November 13, 2007

Alice to WGA: If she can join, she'll strike

Were I a WGA member, I would happily strike alongside the rest of the creative team. This blog would go dark (as if that's never been it's tone before? you decide.). If I were a Broadway stagehand, I'd be out there picking for job security.

Note to unions: November weather is pleasant on both coasts for picketing. If you're going to picket, April and November both have the most suitable climates for the great outdoors: not too hot, not too cold. Note to other unions: try not to have your contract come up, at least on the East Coast, in February. Picketing climate way too cold for comfort.

Traditional diversionary entertainment prospects in Wonderland are looking bleak in the short-run. Off-Broadway, however, may get a boost. People might go to theater without expecting a musical spectacular guaranteed to please only those who don't live here. Then again, without an increase in employee liaisons, water cooler conversations may be lagging in corporate America, assuming the cooler isn't a 20th century relic.

That said, my sole direct union affiliation has been the National Writers' Union, one with no chance of uniform contracts or Teamster protection. So, since no one is paying me here (will strike for acceptance), I'm blogging, and I don't consider myself a scab. No picket lines are crossed here.

Alice notes that she has never been paid a union wage, even while working in a union shop. That is to say, if she were a Newspaper Guild member, The New York Times would owe Alice big time.

Since Alice the financial planner is not only a non-union shop, she is an enterprise unto herself. Her water cooler is the refrigerator, and she doesn't converse with inanimate objects. Swear at them, sure. But cursing the obstreporous electric/electronic objet du hour does not constitute a dialogue, no matter how much the profanity might make a truck driver blush.

If her building staff went on strike, as they are wont when their contract runs out and their union leader is trying to make a point, then Alice would be a scab. She might bring the staff coffee and chat with them, but returning home trumps union sympathies. Since the rank and file invariably loses more in a strike than they gain, Alice will make it up to them at Christmas.

Meanwhile, this kind of strike makes for building safety that makes corporate and public security measures look like a visit from the tooth fairy. At strike time, a minimum of two building staffers are required to picket outside the building. Inside, the management company hires a security guard. Tenants sign up to check fellow tenant ID cards, ask for visitor names, run the intercom, and verify that all guests are legit.

Usually, we have one doorman for all this activity. At strike time, we have at least four people on the door. We are safer in here than in a locked maximum security prison.

Back to the strikes at hand: Alice is debating purchasing DVDs of her favorite pre-streaming video, pre-Internet linked television series. All of them are on sale. Today Barnes & Noble, whose computer memory and marketing gives Big Brother a run for the money, emailed Alice an offer to buy the entire series of Northern Exposure. (It seems that years ago, Alice bought the first season.)

The Northern Exposure writers (and perhaps cast as well) probably receive no residuals for a medium that wasn't an issue in previous writers' strikes. (Alice would bet the distribution company makes money every time a DVD is purchased.) Thus, Alice's quandry:

She has just returned from a conference on Socially Responsible Investing, reminded about fair labor. So, does she buy the DVD, hence crossing the WGA picket line, whose fight is about the residuals they aren't receiving from this very medium and others?

Why are both Amazon and B&N offering big sales on TV series? Alice doesn't know of any independent video stores that stock these products. She suspects they have gone the way of the indy book store, where the staff knew her name and suggested books for her.

This may be part of the Do-it-Yourself de-evolution Alice has previously mourned. More to the point, how much does Alice want to contribute to Big Business. Which, if either, retailer, is preferable? How much has each company undermined if not destroyed local independent stores.

What about their employment policies? Who gives better benefits? Who remotely tries to be fashionably "green"? Given all the packaging, neither has a shot in hell of being the poster company for "Give a hoot. Don't pollute."

And to which state would Alice, should she make this purchase despite sympathy for the WGA, prefer a company to pay corporate taxes? (Hint: Mr. Bill is in Washington. Amazon is in Washington. Alice lives in New York, home of B&N. If she's going to go with a Big Box chain, where do you think?)

It's ruminations like these that distract Alice, at least as a temporary measure, from her sojourn into the age of grief. It is not much, but for now, ranting about the news is all she can do between weeping for her friend.


Blogger Brighton said...

I agree, you have to stand up for what you believe in. Hopefully both sides will come to an agreement soon.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Teresa said...

Ah, yes, well my own purchasing decisions have fallen into a somewhat messy matrix of companies who make the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list, calibrated with those who score high on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, with bonus points for companies who have been targeted by conservative Christian organizations either for refusing to bow to said groups' pressure to cease noninclusive policies/advertising or for failing to use the name of the holiday that falls on December 25 in their Thanksgiving–New Year's Day circulars and store decorations. It's all so very simple.

When in NYC, I can be found pawing through the stacks at Strand book store, though I know that isn't to everyone's taste.

You bring up an interesting point: If the writers manage to wring more than a few cents out of Entertainment Inc. for DVD sales and the like, will the new agreement cover writers of, say, Northern Exposure retroactively?

1:07 PM  

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