Sunday, November 11, 2007

For the duration...

There's a war going on in the US. The war on unions. And it should matter to anyone who loves animation.

This misbegotten conflict started in the Reagan Administration, when the former head of the Screen Actors Guild quashed the PATCO Air Traffic Controllers' Union strike. We are still reaping the consequences of the breaking of PATCO: the air traffic control system is a shambles, and part of the reasons why flying is worse than taking Greyhound at this point. Union membership is at a low ebb, and this has allowed rapacious labor practices not seen since the '30s. Unions that still exist are weakened and often quite beholden to Management. Look at how many give-backs the automotive industry were able to extort from the UAW this time! Look at how fast the settlements came after a perfunctory day out of work at GM and Chrysler. The Ford strike will probably proceed in a similar fashion...a few hours walkoff just for show, then a contract which consists of terms dictated by Management. It all comes off as Kabuki.

However, in this unreal place called Los Angeles, it seems like a real old-fashioned union action is taking place with the writers. Although IATSE doesn't seem to be ready or willing to stand behind the Writers' Guild, there are actors walking the picket lines with writers, Teamsters unwilling to cross picket lines, and a glorious event last Friday in front of 20th Century Faux with a cast of thousands and a soundtrack by Rage Against The Machine. The best laid plans of the producers seem to be fraying at the edges, with many shows that supposedly stockpiled scripts having to shut down production because there's no scenes to shoot. And amazingly, in spite of 26 years of anti-union propaganda, it seems like Fandom is standing behind the writers. And that's where I come in.

It's time for more fans to stand up. It's time to take action. It's time to hit the bastards where it hurts. In the wallet.

If you want to see a movie, wait until it comes out on DVD, and get that DVD used. If you want to get that TV series you wanted, don't buy a DVD set new...get it used. If you want to buy a movie, buy it used. There are other ways of dealing with this, but I think you know how that is accomplished so I don't have to tell you what to do there. Don't rent DVDs, either. If you rent DVDs, you get counted by some service or another, and that's feeding the Infernal Machine.

If you are a Nielsen family...just shut the damn Idiot Box off and take a vacation from TV, for the duration.

Maybe the WGA strike will be a turning point. Hollywood is insanely visible. There is a reason why Washington wannabes have to court actors, and why people like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger get elected to public office. Maybe if the Producers have to back down and give a few extra crumbs to the writers rather than dictate their terms, maybe others in other industries will have to scrape a few crumbs off the banquet table for Average Joe and Jane Worker. Maybe when the union cards come around, more people will sign them.

Or maybe in a few days the Kabuki dance will stop, and the WGA leadership will go into Ahnuld's smoke-filled tent with the AMPTP leadership, and the writers will get an offer they can't refuse. Just like the poor bastards who haul trash for Waste Management, our local dumpster service company did. Just like the working stiffs at GM and Chrysler. Just like most unions have had to do ever since Ronnie Ray-gun began whittling away at them in 1981.

However, standing up, standing strong, that's something we have to do whether the cause is winnable or the cause is hopeless but still just. Don't go to the movies. Don't buy new DVDs. Turn the Idiot Box off, especially if you are a Nielsen family. The job you save may eventually be your own.

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