Patience….Paaaaaatience……..

It’s extremely likely that the DGA will be announcing a deal with the AMPTP this week. Smart money says it happens tomorrow.

Forget about what happens next.

Let’s talk about what you’re going to do next.

And who are you? You’re a guild moderate. You’re not running crazy in the streets shouting that you’ll go fi-core. You like your union…hell, maybe you love it. You hate the deal the AMPTP offered us, you’ve followed the strike rules, you’ve picketed…but you’re not exactly thrilled with how things have gone down. Maybe you thought we should have done less shouting in the press, or fewer angry/snide letters to the membership. Maybe you thought telling a crowd that “we will make a deal that includes reality” was a bit ridiculous. Maybe you thought sticking with our demand for sympathy strikes and jurisdicition over another union’s work area was counter-productive.

My God, maybe you disagree with your leadership!

Oh no!

Fair warning: if you’re one of those people who simply can’t make the distinction between loyal opposition and “traitorous coward,” then stop reading. If you are, say, the idiot who announced that if they ever met me, they’d like to “punch me in the heart” because I dare speak out loud about my own union’s policies, then yeah, go away. Everyone since the beginning of time who has said “Keep your mouth shut!” or “Love it or leave it!” or “Don’t speak out against the family!” is basically acting out of their own fear that their position is too weak to survive open critique.

And it’s not exactly conducive to that all-important unity everyone’s always going on about.

Even worse, if you’re one of the people who honestly believes that we shouldn’t openly question our leaders because during a strike, we are like soldiers at war who should not question orders, then please…go away (but first, read about labor unions). I’m not a soldier. Soldiers don’t operate within a democratic system. They operate under a chain-of-command. When you advocate analogizing military systems to democratic organizations like labor unions, you’re showing a bit of a fascistic streak.

However, if you’re someone who agrees with the following comments from Bill Maher…

[My] writers are important to me. As Paul McCartney once said, I’d rather have a band [to play with] than a Rolls Royce, and I’d rather have my writers than a Rolls Royce. And for sure, corporations are taking over everything and strangling this country and strangling little men. We do need unions more than ever but…

…what I don’t love is an atmosphere that has taken over this town. An atmosphere of witch hunt and threats, and that’s coming from the union and I don’t like that. The analogy is this: liberals criticize the conduct of the Iraq War, whether that was the right move and what it’s led to, and the Bush administration tried to conflate that by saying if you [believe this] then you don’t support the troops. That was a lie then and a lie now.

In the same way, when I question whether this was the right strike at the right time, and I question the leadership which has not been very consistent…it’s the same kind of deal. You have a situation where these guys, these writers have been led into a situation in which there is no exit strategy, and we may not win this war. So we’re not wrong to criticize it. This is still America.

…then stick around. Cuz I want to talk to you.

Oh, and congratulations for not losing yer frickin’ mind.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and phone calls in the last few days. There are a lot of you out there. And you’re worried about what’s going to happen after the DGA deal comes out. Some of you are highly agitated. That’s to be expected. This strike has been longer than leadership would have hoped, and we’ve gotten an extra-large cupful of jack squat to this point. When people lose faith in their leaders, they start to come up with plans and tactics and strategies.

My message to you all is simply this.

Relax.

Take a deep breath.

And please, for the love of God, don’t do anything stupid.

The first thing we all have to do is take a good long look at whatever the DGA deal is. And now when I say “we” I mean WE. You, me, Patric Verrone, the NegCom…everyone. If a deal comes out this week, and we have people sending signed letters to our union demanding that we accept it…and if we have union leaders firing RPGs off in the press about how it’s a cave and a sellout…then we might as well just stop pretending we’re in the business of collectively bargaining for employees, strap on some lycra tights and convert ourselves into an Extreme Fighting league.

The second thing we all have to do is TALK. We have to talk to each other. And you know, I am as guilty as the next guy. Patric and I haven’t spoken in a few months (imagine that!), but I did work very hard to help get TWC/Dimension to sign an interim deal with the WGA, and Patric was nice enough to send me a note of thanks.

Maybe we could work our way up to a phone call next.

We have to start talking to each other because like it or not, Patric’s right about one thing: we’re all in this together. I don’t want to quit my union. I don’t want to threaten my union. I want to convince my leaders that not everyone agrees with every damned thing they say, not everyone agrees that “unity” ought to be a catchphrase for “obedience,” not everyone agrees that their strategies are sound, and not everyone agrees that disagreeing is tantamount to weakening our Guild.

Here’s what weakens the Guild.

Bad strategy, bad execution, inconsistent messages, fear and panic.

Reasoned dissent? Public discussion? Free exchange of ideas?

No.

Somehow, I managed to be both critical of leadership and help get TWC into the fold. Yes folks, the world isn’t just black and white.

If you disagree with our leadership mildly or moderately or severely, don’t be afraid of the dogpilers, the shouter-downers, the angry mob, the religious zealots and the swirly-eyed Kool-Aid guzzlers. This is as much your union as theirs. You pay dues, you vote, you matter…end of story.

(Note:  I want to be clear that the above is not meant to refer to “people who disagree with me.”  There are a lot of critical thinkers that disagree with me.  I’m talking about the jerks who believe that “shut up” or “I want to punch you” are acceptable substitutes for rational discourse.  Everyone should repudiate them…and that goes for people who argue any side of these issues.)

But don’t–I repeat–don’t be hasty. Take a deep breath, review the DGA deal, and then let’s all talk. Let’s talk with our leaders respectfully. For all of our differences, and for as tough as my criticism has been, many of these writers are my friends…and I suspect they are in a very emotional and exhausted place.

It’s time to start forging some bridges between moderates and militants. When the DGA deal comes, there will be no more time for blame and recrimination and hindsight.

My goal now is what my goal has always been. I want us to sign the best deal I believe we can get.

Just as our leadership needs us to make the strike work, we need them to make a deal work.

Patience. Deep breaths. Ignore the lunatics and shit-flingers. The Theater of the Hysterical is drawing to a close.

Let’s see if a new day of rational discussion can begin.

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  1. Jan 16, 2008: from Write or Wrong? » blogstring.com

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