Many Unhappy Returns
To mark the 29th anniversary of the founding of Amazon on July 5, 1994, WGA members celebrated with an “Unhappy Birthday to Amazon but Happy Birthday to Everyone Else” picket outside Amazon Studios Wednesday. Complete with cake, ice cream and a piñata, the festivities took place on the birthday company’s turf, but the guest of dis-honor was not actually invited.
Party decorations pointedly read “Unhappy Birthday” and “No cake for Amazon.” Attendees hoisted and destroyed a piñata in the shape of an “emotional support yacht.” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reportedly owns two – with his latest superyacht costing an estimated $500 million alone.
On hand to liven up the party were nearly 30 members of Education Workers United (EWU), SEIU Local 99 who supplied bullhorns, chants, and a few strategic choruses of “Happy Birthday.” EWU represents cafeteria workers, bus drivers, janitorial staff, and aids within the Los Angeles Unified School District
The timing of EWU’s visit was coincidental. Having been through their own work stoppage, winning a 30% raise from LAUSD in May, EWU members turned up at Amazon to show solidarity with striking WGA writers during the “summer of strikes.”
“Across L.A., across California and across the nation, the labor movement is coming together and showing its voice,” said Ryan Emmerson, EWA’s Government Affairs and Labor Relations Manager. “We’ve shown that when we fight together, we win together. It’s all about solidarity because we know that a rising tide lifts all of us.”
DSA Helps Keep Us Fed
Since the start of our strike, WGA writers on picket lines across Los Angeles have been “snacklisted.”
That’s actually a good thing. Our friends at the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), specifically the organization’s Hollywood Labor committee, have been providing food, water, and other resources on the lines. Recognizable in their red DSA shirts, the Hollywood Labor volunteers are also in regular contact with WGA strike captains to determine how they can help out on any given day.
“The Snack List team members go out to every picket line delivering things,” said Alex Wolinetz, a member of DSA’s Hollywood Labor. “We also get in touch with the strike captains and ask them, ‘What do you need today? You need coffee? Great, we’ll get you coffee. Lunch? We’ll get lunch. Everything you need, we’re happy to provide.’”
With more than 90,000 members nationwide, Democratic Socialists of America helps unions with strike, picket and action support, whether through phone-banking, turning out people around tenant organizing or other campaigns.
“The point is not only to support Hollywood labor specifically, but also to get Hollywood workers involved in broader struggles across LA,” said Noah Suarez-Sikes, a member of the DSA’s L.A. chapter steering committee and co-chair of Hollywood Labor. “So it’s sort of a two-way street.”
Wolinetz was interviewed at Netflix during the Striking 9 to 5 picket last week alongside his Snacklister-in-arms, Noah Suarez-Sikes, a member of the DSA’s L.A. chapter steering committee and co-chair of Hollywood Labor. A few feet away, workers at a taco truck–sponsored by DSA–were cooking away to feed the 9 to 5 picket attendees. Netflix lot coordinators know that 9 to 5 would draw a big crowd, meaning more than just snacks would be needed, and DSA thought the taco truck would fit the bill.
Although DSA-Hollywood Labor facilitates the donations, much of the generosity has come from people who support the strike but can’t necessarily show up on the picket lines. At the beginning of the strike, DSA launched a Snacklist fundraising campaign. With people donating anywhere from as little as $5 (or more if they can afford it), the organization raised $27,000 in donations for the WGA Snacklist that has come from every state in the country and internationally as well.
“These are average working-class people saying ‘I stand with you,’” said Wolinetz. “People sometimes have this idea that writers are millionaires who aren’t connected to everyday struggles that people experience. It’s important to show that there are everyday people around the country who are saying, ‘I see that your struggle is the same as mine. Here’s $5 or $10 to show that I’m with you.’”
Among its membership, the DSA also counts several WGAW members as well as writers who hope to join the Guild. Brenden Gallagher, who joined DSA after the 2016 Presidential election, is proud of the work that the organization does.
“The DSA and Hollywood Labor have been just a crucial network of support, connecting people who are not in the WGA yet or who are in a different industry but want to help, making them comfortable and feeling like they’re part of a community,” said Gallagher. “I think this is the moment they’ve been waiting for and are made for.”
Why We Strike
Throughout this negotiating cycle, writers have been speaking up about our personal experiences working over the past several years. These stories highlight precisely why we are on strike and why our proposals are so critical to the future of this profession.
"As a creator/showrunner at a streamer, the size of my writers room was the hardest part of negotiations. They initially restricted my room to only three writers—luckily, with the help of a more powerful producer, we were able to argue it up to six. We had 15 weeks to write 10 episodes."
Read the full story here.