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10 April 24th, 2011 NY Post: Collective Bargaining & Unions the secret villain to soaps demise!

Courtesy/ABC

The New York Post has a very interesting piece out this weekend on what the death of soap operas say about our economy and the way Unions are structured. And that even though ABC Daytime President, Brian Frons, handed down the death sentence verdict to All My Children and One Life to Live, that there was a bigger villain looming in the background and that was Collective Bargaining and all the Union costs for the various areas involved in the making of soaps, that of the cast, crew, and creatives. Read below some key excerpts on what soaps have been facing internally all this time, while trying to put out a show five days a week, and why reality series looks like a great option for network programmers!

NY Post: “The soaps are effectively an industry heading for bankruptcy, and even union members realize it. In the last decade, soaps have been trying to cut costs to the bone. But those bones are covered in the impenetrable gristle of AFTRA (the daytime actors union), WGA (the writers guild), the DGA (directors) and the backstage union IATSE.

Soaps are “certainly not expensive by other entertainment gauges,” says former producer Michael Laibson, a leader of the creative teams at All My Children and Guiding Light. But “they don’t pay the people [on reality TV] the same kinds of wages. The acting, the above-the-line costs [for creative talent] are much higher on soaps. Generally, on a soap there are about 30 actors that are under contract so they have a guaranteed number of performances per week and a guaranteed salary per performance.”

Union super-minimum wages lead directly to high unemployment. AFTRA requires each of the main performers to be paid at least $913 a day, but stars get much more. Seventeen Writers Guild jobs disappear when the two ABC soaps go dark. They aren’t getting paid in Palmolive, either. Head writers (of whom there might be more than one) get at least $35,345 a week. Writing expenses are minimal on reality, which the WGA hasn’t successfully penetrated yet.”

“The soap industry is highly skilled, and Days of Our Lives is a more polished product than The Biggest Loser. Soaps are more like airlines. The value of their product has dwindled rapidly, but unions don’t provide flexibility for trimming costs to keep up. Since soaps aren’t a separate industry, they can’t use bankruptcy as a wedge to reopen contracts and make cuts. An AFTRA source who didn’t want to be identified says, “We’re certainly mindful of the challenges the industry faces,” although not mindful enough to back down on their main goal: “We want to increase pay and benefits for our members.”  Hundreds of IATSE members are going to be out of work. Even unionized reality programs like ABC’s upcoming soap replacements The Chew (Mario Batali cooking show) and The Revolution (a Biggest Loser-style weight-loss show) will bring far fewer jobs in makeup, costumes, set moving, etc.”

“Maybe renegotiating the daytime serials portion of the contract would have beaten layoffs. But from the unions’ perspective, any concession sets a dangerous precedent. If they take a hit on daytime, isn’t that an invitation to cut prime-time contracts? So unions will continue to shrug at reality and the marketplace will continue to punish them.”




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  1. Nicole says:

    So is Frons trying to get the blame off himself and blame the Unions?? Is he hoping for infighting amongst the unions so that AFTRA and IATSE don’t support each other anymore? Since the actors can’t support the ABC protests publically (because they are worried about backlash from Frons), is this around about way of trying to make sure the other unions don’t support the SAVE OUR SOAPS Protests and Boycotts….create infighting amongst the unions?

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  2. John says:

    Again we blame the unions? People have INCREDIBLY short memories. Or a really deficient schooling in what working conditions in this country were like before unions. And what they will be like again if unions are crushed. I can’t help but feeling that our grandchildren will be spilling their blood fighting for rights which our ancestors spilled their blood to hand down to us, and which we so take for granted.

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  3. Brooke says:

    What a load of bunk! You can’t blame the unions, who protect the workers, for the out of control GREED on the part of ABC’s and Disney’s top level management and shareholders.

    This FAUX News style propaganda a la GOP ain’t gonna fly.

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  4. Brooke says:

    “Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert A. Iger commanded a 35% jump in salary and bonuses in 2010, rewarding what the board of directors’ compensation committee called his “exceptional performance” in the face of a slow-recovering U.S. economy. Iger’s salary and bonus reached nearly $16.3 million, up from $12 million a year earlier. His total compensation, including equity awards, reached $28 million… “(LA Times 1/28/2011)

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  5. Tracy Thomas says:

    What a crock of S**T!!!!! So Brian Frons is AGAIN trying to deceive us with his pack of lies! Like I said, “what a crock of SH**T!!!!” While I understand that managing soap operas can be expensive, why is it NOW they’ve become too expensive to handle?! They have been going on for as long as I’ve been aound! What kills me is that Disney is too greedy and doesn’t give a rat’s a$$ about us, but also the fact that Brian Frons can’t take responsibilty for his own stupidity! He continued to lie to our faces about AMC and OLTL then did exactly what he wanted to do in the first place! Soon ABC won’t have a network because we will grow sick and tired of Frons, Disney and all the lies they’ve told! Even Pinocchio can’l lie that much! He (Frons) talked about being in the witness protection program… well honey, you’d better start running! There are MANY, MANY people who would like to get you alone in a room for just 5 mins.! Now THAT’S a reality show I would pay to see!! Don’t blow smoke up our a$$e$ when you know that we’re on to you!
    Sorry Michael! We still love you and all you do for the soap world! Thank you for keeping us informed! Best wishes!

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  6. todd says:

    You can’t believe anything that you read in the New York Post. It is owned by Rupert Murdoch and is a political paper. It exists as propaganda for far right conservative causes. Having thousands more mad at unions now, with all that is going in the Midwest, is too convenient.
    Unions can be blamed in the same respect, for all of the US jobs being sent overseas. It boils down to corporate greed — money beforeanything else. OLTL made money,but a reality show will make more. They don’t care that less will watch. It will make more profit. They don’t have to pay as many people, or as high a wage. Frons will get a promotion, not fired. If you think any US corporation is any different, you are wrong. It is capitalism. Even Hoover saw the dollars that would benefit them in supporting our cause. I want OLTL back more than anybody. I have been in a daze since the news broke. I just cant see a Network picking it up.

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  7. CINDY says:

    WELL SHE SOME ACTORS ARE WILL TO GO CUT PAY AND SALARY !JUMP ON THE BAND WAGON FOR SOMEONE TO BLAME AND THIS THE CURRENT TREND.HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK THE AMERICAN PUBLIC IS. THEN PUT IT ON SOAPNET AND WE’LL PAY FOR THE CHANNEL!

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  8. Lori says:

    All that article is doing is trying to switch the blame game on Unions.I am sorry if there wasn’t Unions around it go back to what it was before the 1900 ‘s.I mean Unions stop child labor laws before there were Unions they were having ten or even nine year olds working under the worst conditions inmagable.I mean think about the garment fire back in the early 1900′s when how many young women and children lost there lives.They can all say it is caused by the unions,but all this does make trouble were it don’t belong.Common sense with this so-called “Reality shows are done with real people who I believe don’t have to have like the join the actor gulid.They can all say it is cheaper,but just how cheaper is it when and I mean when someone gets hurt bad enough that the network get sued then what.I mean these people have to get there a**** out of there heads.And just stop and think I do believe some of these actors who have been on the show long enough they would kind of enough take a pay cut.It just the higher ups think if we read this we quite blaming them and that won’t work in my book.

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  9. Brooke says:

    NO ONE from the network approached the unions for negotiations.

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  10. leah says:

    REALLY – ABC and Disney are trying to break the unions… I hope no one falls for or stands for that. If top execs who do nothing would take a pay cut that would be wonderful. Frons isn’t doing much any way.. keep the calls up people.. cause his ass needs to be out like yesterday unions unite

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