Monday, May 30, 2005

The boss said no dice son, ya gotta work late

As a follow up to my posts both here and on Altercation about the state of recording studio business today, I still feel a point needs to be made.

Ezra has this today:

Business Week steps forward with the obligatory article on how United Auto Worker intransigence is worsening Detroit's woes. But midway through the piece, a passage flashes by that explains the difference between yesteryear's take-one-for-the-team unions and today's seemingly immovable objects. The difference? At one point, there was, in fact, a team:

When Chrysler wrung mid-contract cutbacks from the UAW in 1981, the company was strapped. Chrysler (DCX ) canceled its dividend, top execs took a 10% pay cut, and then-Chairman Lee A. Iacocca worked for a dollar that year. Today, both GM and Ford still pay a dividend, and GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. got a $2.5 million bonus for 2004 -- on top of his $2.2 million in salary. Both companies also have huge cash hoards -- $20 billion at GM and $23 billion at Ford. Until the companies are close to bankruptcy, union leaders see no reason to give up benefits.

Ya think? That is my point exactly. The consumer is being ripped off by artificially high CD prices, the below the Top 10 artists are not making what they should, landmark studios are being forced out of business, and the Mottolas, Davis', et. al. are smoking Cuban cigars and wondering where the next Nirvana is.

The film business is in a similar quandary. Perhaps Jane at FireDogLake might add some first hand knowledge. Craft and Trades are not making any more money, audio & video editors aren't doing too badly, except the studios are hiring out to non-union shops for more and more of the work. There are lots of kids with ProTools or FinalCut on their Macs, sitting in their living rooms cutting for TV these days.

And I have no objection to that in concept, except that the label heads, and studio heads, think that ought to be the norm. Granted, it isn't brain surgery, but I'd like the doc who cuts me to be long out of med school. Granted, no loss of life is likely, but I want the pilot of the 747 i'm in to have done his first solo flight a long time ago. Expertise used ot be valued, now it's looked at as a cost to be cut.

There has always been a sense, especially in the wealthy, of entitlement. It used to be tempered by "noblesse oblige." Today the sense of entitlement flows from the jerk who cuts you off and then yells at you, to executives making just too damn much money. If the company is healthy, fine, take a big bonus. But if it's not, do something realistic. And don't immediately think of labor cuts, because those you cut are often stockholders.

The heard headed and hard hearted Far Right seems to believe that everyone ought to make as much money as the can, with no impediment. The faux free-traders and neo-libertarians would say "Just get another job." And of course, GWBush says working three jobs is the Murican way.

But I disagree. Redistribution of wealth, in some fashion, like fairer more progressive taxes is necessary. I'm no socialist, except for when it comes to health care. But as long as there are billionaires living within the same borders as kids going to bed hungry, then we have a serious problem. This isn't a third world dictatorship, this is America. Everyone should be able to dream about getting ahead, and with hard work and some luck give it a try.

Marie Antoinette famously remarked "Let them eat cake." Well, some cake needs to be eaten soon in this country. And I'm pretty sure it will taste good.