Writers on the Line

On the Line
Solidarity from Sacramento
CA Attorney General Rob Bonta tells strikers they are the industry’s “heart and soul” and dual guild member Bridgid Ryan helps lift Disney picketers’ Monday spirits
Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Solidarity from Sacramento

(L-R) Disney Lot Coordinator Carlos Cisco, WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, and WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair David A. Goodman at Disney. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

Citing his family’s union-seeped legacy and carrying the support of elected officials throughout the state, California Attorney General Rob Bonta urged striking writers and actors to continue to fight for what they deserve.

“You are the heart and soul, the foundation and the pillar of the success of this industry,” Bonta told picketers Monday at Disney Studios. “The creativity and talent that you provide every day must be respected. So when it’s not, you stand up, you fight, and you do what you need to do. Please know that you’re not alone.”

Bonta reminded the picketers that they have the support of elected officials across the state and the nation, and that unions and the efforts of organized labor are being viewed more favorably than they have in 50 years.

“To me, it’s very clear. Unions make people’s lives better, period, full stop, end of story,” Bonta said. “If you’re struggling in the workplace, I always say, ‘Get yourself a union.’ A union will lift you up and make your family’s circumstances better.”

Bonta referenced the presence of unions in his own history. As the son of parents who worked for the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), he lived near the UFW’s headquarters in Keene, CA, and grew up on picket lines, rallies and demonstrations. From an early age, he knew that unions existed to right wrongs and improve lives.

“What has always stuck with me is the idea of everyday people siding with each other despite their differences,” he told Writers on the Line. “In the UFW, it was Filipino and Latino farm workers and organizers and later it was Black, white, and all groups fighting together with one voice. That commitment to one another, that collaboration and coalition building, I always thought was beautiful."

“My parents taught me, ‘When something’s not right, it’s time to fight,” he added. “That’s what a protest is about. That’s what a strike is about: fighting for what’s right.”

In his introductory remarks, WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser noted that Bonta’s presence on the picket line is inspiring.

“It means a lot that, in the 133rd day of the strike, we continue to get support from politicians both in California and New York,” Keyser said. “The Attorney General being here is enormously meaningful to us at this point. It’s a message not only to all of us, but also to the companies that it’s time to make a deal. Enough is enough.”

Maybe Mondays Aren't So Bad

WGAW member and "Garfield Hates Mondays" picket organizer Bridgid Ryan at Disney. Photo by J.W. Hendricks. 

Veteran organizer that she is, WGAW and SAG-AFTRA member Bridgid Ryan was persistent in her goal of putting together a morale-boosting picket on Monday.

Working with friends Daniel Talton, Emptea and Charlie Staunton, she arranged for the donations of tacos to the Disney picket line along with some film and TV-themed tote bag giveaways. Sponsors of the “Garfield Hates Monday” picket at Disney included Capri Club restaurant, the clothing and home goods store Virgil Normal, and the weekly Glassell Pool Tuesday food distro, a food distribution event for seniors that Ryan helps run.

To help set the mood, Ryan and her friends broke out a playlist of union songs that the group performed, including “Solidarity Forever,” “There’s Power in a Union,” “If I had a Hammer” and others.

“In general, we’re just here to provide some good vibes,” Ryan said. “I know people are out here day after day, and we can do something a little bit different in terms of focusing on the history of unions and why we need them. A song like ‘Solidarity Forever’ is in people’s subconscious. And it’s like, ‘Hmm. Why is that?’”

To give the themed picket some extra flavor, Ryan drew inspiration from a mug that had the image of a certain early workday-detesting feline: Garfield, the portly cat of comic and film lore.

“Who doesn’t love Garfield?” Ryan said. “Garfield’s an anti-capitalist. Garfield hates Mondays, and he loves food. It just seemed like a fun and manageable idea, and I have my Garfield outfit. So there’s that.”

Ryan’s organizing skills go beyond the studio picket lines. After a dispute with her landlord, she joined her local chapter of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and learned all about her rights as a tenant. She took the information she learned to her own fight and also to her work organizing the residents of the Ozawa Boarding House, helping the mostly elderly residents of the Virgil residence fight displacement and eviction.

Between food distribution events, karaoke luncheons, and her organizing, Ryan keeps busy. The dual writers-actors strike speaks to her values.

“I think art is often belittled and not seen as right work deserving of right pay,” said Ryan, who is a member of education community Anticapitalism for Artists. “This is a really pivotal moments for artists to see themselves as laborers.”

Garfield's presence at Monday’s picket caught the attention of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who picketed with writers and actors Monday at the Disney picket line.

“I know today is ‘Garfield Hates Mondays.’ Let me say that there’s probably not enough lasagna out for all of us,” Bonta told the picketers during his remarks. “We have been out here more Mondays than we’d like, but one thing that Garfield would like is you all – and we all – demanding to be heard, demanding that the focus be on what you provide to this industry, to this economy, to this state and to this nation.”

Picketers at Disney's "Garfield Hates Mondays" picket. Photo by J.W. Hendricks. 

Writers in the Land of Enchantment

WGAW members Lynn Barker and Marc Sotkin at a SAG-AFTRA rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Barker is holding the same sign she carried in the 2007-08 strike.