Cartoonists Bors, Rall: Stewart & Colbert are Scabs

United Feature Syndicate cartoonist Matt Bors (email, website. My Space page) released his cartoon "Scab," and to posted on his blog on "Television and Strikes."

And above's Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist Ted Rall 's (email, website, bio) cartoon from January 17 and his post.

With news that the Director's Guild of America has reached a tentative agreement, pressure increases on the Writer's Guild to settle. But, it was the studios who walked away from the table back in December. The side deals signed by Letterman and smaller film studios will be superseded by the final contract. Here's a rundown of the tentative pros and cons of the deal from the WGA perspective.

This week, Jonathan Handel, a digital media attorney who at one time worked for the Guild (email) had an op-ed in the LA Times urging the writers to used the directors to help broker a deal. But, as he pointed out earlier at his blog,

The top echelon of movie directors are paid millions and promised a cut of the gross, so new-media residuals don't amount to much mad money for them. Meanwhile, 40% of DGA members are assistant directors and unit production managers who receive practically no residuals now.

As a result, the Directors Guild likely is more willing to trade off new-media residuals against other issues, such as larger base payments up front. Indeed, the studios would prefer to hike those minimums rather than increase residuals. That's because the first residuals deal negotiated often becomes a blueprint for the others -- it's called "pattern bargaining" -- but upfront minimums don't work that way. If the directors' deal were to become the contract template, each dollar of residuals the studios grant multiplies into more than $12 across all the unions' contracts.
Patrick Walsh described what the writers at Cinematical back in December:
Writers currently make $.04 for each $20 DVD sold. The AMPTP wants to give us the DVD rate (.3% of the gross -- roughly half a cent for each $2 iTunes episode download) for the internet downloads, despite the huge amount of money (around $.50 per DVD) that they save on shipping, manufacturing, etc. (Basically, the WGA is asking for 2.5% of internet sales, the AMPTP is offering .3 - .36%...on the network websites you can watch entire episodes of television shows for free. The networks sell ads (that annoying commercial you have to watch before your show begins) and earn lotsa money from running the shows online (an estimated $4.6 billion over the next three years, to be exact). But writers receive NONE of that revenue. Not one cent. How can this be? The studios claim these downloads are "for promotional purposes only."
The WGA wanted the amount a writer earns from a DVD sale to go up from $.04 cents per sale to $.08 cents per sale....The AMPTP offered considerably less, and the WGA took the doubling proposal off the table. The writers also want internet showings to pay the same amount as television showings.... But the AMPTP claims that the internet is still "too new" a medium to set a reasonable percentage.
But with the exception of some of the blogs, the media's coverage of Leno, et. al returning to work has speculated on content, but failed to question them for undercutting the strike. At least until today, when Bors and Rall (see cartoons above) paired up to issue a press release and the above cartoons confronting political humorists Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" for returning to their Comedy Central shows without writers during the Writers Guild of America strike.

the stakes are too high, the issues too important, the hypocrisy too hypocritical for us to just put down our pens and tune in to their union-busting, albeit highly amusing, programs.
The pair added that they will not appear on either show while the strike remains in effect.

We'd rather fight in Bush's wars than cross a picket line.
Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor and Publisher passed along the news release, although he said he didn't agree. Readers at his blog seemed to take this a signal to attack the cartoonists.

UPDATE of 1/18/07: Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond had a piece this morning questioning why the guild isn't going after high profile members who have returned to television, "WGA stance on struck work seems more like a write-off."

Jeff Hermanson, the WGA's assistant executive director, makes the point that the guild doesn't comment on alleged strike rules compliance violations until a determination is made and possible disciplinary action taken. He declined to say whether there had been any complaints lodged against Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel or Maher, or if indeed anything they have done since returning constitutes a breach.
"With regard to Leno, we clarified that he isn't supposed to be writing a monologue," Hermanson said this week. "Clearly, he had a misunderstanding of the rule." So why has the WGA allowed Leno to continue penning a nightly monologue on "Tonight" without making an issue of it? And just whose misunderstanding was this: Leno's or the guild's? Hermanson replies that the WGA isn't taking a position on that at present.

We might surmise from this that the guild has taken to having a sliding scale when it comes to perceived scab writing and enforcement. If you're a high-profile talk-show host on a struck production, it appears to be OK to use your words as long as you don't make it too terribly obvious. And even if you do, just don't rub anyone's nose in it, and nobody gets hurt.