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HomeBlog the LineTalks resume in Hollywood; economy wobbles, local hopes briefly spike

Talks resume in Hollywood; economy wobbles, local hopes briefly spike

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An excerpt from this week’s print edition of “Union Roundup:”

By
Mark London Williams

This is being written after the Thanksgiving break, as people file back in to town, shake off the last of the tryptophan hangovers, and prepare to get back to, well… I was going to say “work,” but suddenly there’s a lot less of that around.

And there’ll be even less if the Strike – we can use the upper case “S” now, at least locally – goes on into the new year.

But it might not. Nikke Finke, with her usual judiciously placed above-the-line leaks, reports on her “Deadline Hollywood” blog that WGA sources are telling her a backroom deal has, essentially, already been hammered out, and that with the official resumption of talks between the WGA and AMPTP, that capital “S” labor dispute may be settled by Christmas.

Which is pretty good news, coming in what was supposed to be a news blackout, so let’s hope it pans out.

One thing that seems to be different this time ‘round, compared to the strike of ’88, is the that everyone affected by the strike is talking to each other, and we don’t just mean over coffee; i.e., the landscape of blogs and websites – which make Deadline Hollywood’s “nexus” like status possible, for example – ratchets up the timeline for how the dispute unfolds, and even how fast the blowback begins.

This is, in part, because the social pressure to end the strike, grows ever faster – which means that with talks resuming, the enmity for both sides, if those talks in fact collapse, will be enormous.

That pressure is fueled by panic – a sense that the economy, in macro terms, is shaky. This very morning, for example, comes the report of 6,000 people in Cleveland applying for 300 available Wal-Mart jobs, Citicorp announcing layoffs of up to 45,000, and one of the main columnists for the Financial Times, Wolfgang Munchau, declaring the dollar is on its “last lap as the only anchor currency” in the world.

Ominously, he notes: “The financial flows back into the US appear to have come to a sudden stop this summer. The US Treasury International Capital System (TIC) data show a massive drop in net foreign purchases of US long-term securities since the end of June.”
In other words, the rest of the world is ceasing to trust the U.S. buck as a very viable currency. What will that portend?

Locally, Claudia Eller ran a piece in the LA Times Business section, the same morning talks resumed, headlined “Writers strike takes toll on production workers.”

In it, she quotes, among other sources, Donald Lee Harris, a production designer on “Grey’s Anatomy,” who says, among other things “’I understand (writers) want a piece of the pie, but do you have to ruin the whole pie to get it?

“’Unfortunately, we’re being sacrificed along with them but we’re not going to get anything for it.’” And then Eller adds, “if the strike goes on for months, said Harris, who lives with his wife and their two teenagers in Sherman Oaks, he would be plenty worried. ‘Then I’m eating up all my savings and will have to go to my home equity line to support my family.’”

But guess what! Those home equity prices are falling – and will keep falling in ’08. And anyway, getting the loans against that equity will only become harder in the present climate.

Eller’s article also quotes Jon Furie, who oversees the below-the-line Montana Artists Agency, who recounts working at Nordstrom’s selling shoes, during the ’88 strike.

But if you’re competing with thousands of other people for those jobs – displaced Citicorp workers, say – that won’t be much of an option, either.

Everyone knows the entire economy is hanging by a thread. Everyone is terrified an overlong strike will cut that thread –regionally speaking – in ways that can scarcely be imagined.

So the pressure is on, for this round of talks to succeed, to an even greater degree than it was on the year’s worth of posturing that lead up to the walk-out in the first place.

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