A Request to Management re: Digby

As a member of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, known as IATSE, I am formally requesting that the site de-link Digby (listed on our links under “The Usual Suspects”), due to her failure to repudiate the smear, largely spread by her in the blog community, that Oprah Winfrey is anti-union and runs a non-union shop.  Even after absolute confirmation of her use of the members of several locals of my union, she has maintained that her post was legitimate.

While I am also a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, as a member of IATSE, I know who the real working class union workers in my industry are.  It is the camerapeople, the grips, electricians, hair and makeup and wardrobe artists, the carpenters and scenics and props.  These are the people who work 12-16 hour days, without fame or great financial rewards.  More than anyone else, it is they who are being hurt by the WGA strike and other more glamorous union agitation, and who are doing so generally silently and without complaint.  They did not have the opportunity to sell as many scripts as they could to stock up for the strike.  They did not have minimum payment of over $30,000 for each half-hour of television.  They do not earn residual payments when their work is reused by networks.

This is not about Barack Obama.  The IATSE earlier this month endorsed Sen. Clinton for President.  But pretending that our employment, and the running of union shops for television technicians is not as important, and indeed far more important, than whether or not the “writing” staff of Oprah is unionized spits in the face of the claims that we are the allies of the unionized working men and women of America.

Digby will not be hurt by, or even notice our delinking.  But while the lions of the blogging left have been silent over her being bamboozled by an obscure rag, we who are trying to do something different with a group blog can make a statement.  A statement about who we are, and what we believe, and the value of truth.

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    • Jay Elias on December 13, 2007 at 11:00 am
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    • RiaD on December 13, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    I know who the real working class union workers in my industry are.  It is the camerapeople, the grips, electricians, hair and makeup and wardrobe artists, the carpenters and scenics and props.  These are the people who work 12-16 hour days, without fame or great financial rewards.  More than anyone else, it is they who are being hurt by the WGA strike and other more glamorous union agitation, and who are doing so generally silently and without complaint.  They did not have the opportunity to sell as many scripts as they could to stock up for the strike.  They did not have minimum payment of over $30,000 for each half-hour of television.  They do not earn residual payments when their work is reused by networks.

    I know a greensman… out of work now because of this strike.

  1. So, I was wrong and I will correct that in the earlier post. Clearly she does have at least one union member working for her studio. Johnson can’t verify that Harpo productions has contracts with any other unions, but supposes that she must since there is no public outcry in Chicago about that. He may very well be correct on that and I won’t speculate further.

    …To sum up: from what I learned today on DKos, the article I excerpted is inaccurate or at least unsubstantiated in asserting that she pays substandard wages. (It appears that while she works her staff members extremely long hours, she does pay them overtime for it.) I will append a correction to the original post. I also do not know that she runs a wholly non-union shop, only that she runs a non-WGA shop. I will also append that clarification. (If it turns out that she does not hire union workers in other areas, I will update with that as well.)

    That’s here, the initial post (updated) is here).

    Just asking. It looks to me like she made the mistake (not uncommon in blog-land) of relying on a single traditional media source without verifying independently, that she feels a bit put out that she wasn’t emailed privately  (by a prominent dKos poster) or informed in her own comments with the info she’d need to correct her facts (and lapse), and that at the moment she doesn’t see that this new info affects her larger point, which is that progressives should support unions — all of them, not just the big ones (or the ones representing the lowest paid/most dangerous professions) — and that they should do so all the time. From the initial post

    Democratic politicians have been playing both sides of this issue for a long time now and the unions have been equally ineffectual in protecting their own interests

     

    • Armando on December 13, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Are you seriously asking for delinking based on a factual error, that was admitted and retracted?

    I am not as pro-labor as most, but I do recall that unions would respect the strikes of brother unions.

    Your attitude seems to reflect a profound disrespect for the WGA strike, the subject of Digby’s piece.

    I found this comment from dday in digby’s thread interesting:

    OK, I have a lot of first-hand knowledge here.

    I worked on the Oprah reality show just a couple weeks ago. It would have been laughable to ask anyone there if they were union. They would have been too frazzled to speak. That show has undergone cost overruns up the yin-yang as the executives ping-pong back and forth over what they want. There are no people in that show with “writer” in the title, but the supervising producer, the story producer, the editor and the execs all have a hand in “writing” the episode. The core strategy of reality production companies to avoid union membership is to not designate anyone a writer. Of course it’s not WGA. That’s one of the principles of the entire strike.

    And by the way, I was there until 10 o’clock one night and there were plenty of people with me, and I got the distinct feeling that it’s a normal occurrence. Was any overtime pay offered? Stop, you’re making me laugh.

    Further, I had a roommate who worked on Oprah back in the late 90s. There are 13 production teams that rotate each show, nobody is designated a writer, again to avoid unions. Now, Oprah does some nice things for her staff, like letting them on shopping sprees (the gifts to the audience was a natural outgrowth), but they too work brutal hours on salary without OT pay. I do believe he got health benefits, but the hours were very taxing.

    The context of the “smear,” which was a statement of fact, is that Oprah runs a non-WGA shop. She does. She always has. So do most TV talk shows and she’s following the format. So do most TV reality shows and she’s following the format. The most that can be said here is that she’s not been exactly groundbreaking. She also forces her staff on weeklong retreats to hear from the likes of John Gray and religious figures in what could be construed as a shop-wide establishment of religion, but that’s a whole other story.

    dday

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