If there was any remaining doubt that WGA writers do not walk alone in their fight for a fair contract, Wednesday’s historic WGA Strong Rally put that feeling solidly to rest.
More than 5,000 WGA members and supporters from other unions gathered at Pan Pacific Park near WGAW headquarters. From the park, they marched approximately one and a half miles down 3rd Street, turning south on Fairfax Avenue and arriving at the La Brea Tar Pits park, where they assembled for a spirited rally featuring speeches by WGAW members and leaders of other unions.
With WGA Negotiating Committee and WGAW Board of Directors member Adam Conover serving as event MC, all the speakers who took the stage reaffirmed their support for the WGA’s strike, reminding everyone that the WGA’s fight is garnering worldwide attention, and that the stakes could not be higher.
“It takes a lot of courage to strike, and you guys did it,” said Alex Aguilar Jr., Business Manager and Secretary-Treasurer of Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 724. “Not only are you doing it to make a difference for you, but what you guys are doing is impacting generations of future writers, laborers, craftsmen, and teamsters for generations to come. So you are making a difference in everybody’s lives, not just your own.”
In addition to Aguilar, speakers included IATSE International Vice President Mike Miller; SAG-AFTRA National Executive Vice President Duncan Crabtree-Ireland; former DGA President Thomas Schlamme; AFM Local 47 Vice President Marc Sazer; Teamsters Local 396 member Cecilia Porter, and Teamsters Local 399 Vice President Lindsay Dougherty. The hundreds of thousands of members from these unions have been fixtures on WGA picket lines both locally and across the country since the strike began.
WGA speakers included Netflix strike captain Danny Tolli, and WGAW Board Member Liz Hsiao Lan Alper. Writer-director-actor and WGAW member (and onetime Teamster) Boots Riley flew in from Oakland both to make remarks and perform an a cappella piece titled “Everything.” Singer-songwriter and SAG-AFTRA member Aloe Blacc performed a set of three songs including the hit single “Wake Me Up” and the rally-relevant “I Need a Dollar.”
Riley noted that the WGA work stoppage is part of a historic uprising within the labor movement. In the last three years, there have been more than 2,900 strikes in the United States, according to Riley.
“They’re scared of what’s going on. They’re scared at how militant, how ready to fight we have become,” Riley said. “The whole world is looking at us. We can’t let them down.”
Assessing what he views as a power struggle between the greed-driven studios and labor, IATSE’s Miller said that the AMPTP has miscalculated the WGA’s position.
“Who has the power? The people that create the content have the power,” said Miller. “So when they’re ready to talk about a fair contract, when they’re ready to make it about fairness, about equity, about taking care of people, then they know where to find us. And then we’ll go back to the bargaining table, and we’ll see who has the power.”
Dougherty reaffirmed the Teamsters unity with writers and the union’s determination never to cross a picket line. “The AMPTP has declared a war on Hollywood labor, and it is a war they are going to get, I promise you,” Dougherty said. “You’ve got to keep up the fight. We will be with you, side by side, supporting you the whole way.”
Providing a perspective from a worker outside the entertainment industry, Amazon driver Cecilia Porter noted how the Silicon Valley company frequently puts profits over the health and safety of its workers. Which means that that the WGA’s fight “is our fight,” she said.
“We have organized with the Teamsters for better pay and better working conditions,” Porter said. “So let’s keep fighting.”
As picket lines have disrupted productions, there have been casualties. Alper saluted the workers of Hollywood, noting that the work stoppage has caused crew members, actors, laborers, and other employees to lose their jobs.
“Writers know the stories we create can only be brought to life by the thousands of craftspeople, teamsters, and other workers of Hollywood who are this industry’s real heart and soul,” said Alper, who mentioned the fundraising done for the Entertainment Community Fund and those who are experiencing hardship to look to the Fund as a potential resource. “There is no Hollywood without you.”
The WGA’s fight is concurrent with SAG-AFTRA which is also negotiating new contracts with the AMPTP. Crabtree-Ireland came to the rally Wednesday after spending the morning with his union's negotiating committee at the AMPTP’s headquarters in Sherman Oaks.
“I’m here to bring you our collective message of solidarity, unity, and support,” Crabtree-Ireland said. "The most important part of that message is that we are all in this together. To the writers here: we will be by your side, rallying, marching and walking the picket lines as long as it takes.”
Crediting his collaboration with “the incredible WGA writers” for much of his career success, the DGA’s Schlamme said, “The companies know they cannot do this alone, and certainly not without you, and they are scared as hell about this, and it’s long past time that they give you the deal you so rightly deserve.”
Sazer, whose union will be negotiating with the AMPTP in the fall, said that organized labor has reached an inflection point. AFM members have been regular marchers on the WGA picket lines which, Sazer says, have been notable for their diversity.
“We have turned the generations over. We’re younger, we’re more diverse, and yet our economic aspirations have been forcibly destroyed or capped by the bad decision-making of these companies that are the same people we will be negotiating with in November,” Sazer said. “So we stand with you, and the level of solidarity is something that is absolutely historic.”
As one of the Guild members who is on the lines on a daily basis, Tolli looked back at the first 50 days of the strike, marveling at the creativity and diversity on the lines, and the sheer numbers and variety of people who have marched with WGA writers, from celebrities and politicians to 4th graders and Girl Scouts.
“We are showing the world what unity looks like here–live and in person,” Tolli said. “Tomorrow when we return to the picket lines, the beginning of our hot labor summer, whether it’s your 51st day out there, or your very first time on the picket line, I want you to know that you don’t walk alone. Union strong! Solidarity forever. Si se puede!”