Writers on the Line

On the Line
Teamsters on the Move and the 411 on DKA
The WGA joins Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA, and elected officials to rally for safe streets and why every Thursday is DKA Day on the lines
Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The 411 on DKA

Members of the DKA fraternity from Loyola Marymount University at Amazon. Photo by J.W. Hendricks.

Thursday is always DKA Day for Ryan Koehn.
That means that on any given Thursday, the WGAW member could be picketing alongside film students or alumni – some of them WGA members – from more than 20 universities across the country. UCLA and USC DKA students are regulars, but those with DKA ties have also come from far and wide.
“We’ve had Boston University, NYU, people from Philadelphia, Chicago, it’s been really amazing,” said Koehn. “I’ve made new friends this way and seen old friends who I hadn’t seen in four or five years. It’s a really great sample size of young, energetic either immediately post-graduate film students, current film students or people who are working their way up the ladder.”
Koehn, who attended both UC Berkeley and USC, joined the DKA chapter at both schools and immediately found his community. Since its founding in 1931, the professional coed film fraternity helps its member establish professional connections while also espousing character-based values. Or, as Koehn likes to say, “we’re basically trying to help a generation of people who aren’t jerks.”
“Now that I’m alumni, I’m just trying to pay it forward a little bit and create opportunities for people like new members to meet each other,” Koehn said. “The picket line has become weirdly the perfect spot. We have so many members from so many schools nationwide that really wanted to help out or get involved.”
Since the start of the strike, Koehn and his fellow DKA members picketed at every studio. Usually in groups of five to twelve people, the DKA group often brings food or coffee donated by alumni who are unable to show up in person.
On a recent Thursday, he was joined at Amazon Studios by a group of students from Loyola Marymount University (LMU). The students have encouraged their members to support the strike through social media and their in-house industry newsletter, and several members have also been regulars on the picket lines.
“As someone who is aspiring to get into the industry, seeing the people that have been doing the work that you respect come out here and fight for what’s fair is really impressive,” said Riley Comparetto, senior screenwriting major and Cinematic Affairs Chair of LMU’s DKA chapter. “It’s really great to see that we have an industry that’s able to work together to support one another.”
“You all are trying to pave the future for us,” added Brett Cornwell, the Secretary for LMU’s DKA. “So we’ve got to do our part to help you get yours now. Everybody helps each other by being out here.”
Koehn sees the DKA students' goals mirroring his own. He worked at a talent agency, as a showrunner’s assistant and as a writer’s assistant before becoming a staff writer on the reboot of Gossip Girl.
“I’ve seen the very ladder that I climbed disintegrating beneath me as I’ve gone up each rung, and I think that’s horrible,” Koehn said. “It’s not sustainable, and I think it does everybody in this industry an extreme disservice. So when I see my friends who are new film grads through DKA or just in general, it breaks my heart to see they don’t have the same immediate resources that were available to me.”
“For me, it’s all about the next generation and helping pull up others,” he continued. “I’m also really in the start of my own career, and I hate to see immediately in the years after I came up that people can’t get the same foot in the door that I was able to get.”

DKA and WGAW member Ryan Koehn.

On The Move with the Teamsters

WGAW Board member Liz Hsiao Lan Alper at the Teamster rally for AB 316.

Hitting back at the pervasive threat of AI and corporate greed, WGAW joined their Teamsters union siblings in support of a state assembly bill designed to protect human lives.

With hundreds of Teamsters, elected officials, and supporters – including WGA and SAG-AFTRA members – in attendance, the Rally for Good Jobs and Safe Streets took place Monday morning at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. Following Monday’s rally, the Teamster trucks caravanned up north for a second rally to be held Tuesday in Sacramento, where WGAW President Meredith Stiehm will speak, among other union leaders.

The two rallies are designed to urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign into law AB 316, which would require a human operator in all autonomous vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds. The Teamster-supported, bipartisan-authored bill has passed both the State Assembly and State Senate by wide margins. Two of the bill’s co-authors, Assemblyman Tom Lackey and State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, were among the speakers at Monday’s rally.

“Sign the bill, Gavin,” Teamsters Joint Council 42 President Chris Griswold urged during his remarks at Monday’s rally. “If you don’t sign AB 316, lives are going to be lost and jobs are going to be lost.”

During her remarks, WGAW Board member Liz Hsiao Lan Alper expressed the Guild’s gratitude to the Teamsters for refusing to cross our picket lines since the start of the strike. The striking WGA writers, she noted, are currently engaged in our own battle against AI.

“That includes insuring that artificial intelligence isn’t used by the studios to cut our pay and our jobs,” Alper told the crowd. “Does that sound familiar?”

“AI replacing drivers on the road won’t save the middle class, but unions will,” Alper continued. “Unions raise the wages of their members by 10 to 15%. Unions provide workplace improvements and safety that contribute substantially to the middle class’s financial stability and worker well-being. Let’s remind Governor Newsom that unions are good for business, and therefore, Teamsters are good for business.”

Following Alper to the podium, Zeke Alton, a member of SAG-AFTRA’s Negotiating Committee, said that the regulation of self-driving vehicles affects not just all workers, but all people.

“This vital legislation will set the precedent for protecting workers across all industries, and self-driving vehicles in particular are an issue for every person in America,” said Alton. “Because they impact the safety of the roads where our families and loved ones drive, this bill is for the safety and benefit of all of us.”

Senator Durazo, a long-time labor organizer and former Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor before she ran for political office, said she has been asked about the increasing power of organized labor in Sacramento. Her response: "What’s wrong with labor having a voice for working Californians?"

“We stand for all workers, not just union members,” Durazo told the crowd.  “We want health and safety, for everyone. “Nobody’s going to make us pick between good jobs and health and safety. Nobody’s going to make us pick between innovation, and good jobs and health and safety. Guess what? We want it all!”

WGA Chief Negotiator and WGAW Assistant Executive Director Ellen Stutzman at Teamsters Rally for AB 316.