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HomeBlog the LineJack Egan on "How Long a Strike?" -- plus, the heart of...

Jack Egan on “How Long a Strike?” — plus, the heart of the matter


As print editions of the latest Below the Line make their way around town this week, we realize some of you — no longer visiting soundstages with last week’s regularity — may not catch up with your hard copy as rapidly as usual. Thus, as a public service, we present this excerpt from BTL writer Jack Egan, on how long the strike might last:

How long a strike might last is the main question being pondered by members of other Hollywood unions—including the 18 below-the-line IATSE guilds—and the wide swath of Southern California firms connected directly or indirectly to the region’s huge entertainment economy. The WGA strike in 1988 lasted 22 weeks and took a heavy financial and psychological toll on everyone in the industry, not just the writers and the studios.

According to estimates by Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., the entertainment industry today contributes an estimated $30 billion annually, accounting for about 7 percent of the county’s economy. There are significant spillovers into other important segments such as tourism.

Members of unions not directly involved in the dispute have been given varying instructions on how to respond if and when they encounter a WGA picket line. IA President Tom Short put out a statement reminding guild members under its jurisdiction that they have a “no strike” clause in their contracts, which requires them to keep working. “Any individual member who chooses to honor any picket line is subject to permanent replacement,” he stated.


Leo Reed, the head of Teamsters Local 399, put out a mixed message, telling members that they “as individuals” have the right to choose not to cross picket lines without fearing retaliation. However, the union itself can’t strike, picket or boycott any producer while its contract is in effect and is obligated to use its “best efforts” to get employees to perform their work.

Some rank-and-file Teamster members say sources, aren’t happy about being urged indirectly to support the Writers Guild. Veterans recall that the Teamsters in 1988 struck the studios separately from the WGA. The writers settled first and then crossed the pickets of the Teamsters, who hadn’t yet reached an agreement.

Of course, we’re all about to find out the hard way, how long it’s really gonna last.

And you may also want to spend 20 minutes — especially if you’re accessing this on your iPhone at an outside picket line — watching this latest TED Talk on the archaic nature of current copyright law, and the panic over “download” culture. The talk is describe this way:

Stanford professor Larry Lessing, one of our foremost authorities on copyright issues and the Chair of Creative Commons, intelligently and skillfully makes the case for creative freedom in today’s Internet. Using graphics, humor, and clarity, Lessing successfully sets the current controversies within a fascinating historical perspective.


And you can access it right here.

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