TUSC: Building Community and Raising Funds
Since the strike has impacted the entertainment industry, a group of WGA members wanted bring communities together in a meaningful way while also helping crew members in need.
With that goal in mind, the Union Solidarity Coalition (TUSC) was formed in May to offer direct financial support to crew members who have lost their health insurance as a result of strike-related production shutdowns. TUSC members also appreciate that many IATSE members refused to cross our picket lines, putting their jobs at risk.
Working with the Motion Picture Television Fund (MPTF), TUSC has set up a mutual aid strike fund. But beyond the financial assistance, TUSC leaders are also finding ways to increase interaction – and, yes, solidarity - between WGA members and members of other unions.
“Basically we wanted to try to do something both to reach out and kind of form a community with unions that we don’t see if we’re not on set, and increasingly writers are not sent to set so there is more of a siloed feeling,” said Susanna Fogel, a WGAW member since 2007 and a co-founder of TUSC with Lena Dunham and a group of WGA writers. “So we wanted to both reach out and come together in this time and open up lines of communication and also try to raise some money.”
TUSC’s first event, A Solidarity Night to raise money for crew healthcare held July 15, was a huge success. Featuring food, raffles, music by Fishbone, and other entertainment, the event held at The Berrics skatepark in downtown L.A. drew close to 2,000 attendees and raised $200,000. The venue was donated and the group also got multiple donations of food, drinks, and other goods and services from WGA members in an effort to keep ticket costs friendly for crew members and striking WGA writers alike.
“It felt like a nice egalitarian get-together in a time that has felt really fraught,” said Fogel, a writer-producer-director whose credits include Booksmart and The Flight Attendant “When it’s tempting to just huddle with your particular union and feel really alone, people just want to feel safe and secure, and no one does. We’re all on the same side of this labor crisis, and so I think the more we can just be together and hear each other out and help each other, the longer we can hold out. And we really need to in order to get what we ultimately want.”
Several WGA members got creative in their contributions to Solidarity Night with Dickinson creator Alena Smith doing tarot readings, and David Iserson (Mr. Robot, New Girl) doing caricatures, harkening back to a skill he plied in his pre-industry days working at Six Flags in New Jersey.
TUSC is already at work planning other events and fundraisers, including an auction that will feature, among other things, a Spaceballs poster autographed by Mel Brooks and the chance to eat corn dogs with Stranger Things actor and writer-producer-foodie Brett Gelman.
The founding members of TUSC are Lena Dunham and Susanna Fogel (co-founders), Amy Seimetz, Alex Winter, Paul Scheer, Malik Vitthal, Tara Miele, Rachel Lee Goldenberg, Zoe Lister-Jones, Natasha Lyonne, Boots Riley, Andrea Savage, Alena Smith, Alma Har’el, Josh Locy, Shaz Bennett, Sophia Takal, Frankie Shaw, Julie Plec, Sarah Adina Smith, Tony Phelan.
Visit TUSC’s website.
Running the Lines and Raising Funds
For Sara Price, the numbers aligned at 26.
The distance between the ten studio picket locations is 26 miles, exactly the distance of a marathon which Price – an avid trail runner and WGAW member since 2020 – was looking to complete. With numerical synchronicity in mind, Price organized what she dubbed the Hollywood Legacy Run, a fundraiser for the Entertainment Community Fund, for Monday, June 26.
Between runners, aid station staff, a relay team, a couple of bicyclists, and other assorted participants or supporters, the run drew approximately 37 participants, at least eleven of whom were WGA members. Price and twelve runners completed the full marathon, which began at Radford at 8 a.m. and concluded at Sony at 2 p.m.
“I think adventure is kind of my way of connecting to my creativity. It always has been,” she said, “It’s hard to find your identity in big movements and protests. The strike happened, and it was just like, ‘What’s my version of this?’ Running came to mind and it was awesome that this was a combination of so many people’s two favorite things.”
Price, who had been taking her running shoes to the picket lines to help “run out some of my anxiety” hit upon the idea of organizing a race, and was pleased to connect with a community of fellow runner-writers. Running, like writing, can be a solitary event, she acknowledges, but planning a strike marathon is anything but.
“The best part about making TV is the people and the community and the beautiful technical skilled craftspeople you get to work with, and this was like no different,” said Price, an executive story editor whose first staffing job in 2020 was interrupted by the pandemic. “It was like, ‘Oh my god. We get to connect with all these awesome people and help put on this thing.'”
Price and the other runners solicited donations through word of mouth and social media, collecting $20 to $50 donations. A big fan of the ECF, she knew immediately that she wanted the run to raise funds and awareness for the nonprofit.
“I love everything that they do,” she said, “and I wish personally I had known and been more aware of the resources that they had available as I was coming up as an assistant. It’s not an easy business, so having that support and knowing about it has just been incredible.”
With her fixation with the number 26, Price set a target of raising $2,600 through the Hollywood Legacy Run. Alas, the gods who oversee synchronicity had other plans.
“We smashed through that goal,” Price said, “and raised $3,550 for the Entertainment Community Fund.”
Entertainment Community Fund Fundraising Toolkit
If you’re looking to join the throngs of writers who have raised money for industry workers affected by the strike, we have an excellent partner in the Entertainment Community Fund. A national human services organization with a unique understanding of the challenges involved in a life in the arts, the Fund provides financial assistance in addition to their health and wellness, career and life, and housing services.
To help you get started, we’ve created an Entertainment Community Fund Fundraising Toolkit.
Since the start of the strike, writers and other generous supporters have raised $3 million dollars to provide grants to film and television workers in need but demand is 2x greater nationally, and 3x greater in Los Angeles, than what the Fund experiences in normal times, and they expect it to increase. We can’t stop now.
Check out the toolkit and find a creative way to contribute.