Writers on the Line

On the Line
Howard Bison Stand Out from the Herd
The Historically Black University’s alumni congregate at Amazon and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions brings the solidarity to Paramount
Friday, August 4, 2023

From the Yard to the Picket Line

Alumni of Howard University at Amazon for Bison Solidarity Day picket. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

How do you placate a group of discontented Bison? Well, Italian ice from Happy Ice and some good old fashioned solidarity makes for a good start.

Unity and good will were very much top of mind for WGAW member A.C. Allen when she organized the reunion of Howard University graduates – writers and actors - for a Bison Solidarity Day picket Thursday at Amazon.  Howard is a private Historically Black University located in Washington, D.C.

“I always try to support the Guild, and I wanted to give back and increase morale,” said Allen, a WGAW member since 2013. “There are so many people who have gone to Howard University on the studio and the creative side - actors and writers. I thought it would be a cool thing to do to have a day for us to show our solidarity with both unions.”

Allen and fellow WGAW member and Howard alum Brandon Tanori say that the university’s graduates tap into a network and find each other in Hollywood. Tanori had previously worked as an intern with Allen. Similarly, before she became a Guild member, Allen sought out showrunner-producer (and Howard alum) Janine Sherman Barrois.

“She read my scripts, gave me notes and tips that helped encourage me to stick with it until I broke into the WGA,” said Allen, a co-executive producer whose credits include Kung Fu, S.W.A.T. and Rebel.

Bison were generous in their support of Thursday’s picket. Publicist Ernest Dukes, owner of the Nottingham Agency donated Happy Ice truck and College Boys Cheesesteaks, both of which are Black-owned business. Stan Spry of Cartel Entertainment donated water and Allen supplied the musical services of DJ Beatific (AKA Andorian Ramsey).

A jolt of morale is welcome in the face of a strike that, for the WGA, is nearing 100 days. Allen and Tenori both cited the need for improvement in streaming residuals as a key element of what drives them to the picket lines.

“For me that’s the #1 issue, adjusting the residual formula so that creatives whose work is on streamers are properly compensated for the value that we’re giving them,” said Allen.

“I’m getting checks for three cents,” agreed Tanori, who has written on Sacrifice. “It’s not motivating in any way."

Producer Fatima Washington and Bison Solidarity Day picket organizer A.C. Allen at Amazon. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

Kaiser Kicks it at Paramount

Coalition of Kaiser  Permanente Union members support striking WGA writers and SAG-AFTRA actors at Paramount

On a break Wednesday from a negotiating session bargaining their next contract, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) did what any solidarity-minded group of union members would do: they hopped on a bus and joined the WGA and SAG-AFTRA picket line.

And they came to make noise. In no way fatigued by the heat or the rigors of contract talks, the group of 65 showed up at Paramount with chants and signs at the ready.

“It’s important that we all show up for each-other's’-fights,” said Suzanne Jimenez, political director with SEIU United Healthcare Workers West. “We are in similar fights in that we’re in a power struggle with corporations that are trying to give us the bare minimum when we know they can afford to give more than that. “We think it’s important that we support an industry that makes not just L.A. but the entire U.S. So we’re here to support actors and writers.”

The coalition delegates who visited Wednesday included members from SEIU, OPEIU and UFCW from Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. In total, the 12 locals within CKPU represent more than 85,000 members of four International unions who work at Kaiser Permanente hospitals, clinics and facilities around the country.

“We’re trying to fight things like short staffing in our hospitals, wage increases that should be in line with inflation and a whole host of other things,” said Jimenez. “We’re trying to make sure that technology is being moved into the hospitals in a way that workers are part of it. So there are similar dynamics in the healthcare and entertainment industries."

See photos from the week of July 31-August 4.