Updated with details of the Los Angeles meeting… On the second day of the Writers Guild of America’s first strike in 15 years, the guild holds big meetings on both coasts with members detailing how they got here, what’s going on, and what’s next.
Picket lines broke earlier Wednesday as the WGA East gathered at The Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City and the WGA West gathered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The event on the former is set for 6 PM ET, while the crowd meeting on the latter is set for 7 PM PT. The Great Hall has a capacity of nearly 1,000 people, and the former shrine venue for the Academy Awards can seat about 6,000 people.
Although the Great Hall meeting took a little longer than expected for the meeting to start, the crowd clearly heated up, according to sources at the venue. There was a huge applause from the WGA members as solidarity was thrown from other trade unions and unions such as IATSE. “The entire labor movement is behind us,” one WGA leader told the crowd. “The White House is behind us.”
While the meeting inside the Great Hall took a little longer to start than expected, the crowd was clearly fired up, according to sources at the venue. There was a huge applause from the WGA members as solidarity was thrown from other trade unions and unions such as IATSE. “The entire labor movement is behind us,” one WGA leader told the crowd. “The White House is behind us.”
The event hosted by the Shrine tonight on the West Coast also started later than scheduled, due to a large number of check-ins, and saw remarks of support from DGA Negotiation Committee Chairman John Avent, as well as leaders from the IATSE and SAG-AFTRA leaders. Hollywood Teamsters president Lindsey Dougherty also gave the WGA strong support and received a standing ovation from a union crowd of more than 1,800, we hear.
Perhaps the loudest and most intense ovation of the night went to WGA chief negotiator Elaine Stutzman. The crowd quickly got to their feet with a standing ovation for Stutzman earlier that evening.
Both meetings on both coasts gave members an overview of the union’s demands and goals in the ultimately unsuccessful talks with the studios that led beginning this week of Hollywood’s biggest labor movement since 2008.
Deadline Talk to some people in the Manhattan location before this meeting starts.
Shortly after joining the WGA, John Mahon got his first glimpse into the world that he wanted all TV comedy writers like himself to be able to live and work in: He was on set, with the production he was attached to in front of him, he wrote.
“It really teaches you as a writer to have that kind of specific experience,” Mahon said Wednesday night after marching with other amazing WGA writers across Manhattan to a meeting of guild members at Cooper Union College. “Because you can see the constraints; you can see how your ideas are actually realized. When you’re writing in a room, on paper, it’s easy to come up with all these ideas, but to see them actually implemented and to be on set – that’s an invaluable experience.”
The loss of this experience for younger writers is one of the reasons Mahone wrote Our flag means death And girlsHe said he joined the picket line this week. Access to products, he said, “has become a huge hurdle for us.”
“It used to be that you were paid to cover your episode on set,” he said. “But those days are over a few years ago.”
Among the people heading into Wednesday’s meeting of union members in Manhattan is Alex Zaragoza, who joined the WGA as a writer for the news and culture outlet, and her membership is about to change her writing career for television. When the union voted to strike, “I just got done working on a show that hasn’t gone to series yet,” Zaragoza said as she handed her picket sign to the union representative and prepared to join other writers inside the Foundation Building, also known as the Great Hall, at Cooper Union College for a meeting. Members only Closed to the press.
“I had just finished, a month ago, another show that I had worked on,” said Zaragoza, “and so I was really sitting and waiting — literally sitting and waiting to see if I would be able to work and trying to plan what I would do if I couldn’t work in my current field, My current occupation, is in TV. What am I going to do to earn money?”
Zaragoza described her experience with the WGA at Vice, where she was a union representative on the negotiating committee, as transformative.
She said: “It was the first time I had a union job, and the difference it made in feeling like I wasn’t lost, and I felt really part of a unit that was fighting for teamwork, dealing with bad managers, making sure my colleagues working there got compensation.” Convenient when they have to lay off workers — I mean many things.”
She agreed that the WGA was now asking too much of its members, but said, “Here’s the thing: We voted for this. And we voted overwhelmingly yes because we know the importance of it. It’s asking for too much but it’s asking for what we need: We need to fight. … What was Almost 100 percent of our members are willing to take to the streets to picket and drop those checks. Because we know for the greater good, the greater good, for our actual future, that’s what’s necessary. And as hard as it is, that’s what needs to be done.”
More than a month after talks began about a new three-way contract between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, it all came to an end late May 1st with only hours left on the existing contract. Despite the nearly 98% strike vote mandate that WGA members gave union leaders in April, the studios either didn’t take the possibility of labor action seriously or didn’t really care. With the two sides widely separated on money, transparency, job security, and even on the role of writers in the ever-changing industry, the WGA leadership declared a strike beginning in the early hours of May 2.
The last time the WGA went on strike in 2007-2008, the labor lawsuit lasted 100 days.
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