Is the AMPTP Illegal… or Just Unethical?

Here’s a link to a terrific article posted last week on The Huffington Post by commentator Robert J. Elisberg.  In it, Elisberg makes a pretty convincing case for why the AMPTP’s negotiating position may not be just unethical and unfair, but downright illegal.  Here’s a little preview, but you should read the entire article

“The AMPTP is like if General Motors, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota,
Honda and Nissan all got together, decided the terms they would offer
employees, and then negotiated as a single body against one isolated
division of U.S. auto workers at a time. Divide and conquer. Take it or
leave it.

It’s not that it would be massively illegal. It’s that it would be
unconscionable. No one in the aghast free world would stand for it.
Even Luddites who wished it wasn’t illegal understand why it’s
unacceptable.

Or imagine if all the tobacco companies got together. What if they
hid research about nicotine, and then…oh, wait, they did. And they
all got hauled before Congress.

Competitors are not allowed to negotiate together, to even confer
together. It’s called collusion. When baseball owners merely created an
“information bank” for offers being made to free agent players, they
were fined $280 million. Two competitors cannot talk with one another
if there’s just a hint of agreement. Imagine ALL competitors in an
industry getting together to set ALL wages and ALL labor conditions.

It doesn’t happen. Anywhere. Not “anywhere in the U.S.” Anywhere in the free world.

Except Hollywood.”

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4 thoughts on “Is the AMPTP Illegal… or Just Unethical?

  1. Eric LaVigne

    There is a very good reason that companies aren’t allowed the same organizing capabilities as workers. After the corporate abuses of the 19th and early 20th centuries that destroyed the fabric of our society and its economy, our society became painfully aware of the unfair power advantage that "bosses" have over "workers", especially when they are allowed to group together and form monopolies. At first seen as "communist" since it gave power to the workers, we came to realize that this power was necessary in order to redress the imbalance and that doing so was good for our democratic society and our economy as a whole.

    Those who own the the raw materials and the means of production while controlling massive amounts of money always have an unfair advantage over the individuals, or the workers, in any industry. This is the lesson we learned and the reason that we developed the rules and antitrust laws that we have, and why we institutionalized the organization of unions for workers. No such "monopoly" of workers could ever wield an unfair advantage over the "bosses" and wreck millions of lives and drive the economy into depression, and in my understanding of history, it never has. The consolidation of money and power in the hands of the powerful is far too great, while the power given to workers throught unions is but a pittance in comparison. Some have even argued that it’s not enough, while others say the that the unions themselves have in some cases become as corrupt as the corporations. While the playing field might not be entirely leveled and may never be, unions have done much to improve the standard of living for all Americans while helping to create an era of great prosperity. And while corruption and graft may exist in the higher levels of some unions, it could never compare to the degree of corruption and abuse of power that can and does occur in the highets levels of corporations, nor could it inflict the same kind of damage.

    The point here is, you have to look at it in terms of the balance of power, not just comparing the ability to organize. Six young teenagers teaming up against Michael Jordan is hardly an unfair advantage. They may get some good shots in, but Jordan will still win. SHort of there being a union of all unions and every worker in the country strikes when one does, they will never have the same amount of power as the corporate bosses. Even then, I wonder…

    So, unless someone can explain to me what is different about Hollywood that allows the rules we as a society accept and apply the every other industry to be inverted, I must remain in twitching cognitive dissonance to understand and accept the hypocrisy.

  2. Tabren Wyldstar

    It is arguable regarding the legality/illegality of the AMPTP, if one considers one simple fact.

    The workers for all the different companies aren’t bound by the same rules as the employers.

    Under our current law, employers are not allowed to consult with each other on contract or employment terms. Yet workers, through their unions, are allowed such. Frequently we see "sympathy strikes" cropping up around existing conflicts. The workers of one union consult with the other. They convince camera men to go on a sympathy strike when it is the writers who have the grievance. They put pressure on the gaffers to have work slow downs. Even if management takes up the slack of work striking writers have left, these acts sabotage them. Summarily, they make it impossible for employers to continue their business at all.

    We live in a society that claims many things, freedom of association, freedom of negotiation, etc. Yet it seems we want it just for ourselves, the workers, and noone else gets a piece of the pie.

    I am reminded of an event less than two decades ago. The United Food Workers were striking against one of our grocery chains (because of accusations management were interfering in unionization efforts) and were picketing in front of one store near my workplace, a fast food restaurant. I got into a conversation with some of the union members about what their grievance was. The company was paying almost double minimum wage and they argued that it wasn’t enough to feed their families. I pointed out that the restaurants across the parking lot not only paid around minimum wage, but rarely let the employees have more than 32 hours a week, why were they not protesting that fact? The union member said it was because if they did, then the fast food would cost more. He went silent when I asked, "doesn’t your demands make groceries cost more?"

    We expect our desires to be met and enforce that expectation through the use of unions and strikes, so my question is a simple one.

    Is it the AMPTP that is illegal or unethical? Or is it our own expectations that are perverse?

  3. In the heartland

    Not only is the AMPTP negotiating strategy similar to the auto manufacturers as Elisberg points out, but the the AMTPT’s whole mindset is outdated like the entire U.S. auto industry has been for the last 30-plus years.

    American auto companies were blind-sided by the popularity of the foreign hybrid cars. For years,GM, Ford, and Chrysler continued to produce old-time gas hogs while Toyota and Honda developed the hybrids. Now look at who’s laughing all the way to bank.

    It’s the same thing with the AMPTP…no forward vision. If the AMPTP understood the profit potential in the new media (internet and who knows what else), they’d realize the value of working out a fair deal with the writers right away. As we’ve seen many times, especially in the communication/entertainment industry, once new technology hits "critical mass" you can get left in the dust very quickly.

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