Law: Writers Strike

November 18, 2007

Today I was eating dinner in the lounge when a debate about the writers strike broke out.  Most of the pople in the room were 100% INDIFFERENT about the strike but don’ want their shows to stop.  I agree completely with this take. 

That said, if all I was going to relay is that I don’t care how it ends if my shows don’t stop having new episodes (which doesn’t seem like it will happen) then this would be a pretty janky post. 

I don’t feel bad for the writers at all.  Actually, I hope the studios break their union over their knee like Bo Jackson with a baseball bat.  Before everybody explodes with anger (and if you care enough about this to explode, you are either 1. a tool or 2. an artist).

Before I keep going I should fess to two very important biases that (although I feel are grounded in fact) may have some impact on my views about this.

A. I don’t like unions much.  I think they were fantastic 80 years ago but I think they are a joke and cause more problems than they solve now.

B. I have an issue with a lot of things “artists” do and say when it comes to money/income/quality of life/the market/etc.

Ok, with that out of the way here are some of the reasons why I hope the writers union gets broken.

Reason 1:    Your main complaint, as I understand it, is moronic. 

As I understand it, the writers are mainly angry that they will not receive a portion of the revenue generated from the sales of shows online (and similar transactions).  The writers say that since their product is earling revenue in this way, they should be entitled to a portion.  No.

Since when are employees “entitled” to pay based on company productivity?  Sure some sales jobs work on commission and “profit sharing” is an element of many benefits packages, but by and large, the standard forms of compensation are hourly pay and salary.  The engineer for GM that designs a new car doesn’t get extra money when the car is resold by used care dealer.  In fact, the engineer doesn’t get a dime for every car sold.  The employer buys the empoyees work and then takes the risk of production and receives the rewards.  If an engineer designs something badly, he might lose his job, but he isn’t paying out the negligence claims.  Your an employee, you get what your salary is, you have no “Right” to get more if your employer figures out how to get more of a return for your effort.

Some have claimed that this analogy is flawed because writers “pitch” scripts to companies, so they aren’t employees so much as suppliers.  Even better.  If  I buy widges from company A so I can put them together and make a widget moster, then I figure out how to get increased revenue from this widget monster, I don’t have to turn around and pay A more, thats stupid.

Reason 2:  They already get paid for DVD sales and this is replacing that

Agreed, they get money for DVDs which aren’t being sold anymore, but as I will address in reason 3, this argument pre-supposes that writers SHOULD get money from DVD sales. 

Reason 3:  We pay artists rights to their work

This is by far the supidest argument of them all.  Yes, there is a tradition of paying royalties to artists for using their work, and let me tell you, I think this is a stupid idea.  Artists are employees of the company that takes their whatever and turns it into something marketable.  There is nothing unique about being an artist that “entitles” you to get this money.  Now, the more intelligent among you will say “but if they can use their market power to get that benefit, then isn’t it rightfully theirs?”  and to that I will say yes, you are correct.  Unfortunately, this is almost always phrases as an entitlement, something that these poor artists should get.  This is a stupid argument.  You get what you bargain for and what the market says you are worth, nothing more.  If these writers can pull it off, more power to them, but to say they deserve it is foolish and arrogant.

Reason 4: The myth of the persecuted artist

I hate this.  Everybody that is an artist complains about how rough it is for their profession.  This is rough?  Go pick fruit in a field with some seasonal workers or do manual labor for minimum wage.  The reason it is “tough” is because there are way more of you than we need and the market pays you very little to reflect this lack of demand.  What you want to be paid to do is a hobby for many, so don’t claim like you are entitled to anything.  I eat a lot, some people get paid to do that (professional eating), does that mean that I should get paid a living wage to do it?  No.  Same with all of these out of work or underpaid artists, I’m still not sure why they get to complain about it and have it matter.

Reason 5: You are striking when you are less important

Two words, reality TV.  As this new genre replaces many other shows, the need for writers goes down.  Generally, when demand goes down people expect less of a return, but not these self-entitled people, they think they should be getting more.

Reason 6:  The studios make a lot of money, we should get more

What?  On what planet does this make sense?  All companies that are successful make much more than their employees, that is what gives the company a reason to hire them.  The company takes the risk – they front the money, hire the actors, produce the show, and hope they can sell it to someone.  They have all the risk.  If these writers thing they are having such a raw deal, they should take their scripts and develop it themselves, nothings stopping them…… except the risk and the skills needed……. exactly what the studio provides and exactly why the studio should get the benefits.

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