will lead the way as TV migrates to the Internet and platforms for new media are developed,” said Patric M. Verrone, president of the WGA, West.

On Feb. 25, writers are expected to ratify a new three-year contract that ensures them a stake in the revenue generated when their movies, television shows and other creative works are distributed on the Internet. Whether the benefits from the new contract will be enough to offset the income writers and others lost because of the strike is a matter of debate. (LA Times 2/13/08)

Now, it’s likely that you’ll hear lots of interpretations on who won, including from some people here. I don’t really feel confident to declare a winner, but the debate will continue for a while, and then there will be another fight. That’s kind of the nature of this game. But the one thing that was positive? This strike proved that the strike, as a tool, was not dead. It proved that workers still have some leverage.

Other experts believe the writers won a victory that transcends any financial gains. “It was a defining moment,” said economist Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. “It showed that a very disparate group of individuals could act with real solidarity — and that packed real economic power.”

Now, let’s get back to making some decent TV, and can we just stop filming Tila Tequila? Seriously, tv execs, enough with that crap, yo. No, I really don’t care who Tila hooks up with tonight, and that’s not going to change no matter how many times you show her in lewd and suggestive positions with people of various genders.

And why is Ricky Gervais on HBO? That man should be on every single tv, not pay cable. Except, maybe not in music videos.

WGA: Do we have a deal?

AP (and everybody else) has the report on a possible resolution to the Writer’s strike.  The rank-and-file membership will see the deal today and the WGA could potentially be back at work on Monday.  Two interesting lines from the article:

“I believe it is a good deal. I am going to be recommending this deal to our membership,” Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, told reporters before the New York meeting at a Times Square hotel.

“Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success,” guild leaders Winship and Patric Verrone, head of the Writers Guild of America, West, said in an e-mailed message to members.

We have several people here who know the intricacies of the situation better than I, so I won’t get into it much.  But from what I understand, it does indeed qualify as imperfect but significant.

A possibility of movement in the Writer’s Strike.

There’s positive news from the Writer’s strike. The L.A. Times is reporting that a contract has been negotiated between the two sides. The two sides have been engaged in unofficial negotiations for the past two weeks. And both sides have been very careful to keep all news blacked out.

The article says that the proposal will be presented to the union’s negotiating committee board by the negotiators on Monday.  

Chris Lehane’s Anti-Worker Legacy

Here is the problem with Chris Lehane going to work for the studios for me.  Working for Democrats and Democratic causes means we are working to improve the lives of the many not the few.  Going to work for these massive media conglomerates is the opposite.  We are for people not profits.  Unfortunately Chris Lehane has done this before and rather likes working for corporations.  The huge piece of research on the Chris Lehane blog starts off with this quote:

“I like dealing with CEOs. I like taking strategies and tactics we used in the White House and applying them to the corporate world.”

– Chris Lehane quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2002

Chris Lehane decided that he was going to work for the huge movie studios and television companies and work to bust the union during a strike.  You just don’t do that as a Democratic operative.  It is incompatible with Democratic values and impossible to justify.  The studios were the ones who walked away from the negotiating table.  Look, there is no way I and others would not be this riled up about a Democratic operative simply taking a gig working for any old corporation.  It is the union busting that is an enormous problem.  Undermining solidarity during a strike is the cardinal sin.

Now under Lehane’s direction, the studios are attempting to divide the WGA membership and they are not being subtle about it.  How else to describe the counters they have up on the newly redesigned AMPTP site.  I first spotted them on a LAT banner ad.  If you notice, the second banner is about the IATSE, whose leadership has not been supportive of the writers.  They are modeled after the ones on the United Hollywood blog.

(Notice that the TNS survey they are crowing about on the top of the website is a “internet” survey and has absolutely no statistical value.)

This is part of a pattern of behavior from Chris Lehane, which Jane picked up on at Fire Dog Lake, but I want to pick up on the section titled: Lehane and the Bay Bridge Welders.  It illustrates quite well Lehane’s disregard of workers.  This time it was not over being paid a fair wage, but over the worker’s basic safety.

In 2004 welders working on the new span of the Bay Bridge filed a Cal/OSHA claim against KFM, the consortium contracted to build the span. 48 workers were sick with respiratory problems that they believed were caused by exposure to dangerous levels of manganese.

The Cal/OSHA investigation found that KFM knew about the overexposure, but didn’t do anything about it.  Manganese is pretty terrible stuff and overexposure can lead to a neurological disorder.

The workers also claimed that not only had the welds made them sick, but that they were faulty and threatened the structural integrity of a bridge designed to withstand a major earthquake. KFM denied any problem existed – and fired the sick workers who complained. KFM claimed an excellent safety record on the bridge project, but only accomplished it by punishing injured workers and rewarding those who did not report injuries. But to ensure that they could fight off the sick workers’ claims, who did they turn to? Chris Lehane. Lehane’s job was to defend KFM’s record in the media and prevent the sick workers from receiving the justice they were owed.

The media had been the key player in the matter all along. The sick workers had filed Cal/OSHA claims in early 2004, but chronic understaffing and underfunding caused the claims to be ignored, until the workers got the Oakland Tribune interested in the story. With the Tribune’s reporting Cal/OSHA finally got involved, and KFM realized that to keep the safety concerns quiet and to avoid paying the sick workers, they needed someone to keep the media away from the truth. Lehane was their man.

So what did Chris Lehane do?

Lehane’s strategy was to play up FBI investigations that could not conclusively prove anything was wrong with the welds or the workers. When the FBI found that they could not get at the actual welds – by then encased in concrete – nor prove criminal intent, they had to drop the probe. Lehane celebrated this as proof that the welds were good, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that there was no reason for any further investigation and the NY Times that “KFM always puts the safety of its workers and the public first,” refusing to acknowledge the sick workers whose own bodies were proof that KFM was dangerous.

The sick workers’ case is now pending trial in Oakland, but there has been virtually no media coverage of their case since 2005. Lehane successfully helped cover up KFM’s responsibility for the sick workers and deflected media attention from one of the most egregious acts of corporate malfeasance in California this century. In fighting against justice for the Bay Bridge workers, Lehane proved that he has no principles whatsoever, no interest in helping workers even when they are literally sick.

Just disgusting tactics.  Was this something he learned at the White House?  One would hope not.  

This anti-worker pattern of behavior should mean that Chris Lehane never gets another contract from a labor union.  I don’t care how good the man is at getting media coverage.  There are just somethings you should not do.  Going to work for a company to work on busting a union in the middle of a strike is one.  Going to work for a company to cover up the fact that they injured their workers is another.

Hollywood Update: Et tu, Stewart/Colbert? Arnold back to the set?

It appears Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be following the precendent of Carson Daly and going back to work. With or without their writers. Not sure if they are pleased about it, though.

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” will resume production on Jan. 7 without their striking writers, the Comedy Central network announced Thursday.


In a joint statement, Stewart and Colbert said: “We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence.”(AP 12.20.07)

Speaking of the writers, it appears that Arnold is talking to some of them. From Past Deadline (via CA Newsladder), we hear that Arnold has been asking about a few vehicles to get him back into the action hero game:

Well, we hear from the folks who have been walking the WGA strike picket line that The Guv has floated word to his peeps to spread the message that once his last term as the state’s biggest cheese ends in January 2011, he would like to resume his role as a boxoffice superstar/film icon.

A few high-profile writers of action films who wished not to be ID’d (you know how that is) were heard conferring that before the strike hit, agents were putting out feelers for material and pitches to develop projects with Schwarzenegger in mind. Nothing specific yet. All just preliminary stuff. What this means is that Arnold isn’t so very interested in running for the Senate and potentially spending all of that time in boring old Washington, D.C., California/Austria boy that he is. (Past Deadline 12.20.07)

It’s Monday Morning!

Well, the holidays are rapidly approaching, and thus let's start out this week with a BANG! WooHoo, put your Monday morning smile on!  Here are a few stories of note, once again bound together with bullets.

  • A vote is scheduled in the Assembly for the health care package, but as has been discussed here, it seems Senator Perata is reluctant. There have been comments here about other Senators not so sure about this plan. The vote will likely appear on the Cal Channel, but don't expect the vote to occur at 1pm when it the floor session is scheduled. I'm guessing the caucus meetings might take a while.
  • SF Mayor Gavin Newsom is discussing a tax on sugary sodas. Apparently, he’s blaming obesity in children on sodas. Oh, what’s that you say, there is a link between the two? Oh, well, I guess it’s time to sell that Pepsi stock.
  • There's a little tussle going on in the other side of the California blogosphere on Prop 93. Jon Fleischman opposes it. Former GOP Sen Jim Brulte has endorsed it. Check out the back and forth here. (Disclosure)
  • Apparently Orange County isn't content with being the biggest municipal bankruptcy in the history of our country, they invested in a bunch of bad debt in the mortgage crisis. It's coming home to roost now. ( LA Times)
  • Some writers are bypassing the studios and starting up their own new media production companies. By the by, QuarterLife, an independent web show, which was then given some money by NBC, will be shown by that network in February. (The QuarterLife folks make clear that their goal was not to create strike busting programming, but that NBC had an option to buy that they, legally, couldn't refuse) Perhaps the studios will learn a bit from these new developments. Or they won't and they'll go the way of the dinosaur. Either way, we'll likely get better content.

Over the flip you'll find the weekly Democratic radio address, this time from Assembly member Ted Lieu about the mortgage crisis. Consider this an open thread.

Hello, this is Assemblymember Ted Lieu, chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance


    As our state faces looming budget shortfalls that threaten vital funds for infrastructure,

public safety, and social services, the emerging sub-prime mortgage crisis is poised to

jeopardize our attempts to salvage our state’s financial commitments.

    Because reckless mortgage lenders issued variable interest rate home loans to folks that

simply couldn’t afford to pay their monthly bills, 1 out of every 88 homes in California are

currently undergoing foreclosure.

    According to the Center for Responsible Lending, nearly 180,000 California homes will

be lost to foreclosure from the 826,900 sub-prime loans made in 2005 and 2006 alone.

    California could lose nearly $3 billion in property tax revenue and another $1 billion in

sales and transfer tax revenue.

    Remarkably, an estimated 61% of the sub-prime mortgage borrowers would have qualified for loans with more reasonable monthly payments, had their lenders not been so narrowly focused on short-term profits.

    But this isn’t just a problem for those about to lose their homes.

    Home prices are expected to decline in California by up to 20-percent and that’s

because each foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a single-family home results in a 1%

decline in the value of that home.

    And working- and middle-class neighborhoods are especially in danger of being blighted due to abandoned homes.

    While this is not uniquely a California problem, our state is especially hard hit, with five

of the top ten areas with the highest foreclosure rates in the country, including Stockton,

Riverside/San Bernardino, Sacramento, Bakersfield and Oakland.

    And the response from the White House has simply been tepid and woefully inadequate.

    Clearly, the time for legislative action is now.

    Assembly Democrats have compiled a practical and effective package of bills to address

our state’s housing woes, and we have asked the Governor to call for a special session to

bring to the table all interested parties.

    Our package includes bills that will identify at-risk borrowers and determine what

lenders have done to assist them and ban prepayment penalties that essentially prevent

borrowers from refinancing.

    Other bills add consumer real estate mortgage loans to the list of consumer contracts

subject to California civil code translation requirements, protecting potential homeowners

for whom English is a second language, and we hope to end incentives and kickbacks that

spur lenders to push sub-prime loans onto buyers ill-equipped to afford their monthly


    And our bills will improve counseling services that can protect consumers from bad loans

and help them find potential avenues for keeping their homes, and we will introduce tough

income verification regulations, requiring lenders to consider an applicant’s ability to repay

over the life of a loan.

    Assembly Democrats are committed to working in a bipartisan and pragmatic fashion to

protect homeowners and preserve our state’s fiscal solvency, and we hope others in

Sacramento are equally committed.

    To allow these necessary reforms to be subject to partisan gridlock is literally not a

luxury our state can afford right now.

    Thank you for listening. This has been Assemblymember Ted Lieu, chair of the Assembly

Banking and Finance Committee

The facts, the law, and the pounding of tables

Full disclosure: I was on an official contract with the WGA, and continue to work unofficially with the crew at United Hollywood.

So, the AMPTP walked out of negotiations in what seems overwhelmingly like a pre-prepared cynical ploy, given the fact that the corporations had a press release ready for submission no more than 20 minutes after they walked out of the talks.

Well, in response to the AMPTP breaking off talks, the WGA is filing a complaint with the NLRB asserting unfair labor practices by the AMPTP–namely, refusal to negotiate in good faith.

And the AMPTP has responded with the following little snippet, under the direction of their Union Buster-in-chief, Chris Lehane:

The WGA’s filing of a complaint with the NLRB reminds us of the old lawyers’ adage: When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the law is on your side, argue the law. And when you don’t have either the law or the facts on your side, you pound the table. The WGA has now been reduced to pounding the table, and this baseless, desperate NLRB complaint is just the latest indication that the WGA’s negotiating strategy has achieved nothing for working writers.

Well, let’s talk about the facts and the law.  The facts are as stated: the AMPTP broke off talks unilaterally while the WGA has remained at the table.  And the law says that both management and labor have a duty to negotiate in good faith.

So, given the fact that both the law and the facts are on the side of the WGA, the people that are resorting to pounding the table are the execs at the AMPTP, with the pounding carefully orchestrated by formerly Democratic hack Chris Lehane.

California Labor Federation on Chris Lehane’s Contract Status

Last post on this today I promise.  This is new information and California specific.  Courtesy of Jane Hamsher of Fire Dog Lake I have this quote from Anastasia Ordonez at the California Labor Federation.  Jane called them to inquire about the status of Chris Lehane’s contract with the Fed on health care and passed it off to me, given the California angle.

He’s been a close labor ally for many years, so we’re looking into this but I’m not going to comment on what our relationship will be in the future.

Ordonez stated that their contract with Chris Lehane was terminated around Thanksgiving, because they were not sure what they were going to do with regards to health care.  That makes sense, since the health care negotiations were ongoing, rather than completely falling apart and there was not a huge need to have a guy like Lehane around.

The California Labor Federation maintains a blacklist of contractors for situations like this one, where someone goes to work directly against the labor movement.  They can only add someone to that blacklist if a Local requests it.  WGA is not a member, therefore they cannot make that request.

SEIU has been much closer to the WGA than the members of the Labor Fed and AFL-CIO, thus it is not that surprising to see them moving more slowly than Change to Win and SEIU.

Here is a brief overview of the Fed via their website.

The California Labor Federation is the state AFL-CIO, with more than 1,200 affiliated local unions, representing 2.1 million union members in diverse communities and sectors of the state’s economy. Manufacturing, service, retail, construction, public sector and private industry unions join together in the Federation to protect and advance the rights and interests of all California workers.

Having the Fed put Lehane on the blacklist would obviously be a pretty big deal.  If they do, I will be sure to blog it up.

Change to Win Fires Chris Lehane

kos has a statement from Change to Win.

Change to Win had a general consulting contract with Chris Lehane. That contract was terminated upon discovery of his role supporting the studios in the writers guild strike. As you know, Change to Win and its affiliates stand solidly behind the writers in their struggle for fairness, so we did not think twice about this decision.

That means Lehane has lost two contracts thus far: SEIU Local 99 and Change to Win.

Change to Win includes SEIU, Teamsters, UNITE-HERE and the Laborers.

Suicide Girls is claiming that the contract Chris Lehane has with AMPTP is worth $100,000.

The studios hired Fabiani & Lehane, at a crisis fee of around $100,000 a month, to battle the WGA members driven PR machine. They did so early in the week, which was another telling sign that they had no intention of making a deal. You don’t need “crisis PR” when you are doing the right thing. You hire “crisis PR” when you are going to walk out of talks and blame the other side for ruining Christmas. So, Lehane and Fabiani, longtime Democratic PR guys, have decided to switch sides and do some union busting. I guess they have come a long way since 2002.

No idea yet if they have lost more than they gained by signing this contract with AMPTP.

SEIU Local 99 Fires Chris Lehane, Strong Words From Andy Stern

Jane Hamsher has the scoop over at Fire Dog Lake.

SEIU Local 99 in Los Angeles — education workers who include teacher’s aids, cafeteria workers and crossing guards — have fired former Clinton spokesman Chris Lehane from a consulting contract in support of the WGA .

“By the end of the week, I believe Chris Lehane will have no union clients because of his work for the AMPTP,” says SEIU President Andy Stern, who confirms that all Change to Win Unions are severing ties with Lehane. “His days are numbered in the labor movement.”

Chris Lehane by opting to go to work for the studios made a choice between that contract and those from labor.  SEIU has been working to support the writers, so it comes as no surprise that they are the first to fire him.  The question now is how quickly the other unions follow suit.  As noted here back in October, the California Labor Federation hired Lehane to work on health care reform, outside of the IOHC coalition.  I do not know what other unions he is under contract with, though we should hopefully find out soon.

While Stern is not my favorite right now, given his meddling in health care and a power struggle at the SEIU State Council that Brian has documented, this is a very strong and useful statement by him.

See also kos on Chris Lehane being fired by Local 99.

UPDATE by Dave on the flip:

UPDATE: Lehane probably has a place waiting for him at Bush’s Department of Labor:

Political operatives in the Department of Labor are using federal reporting requirements to undermine trade unions and conduct a “political misinformation campaign” against them, a report released yesterday charges.

While the Bush administration has generally relaxed federal regulations, the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards has done the reverse, beefing up disclosure rules, staff and investigations of union leaders and members, the study by the left-leaning Center for American Progress said.

The study criticized the reporting requirements as designed to overwhelm unions with paperwork and trick them into noncompliance. It also accused the office of inflating the number of criminal cases involving union leaders and members.

The report was triggered by the office’s latest requirement, new conflict-of-interest reports that, as of Jan. 1, would require a broad pool of union members to attest that even their car loans do not constitute a potential conflict.

The head hatchet man in the office right now is Don Todd, who came up with the Willie Horton ad.  Come on, Lehane, you can be dirtier than him!

[UPDATE] by Julia. Courtesy of Trapper John over at dkos remember this Grover Norquist quote.

Every dollar that is spent [by labor unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor union activities.