November 12, 2007


Damon Lindelof, the writer and co-creator of "Lost," wrote an op-ed for the NYT which appeared on Sunday. Here's part of what he had to say:

I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical, disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web — that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely “promotional.” Seriously?

Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made.

But I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip.

Mr. Lindelof, assuming he hasn't spent all his salary as a writer of one of the top hits on TV the last three years, has a far larger financial cushion than the average writer, I'd imagine. Nonetheless, he's willing to forgo the salary for a while for the sake of his fellow writers. That's part of what unionism is all about; fighting not just for yourself but for your fellow and future union members.

But unionism is on the decline in this country.

From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of persons belonging to a union fell by 326,000 in 2006 to 15.4 million. The union membership rate has steadily declined from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

Partly that's due to the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs in America, but it's also due to hostility from both industry (regrettable but understandable) and the US government. The US National Labor Relations Board has been stacked with people who come to it from the employer side of the equation. The chairman, Robert Battista, formerly represented companies, multi-employer associations, public employers, and educational institutions. Another member, Peter Kirsanow, formerly represented a large transportation firm and the City of Cleveland. A third member, Peter Schaumber, formerly represented the District of Columbia. I think it's safe to say these folks are likely to come down on the side of the employer on any dispute which reaches them.

By the way, the largest private employer in the US is now Wal-Mart, with 1.9 million employees, and we all know how Wal-Mart takes to attempts to unionize its workforce, right?

Posted by Linkmeister at November 12, 2007 12:01 AM | TrackBack

It's going to be interesting to see whether, while the studios scour European TV looking for the next big American hit, these writers just go ahead and move to the web.

Posted by: Scott at November 12, 2007 04:07 PM

Ooh, fiction blogs!

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 12, 2007 04:27 PM

Ooh, corporate middle men! They're not involved with any part of the creative processe but make the most money off of other people work. I love this growing class of assholes that think, somehow, they're more important than the people actually doing the work because they control the money. I mean, it must be hard to be so spineless!

Posted by: Jake at November 13, 2007 06:26 AM

Not to be a weenie, but doesn't the F500 article say WallyWorld employs 1.9 million people worldwide? Or am I missing something (which is completely possible)

Posted by: Bud at November 13, 2007 07:00 AM

Bud, you're right. I should have been more careful in my language. I don't think that detracts from the point, though, since WalMart famously fights unions no matter what country it's in.

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 13, 2007 07:59 AM

My only hope is that I'm not around when this country explodes -- declining unionization, concentration of wealth in fewer hands ...

But hey, what happened to your posts about baseball? I don't mean Barry Bonds' indictment, either. I don't give a rat's heinie about that. I mean awards, who's won them, who should win them.

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Posted by: Peter at November 15, 2007 09:23 PM

Oh dear, Peter, a niche I've failed to exploit!

Soon; the dog goes in for dental work at 0830 tomorrow, so I'll be busy tomorrow.

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 15, 2007 09:33 PM