WGA strike mediator: Has anyone considered Dr. Phil?

Grab1_2 From the For What It's Worth Dept.: A "business psychiatrist and executive coach," Dr. Mark Goulston, has emailed Variety a treatise on how to resolve the strike.

Here's the short version: It's all about empathy, with some Cold War allusions for good measure. The long version, "The WGA Strike – Not a failure to communicate," after the jump.

— Dana Harris

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  1. Dr. Mark says:

    Geoff and Annie,
    Thank you for writing as you both have. Seems like we are having a case of our own “failure to empathize.” Both of your points are well taken and appreciated.
    I agree with Geoff’s observation that greed is often fueled by the underlying fear that you never have enough AND I agree with Annie’s observation that sometimes you need to take action if you’re up against greedy indifference.
    So if what is manifest is the unmovable and unmoved indifference of the greedy AMPTP vs. the impotent rage of fearful (that they cannot economically survive) WGA members and this constitutes not an unwillingness to empathize, but an incapacity to empathize, it seems to me the only solution is to sooner or later throw this into arbitration in which case the arbitrator must do his or her best to accurately assign a value to each side’s case and then come to their best decision.
    The AMPTP saying that they are taking all the risk and that many ventures fail (similar to the venture capital mentality of whoever takes the greatest risk deserves the greatest rewards) and this is how they hedge against it and the WGA saying that may be true to a certain extent, but their needs to be some balancing of what each side deserves (again the parallel between this and CEO pay in the Fortune 500 — especially of failed companies — deserving to be more than front line employees is understandable, but should it be worth several hundred times the value of those front line employees work?)
    I guess we’ll just have to watch and see how it plays out.

  2. Geoff says:

    Annie, thank you for expressing your feelings and providing me some additional information.
    First, let me say that I 100% understand that the AMPTP’s position is that they are not willing to talk and thus you have walked. Also, I understand that this is extremely serious and many people are gravely affected by this matter. I also understand that you (the writers) want to be paid an appropriate and fair share for your work, especially when the studios make money from it. Let me also say that I agree with your position wholeheartedly.
    The next thing I’d like to comment on is greed. Greed comes from fear–fear that there will not be enough for me. But that does not mean that everyone who has this fear acts greedy. So I hear you loud and clear that the studios seem to be very greedy in this (and other) regards. And I share that judgment.
    Another issue you bring up is that the AMPTP is not a person but is made up of mega-corporations. I understand that. And I also believe that there are individuals who have been selected by the AMPTP to represent the organization which itself represents the companies. So, at the end of the day, just like your guild represents many of you, the AMPTP has representatives who have been empowered to negotiate on behalf of the corporations. These people (on both sides) are the ones that I am referring to.
    Moreover, you are a person representing yourself. I understand how difficult this type of situation can be and how much more difficult this could become. I also believe that if you are not able to get what you want from the studios then you have the right to find another way to be paid fairly for your craft. Unfortunately, that might mean some significant discomfort for some time. And I understand that does not feel fair. At the end of the day, if other writers follow you then the studios will either have no (or terrible) material or they will have to pay you what you feel is fair.
    My suggestion in the previous post is one way to mitigate the potential discomfort on both sides. I know you don’t want to have to change your job. And I’m sure that they don’t want to have to figure out where they can find new writers/material. So why not begin the dialog at this level now–which is how I understood Dr. Goulston’s suggestion.
    If the AMPTP is not talking then there is nothing more you can do now with them. And you always have options to do what you need for yourself, including going on strike.
    Good luck with your challenge and I wish you a speedy resolution.

  3. annie says:

    I’m sorry, Geoff–you seem like a nice person and the approach you are talking about is a compassionate one for solving interpersonal conflicts.
    But the AMPTP is not a person–it is a coalition of megacorporations whose only interest is in the bottom line. If they had it their way, they would pay nothing for anything! The more you minimize costs, the greater your profit. There’s no “fear” here–this is simple capitalist greed.
    The WGA, on the other hand, is asking to be compensated for work we perform. Our work–the words we write–make money for our employers. Our employers are making millions off of free streaming video sites like NBC’s Hulu and others through ad revenue. They want to call this “promotional”–even when they are offering an entire season of a TV series like the office.
    Let me direct you to a link from the LA Times that will give you a sense of the economics involved:
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/business/la-fi-ticktock6nov06new-g,0,6500020.graphic
    As far as the other unions are concerned–
    We have the support of the Screen Actors Guild, whose contract expires in June. As long as they are under contract, they cannot strike, but they have joined us on the picket line in solidarity. The Teamsters have also publicly stated their support for our cause. These unions understand that the fight we are fighting is on behalf of everyone who works in the industry, for fair compensation for the work we do.
    “Of course, if the AMPTP is not willing to talk, then it will be hard to get to this place… if you have a clear moral boundary then you may have no other choice but to walk away–even further than you have on this strike.”
    WE HAVE WALKED AWAY.
    The AMPTP is NOT WILLING TO TALK.
    Do you understand what happens when you go on strike? It’s not like taking a sick day from work.
    It’s refusing to work, come what may.
    You don’t get paid.
    Your career might be over.
    Many of our membership have already received termination letters from their employers.
    They don’t have jobs to return to when the strike ends.
    It’s serious.
    It feels like what you’re saying is that if we’re going to be so poopy about being PAID to WORK, then we shouldn’t be working in Hollywood at all. Maybe you’re one of those who thinks we should be grateful that we get to do this work. Just because we love what we do doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be paid for it. And we are fighting this fight not just for ourselves, but for all the up-and-coming writers who will one day join the WGA.

  4. Geoff says:

    Annie, I don’t think your analogy fits. If violence is involved then all bets are off. I must physically protect myself from a violent person at all costs.
    I think the question Dr. Goulston is asking is: Does the WGA fully understand what’s behind the AMPTP’s position? Has anyone asked the AMPTP? If so, I, for one, as a resident of LA but not directly on either side of this situation, would like to know their reasons. At this stage, my judgment is that it is about fear that if the AMPTP give anything to the writers then they will also have to give the same or more to the other guilds and that then they might not have enough for themselves.
    That argument suggests a world of scarcity. But we live in a world of abundance. There is always more than enough for all of us. The problem is that some people do not see things that way.
    What Dr. Goulston suggests, I believe, is that by understanding each other better and thus being in a position to empathize with the other, a workable solution may be closer at hand. Of course, if the AMPTP is not willing to talk, then it will be hard to get to this place and the WGA can only walk away and find new work. Remember, as unfair as it might feel, nobody is forcing the WGA members to write for studios. That might be what you WANT to do but if you have a clear moral boundary then you may have no other choice but to walk away–even further than you have on this strike.
    But if the AMPTP is willing to talk and my judgment about their fear is true, then perhaps the solution involves bringing in the leaders of the other guilds now so that you may all work together to come up with a solution that works for all. I don’t know nearly enough about this to think that might be the best option, but my point is that the solution is often obvious once the true issues are uncovered and brought into light.
    Good luck in getting to a place of empathy and finding a solution! I trust you will get there even if it is painful for a while.

  5. annie says:

    Hmm… so by that same logic, a woman seeking refuge from the man who beats her should give his point of view a chance? Or should she muster all of her resources to fight back?
    The WGA has negotiated in good faith.
    The AMPTP has stated flat out that they will not negotiate with us unless we agree that they can put our work on the internet and make a profit selling advertising–and not pay us anything for that rerun. That’s right. Their proposal for internet usage is ZERO–and they won’t talk about anything else unless we give in.
    They get paid, we get paid. That’s how intellectual property works.

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