Sunday, February 10, 2008

Strike Day 99 (24 A.D.) - 1 day after the strike died

Well, for all intents and purposes, the strike has ended.

But how will I vote on ending it...?

To be honest, a big part of me feels like ending this strike now, for this deal, is the wrong thing to do. When will we find ourselves in a position to get what we want again? If we hold out until July 1st hits and SAG goes out on strike... how much better could our contract become? Personally, I think it would become significantly better.

At the same time, the other part of me -- the part that never wanted to go on strike, the part that did not vote in favor of authorizing the strike -- says this contract is good enough. In fact it says any contract would be good enough.

I walked into the big meeting last night expecting not to get out of there until well after midnight -- but in fact, a large segment of the membership in the audience started to leave after about the first hour-and-and-a-half (maybe around 9:00pm) and the very last question was asked some time around 10:30 -- making for a grand total of about a three-hour long confab.

By the time it ended, it seemed like there were more people on stage belonging to the Executive Board and Negotiating Committee than there were simple guild members in the audience.

And as far as the meeting itself goes, the questions were not what I had been expecting -- which was much more rigorous and intense debate.

Why?

I think there were two reasons.

Reason number one was the general way they kicked things off, with Patric Verrone waiting in the wings to make a somewhat dramatic entrance, which began a tremendous standing ovation. That was followed by more ovations, for our Strike Captains and for our only real ally in this fight, the Screen Actors Guild.

There was a great deal of mutual backslapping and congratulations and good-wishes. As I've seen it described elsewhere, it was indeed pretty much a love-fest.

Then, to top off all the positive energy, our president said that the Board had decided to call for a vote on whether or not to end the strike, using the "48 hours" provision in our bylaws.

This was clarified as meaning the entire membership would indeed be given the opportunity to vote on ending the strike, with voting to be held on Tuesday -- 48 hours after we had all been advised it was coming -- and, assuming the vote was in favor of ending the strike, all of us returning to work on Wednesday. It received a tremendous ovation as well, and to my mind, that cinched it.

That was reason number two.

A lot of people, myself included, were very uncomfortable with the idea of us all returning to work immediately because that was what our leaders had basically promised the other side we would do. It's not that we didn't want to return to work -- it's just that after walking on picket lines for more than ninety days, we felt we deserved the chance to meaningfully participate in in that all-important decision.

Using the 48-hour vote rule makes it possible for work to restart nearly instantly, while enabling the membership to avoid feeling disenfranchised in the process. You have to give our leaders credit for choosing this path to the finish line.

Then John Bowman, our chief negotiator, and David Young, our top union professional, went over the deal point by point.

After that, a lot of people started to leave.

I think the one thing that might have led to a substantial fight on the floor of The Shrine last night was the idea that we were going to be ordered to go back to work.

When that disappeared in the opening remarks of the evening... the chances of any sustained debate or argument disappeared with it.

There was really only one confrontational, argumentative question -- and I unfortunately was not able to really listen, either to it or the answer it received from the stage, because at the time I was being led by "SECURITY" to the back of the auditorium...

I had spotted a writer -- and now producer -- who did amazing work on both seasons of Sleeper Cell, got out of my seat and walked over to say hi and talk to him. While doing so I was intercepted by someone from the Guild staff, who saw that I had an iPhone clutched in my hand and asked if I had used it to take any pictures. I was honest and said "Yes," and then they escorted me to the area at the center-rear of the auditorium, where the people running the production of the evening were situated. By now we had been joined by several of those giant guys with shaved heads and suits and ties. They said something to a woman who I assume was in charge and she looked at me and said something like: "You're breaking the rules. Didn't you hear what Patric said?"

For those of you reading this who weren't there, she was referring to the fact that our President had been informed duirng the meeting that someone in the building was "Live Blogging" the event and had made an announcement asking for whoever was doing it to cease and desist (needless to say, it was not me).

I said something like: "Yeah, I heard what Patric said. I'm not 'blogging' the meeting -- I'm not sending pictures to anyone, I'm taking pictures, the same way I took them at all our other meetings."

I asked her what rules she was talking about -- and said I never saw a sign anywhere at this or any of the other guild meetings that said we couldn't take pictures. She said there were signs outside that said no press allowed.

You can probably guess my reply to that, which was to simply point out that I wasn't a member of the press, I was a member of the guild. At that point she kind of shook her head/shrugged and said something to the gathered security people like: "it's all right, let him go."

But at some point during my discussion with her, one of the security guys had started asking me about my phone. I already had it out in my hand and I had used it as a prop when I told the woman in charge that I hadn't blogged or sent any pictures -- I had held it out towards her and asked her if she wanted to check and make sure. Then when she was done, the security guy in charge -- the one who had first come to get me and the only one who wasn't at least 6'2" with a shaved head and a dark suit, white shirt and tie -- asked me how to turn off my phone...

It's funny but at that moment I didn't pay any attention to the context of the question, for some reason I just latched onto the simple logistics of it, held up the phone, pushed the POWER button and slid the arrow across the screen, turning it off.

After that, the guy in charge said I could go back to my seat.

At that point the context suddenly returned to my mind and I realized what I had just done. Without intending to I had conveyed to these security guys the idea that I was acquiescing in their efforts to keep me from taking any more pictures of the meeting.

That had not been my intent when I switched off my phone. All I was thinking about was answering the guy's isolated question -- showing him to turn off my iPhone.

So, instead of returning to my seat I asked the security boss very matter-of-factly: "What happens if I return to my seat, switch the power back on and take more pictures?"

I swear I was not trying in any way to be a smart-ass and I didn't say it in a particularly smart-assy way.

It was at this point that biggest of all the shaven head and suited security guys -- who was at least 6'2" and 200lbs. and who had seemed quite unhappy with my presence from the moment I had entered his peripheral vision and my voice had entered his hearing range -- said something to the effect of:

"Then I go get you and throw you out of the building."

Hahahahahaha... yes, it was going to be that kind of conversation -- or whatever else it might become.

Now, this remark put me in an interesting position, because what I really wanted to do was turn around and go back to my seat so I could hear what was being said by the questioner and our leaders response(s) -- but I couldn't just walk away.

So I said something like: "Oh, really? Why would you be doing that?"

And he said something like: "To enforce the rules."

And I said something like: "But there is no rule against me taking pictures in here, I'm not the press, I'm just a member of the union."

And one of the security guys, maybe it was him but I don't really think so, said something like: "The guild is taking pictures. You can ask for copies."

And I said something like: "So if you visit Paris and go to see the Eiffel Tower, you won't take any pictures of you and/or whoever you're traveling with -- you'll just buy postcards instead? I'm a member of the guild and I want to take some pictures to help me remember tonight and I'm doing anything with them that I'm not supposed to -- I would never do that."

Then the biggest, most pissed-off Security guy said something to me and I replied by asking something like: "What did I do to annoy you so much?"

And he said something like: ""I'm not annoyed. You have a wonderful evening, sir."

To which I replied: "I've been on strike for three months, do you really think I'm going to have wonderful evening?"

To which he smiled and replied: "I know, and I've been helping you for three months -- helping enforce the rules and protect you guys."

To which I replied by bowing in deference to him and holding out my hand for him to shake and saying: "Thank you so very much for all you've done for us."

Well, he shook my hand and then I left, with my phone in my other hand. By the time I got back to where my partner and that wonderful writer who had worked both seasons of Sleeper Cell were now sitting together, the argumentative questioner at one of the microphones was wrapping up his even more argumentative follow-up, turning and storming off, while our president was saying something to the effect of: "Well, you can take care of that for the next contract, after you've become president" -- which struck me as not being a particularly nice thing to say -- but of course I had been kind of busy for all that had preceded that final zinger, so maybe the argumentative questioner really deserved all of Patric Verone's dismissive contempt, as much or even more than I had deserved the dismissive contempt of the giant security guy.

Anyhow, for a moment or two there, Strike Hawk came mighty close to having his wings clipped -- but in the end no blood was spilled. Believe me, I know most if not all of it would have been my own, so avoiding that was a very good thing indeed.

At one point the entire gathering of shaven and suited giants had tried without success to spot my red wrist-band -- until I realized what they were doing and rolled up my right sleeve. Then it turned out that I was apparently supposed to have my red wrist-band on my left wrist rather than my right one. I told them the woman at the table in the lobby hadn't specified which arm I was supposed to hold out for her, so as a life-long conservative I naturally held out my right arm -- but if she had explained and asked me to replace it with my left, I would have done so at once.

I don't think that really helped my cause with the security guys, but oh well -- we all are who we are, aren't we?

Anyhow, getting back to the matter at hand, there is one more thing I really want to say about last night's meeting.

It happened after almost everyone had left the building and I was sitting alone with that excellent writer-producer (he actually earned his producer credit on the second season of the show and he really lived up to it) who me spotting and getting up out of my original seat to go and see had earlier led to my "encounter" with the security people.

One of the very last questions of the night -- probably asked some time around 10:00pm or so -- really hit me. It actually wasn't a question so much as a comment.

The commenter introduced himself as a writer who had come to town several years ago to work on the producing end of the business but who had found his way to writing and earned his way into the guild. He said he didn't have a lot of money, probably a lot less than most of the other people in the building, but that when the strike was called he went out and did what he was supposed to do.

Earlier in the evening it had been said by our leadership that the point at which we had finally been able to make a deal with the other side was a point located at the edge of a cliff -- a cliff that presented itself simultaneously to both sides. If we went over the cliff, the Oscars, the last vestige of the 2007-08 television season, all of the 2008 TV pilot season and any further feature film production after mid-March would all have been wiped out. That would have hit the companies hard -- but it would of course have hit our membership hard as well at the very same time.

Anyway, the commenter basically said:

"I know some people wanted you to go over that cliff and I just want to say thank you for not doing it. Thank you for not going over that cliff. Because if you had, that would've been the end for me. I would've had to pack up and move back to where I came from and I would have given up the dream I've had since I was sixteen."

The truth is I kind of am one of the people who kind of wanted them to go over the cliff. I feel like we had reached a point where we had more chance of getting more of what we wanted than we have had for more than two decades and I feel like if they weren't prepared to take this strike all the way to July 1st -- when SAG's contract runs out -- and possibly even beyond, then they never should have called for it in the first place.

But... what that guy had to say really got to me.

In the real world there are always moments when you have to decide when enough is enough -- decide how far is too far -- how much is too much.

Whether it's drink, drugs, sex, work, play, prayer, cynicism, optimism, charity, greed, hate, love -- or strike.

I still don't know for sure how I'm going to vote on Tuesday.

Deep down I believe that if the leadership had conducted itself from day one of its tenure in a very different way -- if they hadn't started out by throwing stones every single day at the companies they knew they would have to negotiate a new contract with during their time in office, if they had not waged a profoundly ineffectual campaign -- including arguably the worst-resulting strike in guild history -- to unionize "America's Next Top Model," if they had not refused to sit down and talk with the companies months and months and months ago, if they had not continually broadcast their fervent desire to extend our guild's jurisdiction in the worlds of animation and reality TV and establish the right to stage sympathy strikes...

Well, the truth is, I believe if they hadn't done any of that, they probably would have gotten a deal very similar to the one we have now.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe if they had gone in and acted more calm and less fervently, the other side would have tried to screw us just as bad as they did.

But I think we all can agree that in life every action we take has consequences of some kind. Throwing rocks at the companies from day one had consequences.

I take my hat off to our leadership for the way they prepared and organized for the strike -- they did a very, very good job.

My issue is... if you enter the forest loaded for bear and out for blood... how can you call an end to the hunt after bagging a quail?

I know there is a good strong argument from the other side of the issue. I don't dismiss it out of hand. The truth is, the best thing that can happen to my partner and me is that we go back to our office on Wednesday and return to work on our two pilots and one movie.

But the truth is it just doesn't sit well with me.

I'm happy that guy who asked the third-to-last question at the meeting didn't have to head back to Ohio or Michigan or Virginia or wherever he's from and give up his dream. I am happy about that.

But I think I will still vote not to end the strike.

Trust me, it won't matter. The strike will end -- probably with an overwhelming number of votes to do so.

I just don't think I can bring my vote to be one of them.

1 comment:

Tony said...

You are such a trouble maker.