Writers on the Line

On the Line
Choreographers, Coffee and Camera Workers Support the WGA
“This is big. This is important. What the WGA is doing is going to have ramifications on the future of all labor.”
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Dana Wilson and members of the Choreographers Guild on the picket line at CBS Radford.

While one can never be sure exactly who will show up on a WGA picket line on any given day, the 2023 strike has already proven that other unions and guilds are more than happy to bring some food, pick up a sign and get in some steps.

“Labor is labor,” said Matthew Borek, a camera assistant with IATSE Local 600 (the Cinematographers Guild) during a recent visit to the Fox picket line. “It’s important to support the WGA because at the end of the day, the AMPTP is making record profits off our work. We need to be in solidarity with each other in lock step when the employer is not providing us with fair wages, is not providing us with the benefits that we are owed. It’s a very simple thing to show up for one another and I’m happy to do it.”

Borek is a member of the guild’s National Executive Board and co-chair of his guild’s Los Angeles Young Workers Group said that the young workers have deployed a group of members to be on the WGA picket lines every day.

“We’ll go to every location and we’ll repeat as necessary,” Borek said. “We simply want to see our members showing up in solidarity because we know how hard it is to step out and say that you’re going to create a work stoppage in order to get the terms and conditions you are owed. We want to be there showing support so that if push comes to shove and we need to do the same, we may receive the same support.”
Borek’s sentiments were echoed by representatives of a much newer union, the Choreographers Guild who sent their leadership to the CBS Radford picket line Thursday afternoon. The CG, which opened for membership in March of 2023, is organizing professional choreographers and choreography teams working in film, television, commercials, music videos, live concerts and other media.

The guild’s leadership who came to CBS Radford agreed that the WGA is fighting for achieving a better workplace within the entertainment industry. And the issues between choreographers and writers have some overlap, according to Dana Wilson, a Choreographers Guild Vice President as well as a member of SAG-AFTRA.

“Our rates are all over the place,” said Wilson. "We have no residual structures. We don’t have a health and retirement plan. One of our biggest interests is economic security and I think that’s one of the WGA’s as well.”

Outside the entertainment industry, workers of all disciplines are paying attention to the WGA’s effort to win a fair deal for a sustainable career. Tyler Keeling, a barista and partner organizer with Starbucks Workers United, also joined a recent WGA picket line at Fox. While he didn’t supply the coffee, Keeling – whose Lakewood store was the first Southern California Starbucks to unionize in May of 2022 - came with plenty of solidarity. The 40 workers at Keeling’s location join the 8,000 unionized workers at over 300 stores across the nation with more joining up every day.

“This is big. This is important,” Keeling said of the WGA strike. “What the WGA is doing is going to have ramifications on the future of all labor, just like what we’re doing. We’re all union workers. We have to show up for each other.”

See Photos from Today’s Picket Lines

This is What Solidarity Looks (and Tastes) Like

Go ahead and un-curb your enthusiasm, all you hungry Warner Bros. picketers. Lunch is on Larry David.

David and Curb Your Enthusiasm showrunner and WGAW member Jeff Schaffer sent the Yeastie Boys bagel truck to the Warner Bros. Thursday to feed the picketers. The truck served up an assortment of tasty bagels and sandwiches and bore a message with a 1937 quote from Jack L. Warner: “We knew those writers meant business when that damn bagel truck showed up.”

Boots on the Ground

In town on business, writer-director and WGAW member Boots Riley joined multiple picket lines this week before returning home to Oakland. On the picket line at Netflix, he reported that support and solidarity for the striking WGA writers is plentiful in Northern California.

Bay Area residents are especially keyed into the labor movement given the current strike being waged by the Oakland Unified School District.

“I’m hearing the false comparisons where people are saying of the writers, ‘Oh, they’re not teachers. You’re just doing this because everybody is looking.’ Some writers are getting paid less than teachers,” said Riley (Sorry to Bother You, I’m a Virgo). “The fact is, this is a strike that the world is looking at all over the US, and we can’t lose. We have to fight hard because it’s going to inspire people.”

Riley noted that the WGA’s strike is part of an uprising by organized labor with paydayreport.com tracking more than 2,500 strikes in the last three years.

“Working people are figuring out a way to fight back, and this is part of that,” Riley said. “This is important because we are storytellers, and right now we’re telling a story. Everybody knows who the good guy is. The question is, is this story going to tell them that the good guy can’t win?”