WGA Supports Maui
As he thought about organizing a pick-me-up picket at his usual striking spot, Mike Werb added a humanitarian relief component to his dog days of summer cooldown special picket. Given the devastation caused by the fires in Maui – where Werb is a part-time resident – he organized Wednesday’s WGA Supports Maui Day at TV City.
A 37-year WGAW member, Werb supplied the shaved ice truck and the QR codes to three relief organizations—Maui Food Bank, Maui Humane Society, and American Red Cross—which are helping Maui residents. Fellow Guild members can lend a hand.
“I realize it’s a very big ask for people who are out of work or who were under-employed even before the strike to donate, but every little bit helps,” Werb said. “People don’t realize that most writers do not have big bank accounts, but we all have big hearts. So we’re opening our hearts to the people of Maui who have been displaced, who are homeless and who have lost loved ones.”
Werb began taking trips to Maui while still in middle school, and has been going there ever since. He has property on the island which he calls “America’s Garden of Eden.” He also has friends who are volunteering for the Maui Food Bank and the Maui Humane Society, two of the organizations (along with the American Red Cross) Werb is encouraging Guild members to support.
“The Maui Food Bank has an excellent history of feeding the homeless population even before all this,” Werb said. “Almost half of their food donations go to youth and children, but now of course they have an extra task of feeding a lot of people who don’t have their kitchens anymore or can’t cook for themselves.
“The Maui Humane Society was already overwhelmed by people post-pandemic who were moving off the island and giving up their pets,” he continued. “They’re working with veterinarians and bringing in dogs, cats, and rabbits who have suffered burns. Animals don’t know what’s happening in all this and people are fleeing, or their owners have passed away or are missing. The Humane Society already does a great job, but is really in need of help.”
A TV and feature writer whose credits include the series Salvation and the films Face/Off and The Mask, Werb regularly pickets at TV City along with his dog Addison and is planning a trip to Maui to volunteer wherever he is needed.
Maui native Aleks Biskis, who has lived in L.A. since 2015, also has plans to return to the island. Biskis is a writers’ assistant and member of IATSE Local 871 who has been coming to the WGA picket lines at least twice a week since the beginning of the strike.
“A lot of up-and-coming writers, support staff, and IATSE members know that this strike is for writers of the future, future members of the Guild,” said Biskis. “I was a writers’ assistant in a mini-room. It was tough only working for 10 weeks and then having our show go dark and not know what was going to happen. Living off an assistant salary for 10 weeks is really hard to do.”
Biskis and his wife have family in Lahaina, one of the areas of Maui that the fires have devastated. Although their friends and family are safe, the fire has taken a huge toll.
“We’re all dealing with the emotional fallout of everything that happened,” Biskis said. “The restaurant where my wife and I went on our first date has burnt down. So a lot of the memories, the physical manifestations of those memories, are gone.”
Donate to the Maui Food Bank
Donate to the Maui Humane Society
Donate to the American Red Cross
Solidarity...or Sew It Seams
On the WGA and SAG-AFTRA picket lines, the members of IATSE Local 705, the Motion Picture Costumers, are easy to pin down.
They’re the ones carrying the blue signs with the patterned border and a fist holding a knitting needle proclaiming “Solidarity Behind the Seams.” When they arrive at a picket site to march in solidarity, these Costumers have been known to wear pink, yellow or something dramatic to help find each other.
Members of the 2,700-person union have been turning up on the picket lines since the beginning of the strike.
“We can’t do anything without a script because that’s where all our work comes from. And we can’t do anything with actors because that’s where our work goes,” said Local 705 Business Rep Adam West at Tuesday’s Day of Solidarity picket at Disney. “We have a very excited and progressive membership and we’re looking forward to our chance at the table.”
Among the lowest-paid crew on a production, costumers strongly support writers’ and actors’ fight for contracts that provide a sustainable living.
“We all want the same thing,” said Elizabeth Ashworth, a custom-made costumer and Local 705 member for two years. “The industry is toxic for all of us, and I think it’s important to come out and fight. Even if it’s not necessarily our fight right now, it’s always our fight.”
At the Disney Rally, Ashworth sported her version of the 705 sign – an irregularly-shaped sign resembling a pattern piece, which dangled safety pins.
“We’ve got dozens of photos of our members on the strike lines,” said West. “We keep printing batches of our signs, and every time we print them, they disappear from our office like hot cakes.”