Ron Rosenbaum

Breaking News! Moment of Victory For Striking Writers?

I added the “Breaking News!” hed, because 2 hours after posting this I still haven’t seen anyone else reporting it. But I know what I heard.

Interesting moment: I just got back from the Writers Guild of America picket line in front of the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle and was privileged to be holding a picket sign (I have an extremely minor, mostly unsuccessful, screen-writing career) when Terry George (who has an extremely major screenwriting career) got on a bullhorn and announced to the assembled WGA-ers that a tentative agreement had been reached and that it was a victory! In his euphoria he went so far to say that it was a kind of history making or trend-breaking victory, that it reversed a quarter century of union defeats and union breaking going back to Reagan’s cruel crushing of the PATCO air traffic controllers union in 1981! No wonder he’s good at drama. This was almost something out of Waiting for Lefty.

I don’t know, I hope it’s true, I’ve always been pro-union, but as someone on the picket line said “the devil’s in the details”.

Still Terry George’s unequivocal rapture brought back to me a strange moment back during that PATCO strike that has always stuck in my mind. I was in Las Vegas doing a story on Vegas icon Wayne Newton, trying to figure out the mysterious secret of his success. I was in Wayne’s helicopter, Wayne was at the controls. I feared for my life. We were coptering out to his Arabian horse stud farm. There was a dialogue over the cockpit radio between Wayne and an air traffic controller. A tentative settlement had been reached in the strike and Wayne congratulated the traffic controller and said he was with them.

But within a couple weeks, as I recall, the settlement was rejected by the union members, after which Reagan fired everyone of them, breaking the union and ushering in the age of union-breaking and harsh management tactics Terry George was referring to.

I don’t know the details of the tentative WGA settlement, but let’s hope Terry George is right. The producers’ initial refusal to offer anything but a pittance for internet rights–on the grounds that they just didn’t know if there was any money to be made on the internet–was scandalously disingenuous.