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Directors Back In The Labor Spotlight As DGA Deal Ruffles Feathers In Hollywood

The Hollywood labor community is up in arms again after the Directors Guild of America (DGA) made a number of retroactive additions to its film & TV contract with the studios.

The deal, which was revealed yesterday and gives directors a streaming performance bonus that matches that of the writers, has sown more discontent across town.

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Sources tell Deadline that other guild leadership was blindsided by the move, which came more than six months after the DGA struck its original deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

It also would have required both parties to agree to return to the bargaining table, a move that was kept incredibly quiet.

But sources on the studio side indicate this shouldn’t come as a shock to the rest of the labor community.

“I’m surprised anyone is surprised about this,” one studio executive told Deadline of the new provisions. “We were always going to offer the directors at least parity with whatever the writers got. The last thing anyone needs right now is more guild hostility.”

The DGA is also publicly defending the move, but the way this was handled has also caused friction among members of the DGA leadership, who anticipated that the other guilds would not look kindly upon it, according to well-positioned DGA sources.

“Every member I have spoken to has said how thrilled they are about these economic gains on their behalf.  They are particularly gratified about our Health and Pension plan increases and the economic improvements for all of our members: directors, AD/UPMs and AD/SM/PAs,” Karen Gaviola, co-chair of the DGA Negotiating Committee said in a statement to Deadline. “I’m very proud to be a member of the DGA and I’m proud of our continued fight to improve the working lives of directors and directors’ teams.”

The other guilds have also shared positive public statements about the revisions. In a statement to Deadline, SAG-AFTRA said: “It’s a win for union workers in the entertainment industry when any of our sister unions or guilds achieves contract gains for their membership. We congratulate the DGA on achieving these gains.”

Behind closed doors, however, there is discontent among union members who see this as the directors benefitting from the hard work of the writers and actors who spent months and months last year on the picket lines without them.

“This DGA thing is a total payoff for last year. AMPTP breaking the rules again,” one top WGA member told Deadline.

Others members were more publicly outspoken about their displeasure with the deal. Following the news, social media was ablaze with members of every union weighing in.

“The DGA stabbed the WGA and SAG in the back by taking a shit deal, then sat back and let their sister guilds fight the fight they couldn’t be bothered to. But hey, they get to benefit from other artists’ pain, suffering, and bravery now – so, I guess good for them?” wrote Dracula creator and WGA member Cole Haddon.

Boy Meets World producer Mark Blutman added: “Someone from DGA at least wanna pay to replace my 2 pairs of worn out Hokas.”

The DGA received heavy criticism when the guild struck a deal with the AMPTP after about a month of bargaining in June, as many striking writers, who had been on strike since the beginning of May, believed that the directors guild was undercutting their leverage by moving so swiftly.

The deal seemed controversial even among members, though it passed overwhelmingly, with 87% of those who voted supporting it. The DGA’s deal was ratified before the actors joined the picket lines in July.

One of the biggest revisions to the DGA’s contract, the streaming performance bonus, was a cornerstone achievement of the WGA deal that was only won after 148 days on strike. The actors union scored similar language in its contract, which was ratified in December.

“The DGA [leadership] does what they have always done: when not undercutting the gains the WGA gets on the picket line, they capitulate, sit back, then benefit off of what the writers fought for,” Jorge A. Reyes, WGA member and Queen of The South writer/producer, told Deadline.

It is rare for a union to retroactively adjust its contract once it’s been ratified rather than wait until the next contract negotiation. The DGA says these additional gains took months of “difficult discussions” with the studios, beginning sometime after the ratification vote.

It’s not clear when, exactly, the DGA and the AMPTP reopened talks, though based on the new provisions it seems likely it occurred after the WGA ratified its own contract in October.

The Hollywood unions commonly use what’s called “pattern bargaining” during negotiations, using others’ contracts to push for similar provisions or language in their own. The AMPTP is also notorious for using pattern bargaining to encourage the unions to surrender to the terms secured by whoever is the first to make a deal, which in the past this has generally been the DGA. Even though, despite some shared issues, the needs of each union are very different.

This is essentially what happened during the 2008 writers’ strike. The DGA made a deal with the AMPTP on the 73rd day of the work stoppage. The main issue then, as it was this past year, was streaming residuals (among other sticking points). The WGA agreed to similar terms a few weeks later.

This year, the DGA ratified its deal within 53 days of the writers strike, but the WGA stuck by its demands and made it clear that the “divide and conquer” strategy would not work this time, saying in a statement at the time: “The AMPTP will not be able to negotiate a deal for writers with anyone but us.”

The WGA did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment.

IATSE: WHAT’S NEXT?

After a tense year for Hollywood labor, the DGA’s new deal certainly hasn’t done anything to help the unrest as IATSE looks to renegotiate its contract with the AMPTP. Talks are expected to start in March, with the current contract expiring in July.

Many have wondered whether strike-weary sentiment in Hollywood has put IATSE in an unfavorable position against the studios, as they may be encouraged to take a deal to prevent another painful work stoppage as people are still trying to financially recover from last year’s dual strikes.

Earlier this month, IATSE President Matthew Loeb assured members that was not the case, saying “nothing is off the table.”

“Folks are fed up. And I don’t know what to call it, if it’s a post-Covid wake of dissatisfaction, but people are ready to fight and the studios would be ill advised to think that they’ve weakened us to the point that we can’t,” he said.

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