READER QUESTION: Should I Cross the Picket Line?

The strike is a confusing time for everyone… especially employees of the studios who may support the writers but also depend on the studios for their jobs.  CBS-Paramount, Disney, Warner Brothers, NBC-Universal, and 20th Century Fox have announced they’re suspending many of their pod deals with non-writing producers and production companies who aren’t part of the WGA but are– nevertheless– feeling the consequences of the strike.  20th Century Fox announced yesterday that assistants for writers, producers, and TV shows would be let go this Friday.  Most of these assistants make only a few hundred dollars a week, and while they can apply for unemployment, it will be virtually impossible for them to find other TV assistant gigs before the strike is over.

I received the following email last night from a reader in Los Angeles, who I’ve made anonymous…

“I was reading about the strike on Script Notes and wanted to ask you a
question.  I am very sympathetic to the writers and hope they get a
fair contract.  Basically I work for an IT group [at a studio] that deals
mainly with sales and inventory systems – nothing to do with
production. My question is:  Am I doing anything wrong while
continuing to go to work, even though the writers guild is striking
against the company I work for?  If so, is it the hope or expectation
of the writers that some number of employees at Paramount, Universal,
the Networks, etc, would refuse to go to work during the strike?  Does
it matter that I work for a different part of the company?  I really don’t
want to be “crossing the picket line”, but I also don’t want to make an
unnecessary or career destructive gesture.  Please let me know what
you think.”

Well, here’s the scoop…

No: you are not doing anything wrong.

First of all, your job is not covered by the Writers Guild, so there’s no requirement or expectation that you strike.

HAVING SAID THAT…

The writers need all the support they can get, and there are many people on those picket lines who aren’t WGA members… but they refuse to cross a picket line of their volition.  Many are actors and directors who will soon be in the same boat as the writers when their contract expires on June 30, 2008.  So they’re helping writers fight for causes that affect them as well.  But the picket lines are also filled with executives, agents, and many people who don’t even work in the industry– husbands and wives of strikes, friends, associates… even people who just believe in their cause.

Having been out on the picket lines, I can assure you that the writers are incredibly grateful and appreciative of anyone who joins them or shows support.  But there are other ways of showing support besides jeopardizing your job to stand on the picket line.  Try some of these, and I promise you’ll get a warm, thankful response…

•  JOIN THE PICKET LINE FOR A FEW MINUTES.  If you can’t join the picket line all day, or for hours at a time, which is totally understandable, swing by for a few minutes in the morning… or over lunch.  If you don’t feel comfortable picking up a sign and walking, just stop by and talk to the writers, hear their stories, ask them questions.  You’ll learn a lot and meet some great people… and trust me– there’s nothing the writers need more than to spread their message to non-writers who will listen.

•  BRING THE WRITERS FOOD, DRINKS, COFFEE, SNACKS.  You get tired and hungry out there on the picket lines, and it’s a great feeling when free snacks arrive!  Agencies like UTA, ICM, and APA have been great about sending cookies, pizzas, and drinks to the striking writers.  I picketed at FOX yesterday, and The Shield writers provided sandwiches.  My Name Is Earl bought everyone Irish coffees.  It really is a great feeling to know that someone’s thinking about you and caring while you’re out there… especially people who don’t even know you.  So tomorrow on your way into work, or at lunch, swing by the picket line with a box of donuts… or some Starbucks… or a case of Coke… or some packages of Oreos.  You don’t even have to spend a lot.  Just let them know you’re thinking about them.

•  WEAR A WGA STRIKE T-SHIRT… OR SOMETHING RED.  Red is the color of the strike, so even if you don’t have a WGA strike t-shirt… wear bright red to show your solidarity.

•  HONK AS YOU DRIVE BY.  It sounds small, I know but trust me… it’s a nice feeling, when you’re out there, and cars honk and show their support as they drive by.  Sure, it’s quick and fleeting, but we know not everyone can stop and picket… it’s just good to know there’s support.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you join the picket line.  But if you can’t, try some of these other ways to support the writers.  Every ounce of teamwork and courage helps… and the writers will appreciate anything you do for them.

Chad

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