Writers on the Line

On the Line
Teaming Up with the Teamsters
More than 300 writers turn out to support UPS Teamsters, Humanitas’ Groceries for Writers program, and are picket lines too hot for dogs?
Thursday, July 20, 2023

Labor Unites - DTLA and at Amazon

More than 300 WGA writers turned out to support Teamsters at a rally for a fair UPS contract.

From a downtown L.A. street outside a UPS hub to the picket lines outside Amazon Studios, labor was in the house big-time Wednesday and the spirit of solidarity was off the charts.

Wearing their blue Guild shirts and carrying signs professing their support for our Teamsters siblings, over 300 WGA writers joined representatives of multiple locals at a Teamster rally at UPS Wednesday morning

Both rallies carried a similar message: workers, regardless of their industries, support each other in times of need. The fight of striking writers, actors, UNITE HERE hotel workers and Teamsters UPS drivers are united in their collective pursuit of fair wages and dignity on the job.

“We are all the same,” said WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser, one of the featured speakers at the Teamsters UPS rally.  “We share the same brief time on earth. We want the same things:  to work, to find joy in that work, to be treated with respect, to face the future with some degree of certainty, to have the resources to care for our children and our parents, and to retire with dignity.”

With their contract set to expire at the end of July, the 340,000 members of the Teamsters who work for UPS could be part of one of the largest labor actions in U.S. history if they don’t reach an agreement on a new contract. More than 65% of that workforce is part-time and the union is seeking better wages and improved working conditions from a company that, Teamsters leaders say, has prioritized its stockholders over its workers. Drivers who were deemed essential workers when they delivered important supplies during the COVID pandemic are now being treated as insignificant.

Teamsters General President Shaun O’Brien remarked on the importance of this moment across organized labor. "We’re going to make history, but more importantly, we are going to embolden the labor movement," he said. "I have a message to UPS, and I have a message to those white collar crime syndicates in Hollywood known as Amazon, Netflix and the rest: if you take one of us on, you take all of us on."

The Teamsters have historically stood with other unions when they have gone on strike, refusing to cross picket lines. On Wednesday at the fair contract rally, representatives from unions and other labor organizations pledged to stand in solidarity.

“Over 800,000 members of the LA County Federation of Labor stand in solidarity with UPS workers,” said LA Fed President Yvonne Wheeler. “Not only do you stand with us, but you also do the work that makes all of our lives better.”     

Shortly before noon that same day, it was the Teamsters – including O’Brien and Local 399 Principal Officer Lindsay Dougherty – who came to Amazon in support of picketing WGA writers and SAG-AFTRA actors.

At the Amazon rally, WGA Chief Negotiator Ellen Stutzman introduced SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee member/actor Sean Astin. During his remarks, Astin, whose mother Patty Duke, had been a SAG-AFTRA President, emphasized that, six days into their strike, his union was at the start of its journey.

“We want to go back to work. We want everyone to go back to work,” Astin said. “So I ask them to call us back in and have a real conversation with us and get these things passed.”

The Teamsters’ O’Brien and Dougherty reaffirmed their support for the writers and actors on the picket lines. Calling the writers “the most militant group in Hollywood,” Dougherty noted that the Guild was in the 79th day of our strike, and urged us to stay strong.

“We have to stick through this and get what you deserve because you’re making history for all of the other unions that follow you,” Dougherty said. “Our contract is up next year, so we’re going to need you guys in that fight, too. We’re dealing with the AMPTP and so the goal is we’ve got to divide them just like they’ve divided us.”

(L-R): Teamsters Motion Picture Division Director and Local 399 Principal Officer Lindsay Dougherty, General President Sean O'Brien, WGA Chief Negotiator Ellen Stutzman, and WGAW President Meredith Stiehm. 

Groceries for Writers

Humanitas and its Groceries for Writers program at Sony.

The organization Humanitas is largely known for the awards it gives out to film and TV writers as well as fellowships and college screenwriting awards.

But when the WGA strike hit, Humanitas quickly identified a different kind of need experienced by striking writers that the nearly 50-year-old organization could help address: food.

On May 8, barely a week into the strike, Humanitas launched its Groceries for Writers program which allows WGA members in need to apply for $100 grocery cards.

The organization has donated more than 1,000 cards to date as well as food drop-offs on picket lines and to writers’ homes. Donations to the program have been equally robust. The program is helping combat food insecurity that members of the WGA have experienced even before the strike began.

“The structural corrosion at the lowest level of staffing across film and TV in Hollywood has become very clear to us,” said Humanitas Executive Director Michelle Franke. “We know that even as the strike resolves, that structural issue is going to continue to exist.”

“People have been tremendously grateful to receive the support,” she continued. “We’ve heard from folks who are on food stamps and who are dealing with significant food insecurity that predates the strike. We’ve heard from families where both parents in the house are out of work. We have supported a number of WGA member families at this point with small children at home and people dealing with ailing parents.”

The effort has resonated with donors across the country, some of whom have said that, even with as little as $1 to spare, they wanted to help writers in need. Recognizing that writers helped get the nation through the COVID pandemic, and now some of them face a time of crisis.

“There are folks around the world who are watching who are disgusted and who want to give back,” said Franke from the picket line at Sony, where her team gave out agua fresca, Mateo's paletas and $600 in grocery giveaways. “The idea that people are being driven from their homes or that there are families who would be displaced is not something they’re going to stand by and watch happen.”

To learn more about Humanitas and Groceries for Writers, to request a grocery card or a farm bundle, or to sponsor the program, click here. The organization will do a free farm bundle pickup for WGA members on August 12 at Paper or Plastik Cafe in partnership with Earth Matterz. Writers Forever T-shirts benefiting the Humanitas Groceries for Writers project are available here.

Are the Picket Lines Too Hot for Dogs?

Whether they carry signs, wear T-shirts or just come as they are, picket line pups bring joy to the lines.
With temperatures climbing across the southland, we sought out a resource for tips for the  “dog days of summer” for the safety and comfort of our four-legged friends. 

Between overheating and scorching ground temperatures that can burn their paws, dogs  an be at risk during hot weather. 

Here's an excerpt of the article "How Hot is Too Hot for Dogs to be Outside? Here's What the Experts Say” published on Daily Paws

"Bonnie Bragdon, DVM, MS, is co-founder and president of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association...She says an essential point to keep in mind is that a dog's temperature is higher than a human's—approximately 101 degrees F to 102.5 degrees F, with an upper level of normal close to 103 degrees F. So ambient air temperature feels hotter to them than it does to us."

The article gives advice on how to know when it's too hot for your dog, as well as suggestions to keep your pooch safe in hot weather. 

See their helpful infographic for reference.

Why We Strike

Throughout this negotiating cycle, writers have been speaking up about our personal experiences working over the past several years. These stories highlight precisely why we are on strike and why our proposals are so critical to the future of this profession.

"One of the problems with comedy-variety in this current landscape is the studios are constantly trying to figure out how to make these shows (which are already relatively cheap) for even cheaper. Shorter seasons, shorter contracts, smaller staff sizes. Programming churn also creates a situation in which comedy-variety writers are constantly working on brand-new formats and having to develop entire show concepts on the fly."

Read the full story here.