Monday, December 03, 2007

On Strike: Helping Everyone

So the WGA strike is looking like it’ll last longer than we all hoped- word is that the AMPTP’s latest (apparently incomplete) offer includes very small flat payments (as in $250 at maximum) and the ability of the studios to declare any web content promotional and thus not pay anybody, and though the WGA are technically waiting for the other half and parsing the offer to see what they can use as a basis for a counter-offer, they’re probably not going to accept these terms.

But that’s technically what this post is about. One issue raised by the strike itself is the fact that many other people, mostly the so-called “below-the-line” talent such as technicians and production staff, are being put out of work at a very costly time of year. There’s been some effort by the studios to make this a wedge issue to try and put pressure on the writers to take a deal, but so far union relations remain good. In any case, this is an immediate issue of concern and maybe you’re wondering if you can help the unemployed non-strikers. Fortunately we’ve got options.

United Hollywood has set up the Pencils2MediaMoguls program, which is partly a way for fans to show support for the writers of their favorite shows. For a buck per box you donate pencils to be sent to the studios (who will then rout said boxes to public schools who actually need them), and money after costs will be donated to the Union Solidarity Fund, which has been set up to support non-WGA union members affected by the strike. This is the most well-publicized way to help, with several raffle prizes involved, but conversely it only benefits members of unions (many production assistants and the like are not in any union) and it’s still new so it’s not clear how the fund will be dispersed. (A direct donation system is still in the works, apparently.) Keep watch on this one, but it can’t hurt.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot this, but the USF is also funded in part by profits from Strike Swag, a store selling T-shirts and arm bands supporting the strike. So you can give that a look as well.

There are two direct charities with the general purpose of helping entertainment industry personnel who have fallen on hard times. First is the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which is a well-established support system of which financial assistance is just a part. Union and non-union people alike are eligible, and these guys have been around for a while so they hopefully know how to help the people who need it.

Then there is the Actors Fund, and don’t let the name confuse you- the group helps anyone in the entertainment industry who is undergoing a financial crisis. George Clooney has given 25 grand to this group specifically to help those affected by the strike, so we know they’re on the case already. They too have been around for a while, 125 years to be exact.

I’ve given some to the Pencils program and plan to give more soon (have to check my finances first), and you can make this a nice Christmas charity gesture on your part as well. Those of us concerned for the writers should also be concerned for the other people out of work because of this dispute, and really the whole lot of people who don’t sign the checks need support if they’re going to get a fair stake in a changing industry. So help the writers, help the technicians, help the interns, and let’s pull together.


MaryAn Batchellor said...

LEFTOVER money is going to the solidarity fund.

I'm a huge strike supporter and have profound respect for the point being made by this stunt. But $32,500 so far in pencils? That's just not something I can stand behind when money could go to the WGA solidarity fund or pay for duct tape or help writers who can't pay their bills. Anything but a symbolic move that probably won't even reach its destination.

Seriously. Money (ANY MONEY) should be spent only on a "known" result.

Does anyone believe these pencils are getting past the mail room? And if they do, how do we know they'll be donated? How do we know they won't be broken to bits and delivered to strike captains? We don't. It's an unknown and the uknown is always a bad use of money. It's gambling that somebody someplace might get your point and when they do, they might do a noble thing and donate the pencils where you ask.

I know campaigns of any kind cost money but this idea genuinely bugs me. Food banks are experiencing record shortages because of floods and fires and hurricanes. People need blankets, toys and turkeys and we're rallying behind pencils?

I support the WGA, the writers, and the strike. Pencils? No. There's got to be a better way we can spend $30,000 on the strike.

Evan Waters said...

The pencils themselves aren't really the issue- sure, at most they'll slow things down at the mail room- but it is raising money.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

The pencils aren't raising money.

Anything "left over" will go to the solidarity fund - IF there is anything leftover. At best that's in the ten cents on the dollar range and I doubt it's even that much with shipping.

Pencils ARE the issue.

Evan Waters said...

Since this is already underway I imagine the margins have already been figured. It's likely not very much at all, but it is something.

Amanda said...

I understand where Maryan is coming from, and I would tend to agree. However, I think that there are a lot of people who appreciate the creative idea of sending pencils. Maybe they, sadly, don't see the entire picture...the benefit of supporting people who are hurt financially by this strike. Even so, they are fans of tv shows that are now showing reruns, and they want to feel like they are helping in some they spend five bucks on pencils.

It might not be where you would allocate the money, but it's still an interesting way for fans to get involved.
Maybe it is excusing people from being fully informed, but that's just the way it is. Some fans are not going to read all the info, they don't have a complete understanding of what's at stake, but heck, show them some crazy pencil idea and they are all over it!
I think it's still great that they want to help.