Want a Dynamic Picket? Enlist La Lista!
Eight years ago, inspired by the success of the Black Women Lunch Group, Judalina Neira and Diana Mendez hatched an idea to organize a similar group supporting Latina writers. The idea took hold, and a group which came to be known as La Lista met for the first time in the backyard of WGAW showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett’s house.
“It was maybe 20 women, and this was every working Latina WGA writer,” recalled Neira. “We are now over 200 women. We’re so big we don’t fit in any space anymore.”
Bucking against the conception that there are no available Latina writers, the founders of the La Lista group created the website, lalistatv.com, to function both as a searchable database and also as a hub for mentoring and support. They also started holding regular events.
“We don’t want to hear ‘Latina writers aren’t out there' anymore,” Neira said. “We’re out here.”
“We all support each other,” added WGAW Board member Dailyn Rodriguez. “When jobs come up, we tell each other, ‘Hey, they’re looking for this or that.’ We’re like a Batman signal.”
Neira reflected on the early days of the group during a La Lista picket Wednesday at Universal, where she serves as a lot coordinator. They may have long outgrown Calderon Kellett’s backyard, but the WGA picket lines are plenty big enough to accommodate not just the burgeoning group of La Lista writers, but their friends, supporters and even the all-female mariachi band Lindas Mexicanas, who came out to provide entertainment. The group designed special blue t-shirts for the occasion.
“This is a very organized group,” said WGA Negotiating Committee Member Danielle Sanchez-Witzel who was sporting one of those shirts at the picket. “It’s been amazing. It started out as a brunch meet-up and has really turned into an activist community. We’re there for each other. When someone has a question–anything about business or about life–they put it to the group. It’s hugely important to be able to speak within your own community about what’s going on and how things feel.”
Calderon Kellett has noted how the industry has changed for Latinas. The explosion of streaming has provided more opportunities for writers of diverse backgrounds including Latinas.
“I just wish it didn’t come with shrinking rooms,” Calderon Kellett said. “The studios are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. They’re robbing us of the opportunity to train future showrunners, which was an opportunity I had. I was a staff writer on a show for two years and 44 episodes, so I had so much of a runway to learn. These days, with the mini rooms and the shrinking orders for series, it makes it so much more challenging for people to climb the ladder and, when they’re in a position of power, to know what to do.”
“It’s one of the things we’re striking over,” she added.
Minding the Superstore
The slogan is straight out of a Season 2 episode that saw a group of the Cloud 9 employees walking off the job to protest the firing of one of its characters.
“There were a lot of heavy, very pro-union episodes of Superstore and those kinds of themes ran throughout the entire series,” said actor-writer Lauren Ash who had the shirts printed. “And I will say, as somebody who worked in one of those stores when I was a teen, it’s really true to life. There is so much union-busting that happens at that level.”
Series stars Colton Dunn, Ben Feldman and Ash came up with the idea for the picket meet-up and the Superstore alumni writers–including creator Justin Spitzer-were game to attend. They chose the Barham-Forest Lawn gate because it overlooks the former site of the show’s Cloud 9 exterior.
“It’s since been torn down to build those fancy new stages,” said Executive Producer Gabe Miller. “They can certainly afford those, so, I don’t know, maybe they can pay the writers what we deserve.”
Spitzer echoed the sentiment that the picket served a dual purpose of expressing solidarity for the WGA while also serving as an occasion for a fun reunion.
“It was a great group,” Spitzer said. “The show dealt with unionization and collective worker action a lot over the years, so it felt especially fitting for this group to come together right now.”
The Flash Showrunner Captain Expects a Mob at Warner Bros
When he was approached to be a captain to a list of fellow showrunners, Eric Wallace jumped at the opportunity. And he’s glad he did, considering how enthusiastic all of his team members have been about joining the picket lines.
“Personally, as a showrunner, I have seen more of my peers on the line this time than I ever saw in 2007-08, and that’s been very exciting,” said Wallace. “I’m telling my team that it really makes a difference for us to be visible because it sends an incredibly positive message of solidarity to the rest of the union.”
“I’m not marching just for me,” Wallace continued. “I’m marching for staff writers and for comedy-variety writers. I am marching to make a difference for screenwriters who need and deserve and have earned the right for a second step.”
Establishing a base at his “home studio” where his show The Flash is filmed, Wallace is gearing up for a superhero-themed picket he is organizing for May 24. TV and film, MCU, DCU and comic books…are all welcome. Wallace is encouraging folks to come in costume if they so choose.
“The response has been incredible,” he said. “Comic book and superhero entertainment has generated billions of dollars for the companies. Who creates this stuff? If we’re talking about movies and TV, it’s the writers, so what better way to put a spotlight on appreciation for the writers than to have a special day to honor them.”