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WGA strike captain as former Time Warner attorney: The ultimate multihyphenate?

WGA strike captain and TV scribe Steve Lichtman has a different perspective than many of his fellow strikers: He came from a career as a corporate lawyer, including a four-year stint at Time Warner that ended in 2001.

“I used to be on the other side of the table, so I cast a pretty skeptical eye toward what they’re trying to do,” he said Wednesday from the picket line in front of Disney Studios’ main gate. “For example, the companies are trying to recast residuals as a bonus to us when what it really represents — and how it was established — is as deferred compensation. What they’re doing is really a classic bait-and-switch.”

As for the companies’ reluctance to improve the formulas used to determine how much writers are paid for new-media work, Lichtman sees a parallel in the WGA’s much-cited 1985 decision on homevideo residuals. That calculation, never changed, excluded 80% of wholesale revenues because of uncertainty over the then-new technology.

“In terms of the universe of deals that get made these days, figuring out how we should get paid for new media is not that complicated,” Lichtman said. “There’s all kinds of deals and calculations by hedge funds that are based on an uncertain future. So the companies telling us that they can’t figure it out is just a stiff-arm tactic — it’s, ‘Talk to the hand.’

“I don’t think we have a choice (but to strike) because this is not about peripheral issues; it’s about the future of our business and our place in it,” he says. “We’re still having good numbers turn out here every day and we’re hoping that now that they got back to the table, they’re rolling up their sleeves.”

— Dave McNary

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