WGA members witnessed the rise of a new Hollywood labor movement last night, with multiple entertainment industry unions standing in unity with the WGA in our struggle for a fair contract.
Among the more than 2,000 writers who attended a super-energized special meeting at the Shrine Auditorium Wednesday night were the leaders of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Laborers Studio Utility Employees (LiUNA), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Plasterers & Cement Masons, and the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Local 399. Their collective message: we and our hundreds of thousands of members stand with the WGA.
Remarks by both the guild’s representatives and the union leaders drew deafening cheers and multiple standing ovations from the packed house, invoking the air of a rally.
See the photo gallery from last night’s event.
“The businesses must pay its creators fairly,” said DGA Negotiating Committee Jon Avnet, himself a WGA member. “Make no mistake about it, we support your will to get a contract you deserve. Let me spell it out for you: ‘D-E-S-E-R-V-E.’”
Members received an update from WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser who explained the conclusion of talks with the AMPTP including the Guild’s proposals and the AMPTP’s counter-offers. The offer on the table was so blatantly unfair and demeaning that the negotiating committee realized a work stoppage was necessary.
“There was no way that your negotiating committee, board and council was going to take your 98% strike authorization vote and recommend that you take that deal,” Keyser said.
During remarks at the beginning of the meeting, the other union leaders expressed their support for the WGA fight and vowed to continue to join striking writers on the picket line until a fair agreement is reached. Or, in the case of the Teamsters, they pledged to keep their trucks away from the strike locations.
“Hang in there and keep fighting every single day,” said Local 399 Secretary-Treasurer Lindsay Daugherty, “because if you throw up a picket line, those fucking trucks will stop, I promise you.”
Many of the supporting unions (including DGA and SAG-ATRFA this year) noted that they will soon be engaged in their own contract battles with the AMPTP. A productive outcome for the WGA will pave the way for fair contracts for everyone.
As for the WGA’s current situation, Keyser urged the membership to stay strong and united.
“Our endurance will determine our fate,” Keyser said. “They will bend to us one of these days as they always do, but we can never break.”
Day 2 - Sustenance and Strength in the Valley
Nothing benefits a devoted and weary picketer like a bite to eat or a convenient spot to take care of business. Considering how much solidarity is pouring in from across the country, WGA members can expect to encounter many such acts of generosity and kindness while they are out on the picket lines.
Case in point, Tuesday’s strike line at Universal received a lunchtime visit from writer/actor/producer and WGA member Padma Lakshmi. Also a noted foodie, the Top Chef Executive Producer came bearing sandwiches prepared by her friends at Bread Head.
“Although I wasn’t eligible to vote, I am a member of the WGA and a member of SAG and I want to be here in solidarity with all of the writers,” said Lakshmi. “I believe that writers are the engine that fuel all storytelling, so I just tried to gather whatever food I was able to and come out here and support what we’re doing.”
A short hop to the east, as Tuesday’s picketing was wrapping up, some of the picketing members at the Warner Bros. studios returned to their cars via a pitstop at the Kismet Collective salon. A sign outside the salon declared the business’s support for the striking WGA members and a bucket contained bottles of water.
The salon, which opened in April, can be used as a friendly rest stop for any WGA members throughout the strike, said co-owner Nicoletta Gauci.
“They’re more than welcome to come in and take a seat and take a break if they need to,” said Gauci. “They can come back and use the restrooms. We put some water out on Monday because it was a bit of a hot day. We can give them a little bit of a pit stop or a meeting place before they go over and march.
According to Gauci, many of the stylists at Kismet have union connections.
“All of us are born and raised in LA. We all have family and friends in the industry and most of us have worked on set too,” Gauci said. “We just feel that the industry wouldn’t exist without creatives and so they deserve to get paid fair wages.”
And how can you tell if a client is a writer? That’s an easy one, said Gauci.
“Our writer clients usually come with some sort of laptop and they’re typing away in our working station for most of their appointment,” Gauci said.
This is What Solidarity Looks Like
Writer-actors Utkarsh Ambudkar (of Ghosts) and Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) joined the picket line at CBS Radford.
“Most of us don’t write any of our own material. We are completely dependent on the skills of the people in this line and in lines like this all over town for what we do,” said Ambudkar. “Writers are an integral and essential part of how this industry works. Being on both sides of it as an actor, as a producer and as a writer myself, I know how invaluable it is. So we can’t do shows like Ghosts without our writers.”
“It’s not like we’re walking into a convenience store and saying, ‘Hey I want that. Give me that,’” added Vardalos. “We are putting these wares on the shelf and they’re being sold at a huge profit of which we’re not participating. So that’s why I’m here.”