Dispatches From The Picket Lines, Day 42: AFL-CIO Joins Striking Writers In NYC; Connelly-Verse And Comedy On West Coast

The head of the country’s largest labor union joined striking Writers Guild film and television writers at a rally on Monday outside the New York City offices of streaming giant Amazon and said the writers’ cause has the support of workers from across unionized labor. 

“You are fighting for all of us,” Liz Schuler, president of the 12.5-million member AFL-CIO, told about 200 people in a block-long picket line facing Amazon’s East Coast headquarters in the Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development.

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“Can you hear us, Jeff Bezos?” Shuler said, referencing Amazon’s CEO, from her spot on the curb in a towering glass and steel office park where Amazon’s corporate neighbors include Warner Bros Discovery, Wells Fargo and BlackRock.

Shuler shared the microphone Monday with union leaders and a state senator, Jessica Ramos from Queens, who questioned the tax breaks that Amazon receives from union-friendly New York for everything from warehouse construction to film and television production, given what she said is the company’s hostility towards unions.

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“I’m here because I’m bringing the voice and the power of 12 1/2 million working people who have your back,” said Schuler, who oversees an umbrella organization of 60 affiliated unions representing rail workers, flight attendants, teachers, professional athletes and other tradespeople, including the 7,000 members of the Writers Guild of America East. 

Schuler said that “there are a lot of workers who are fed up and fired up in this country” and they are backing WGA demands for better pay and more job security because they, too, are feeling squeezed while their employers prosper. 

A refrain that Shuler said she is hearing from workers across the economy goes, “My company is making record profits but they cannot find a dime for our raise.”

That shared sense of grievance is one reason, according to Shuler, that WGA pickets like Monday’s in New York are bolstered by members of the other entertainment unions — SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity, IATSE — as well as unionized workers from other fields including the United Auto Workers and Transport Workers Union. 

Shuler quipped that on Monday she saw “so many unions that it took me a while to get through the picket line and find a Writers Guild member.”

The writers went on strike nationally May 2 seeking higher base pay, increased royalties and other work guarantees from a streaming model of programming that is increasingly the norm — even for legacy broadcast, cable and movie companies such as Paramount Global/CBS and Warner Bros Discovery which have followed Amazon into the digital-on-demand original programming space created by Netflix.

WGAE president Michael Winship told Deadline in an interview that going into the seventh week of the strike, union morale is “exponentially greater” today than it was in the 2007-2008 strike. Winship said that the producers are “starting to feel the pinch” of money lost to productions delayed or halted by the writers strike. 

“Eventually they’re going to come to us, and when they do we’re ready to go,” Winship said.

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Monday’s rally at Amazon was bracketed by pickets at sound stages and location shoots elsewhere in the city and in New Jersey. It also came one day after the Tony Awards aired live from New York on CBS and Paramount+ and without facing pickets after the show’s producers agreed to forgo using writers. 

“Congratulations on a fabulous Tony Awards,” WGAE vice president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen said to Actors Equity members in the crowd. “I’m not gonna lie: The four days that we were sorting that sh*t out was the most stressful of our lives. So we are very happy that worked out for you.”

Monday’s demonstration was also billed as a celebration of the WGAE’s Women’s Salon, a membership group within the union. On Women’s Salon Day for striking writers, Takeuchi Cullen said that all the studio chiefs refusing to negotiate with the Writers Guild are male, and “think that by causing us pain they that we’ll come back and accept a crappy deal.”

“They don’t know pain,” she continued, because none has ever given birth.

Takeuchi Cullen also acknowledged SAG-AFTRA members, who have sent marchers to WGA pickets and rallies in droves while recently authorizing a strike of their own. 

“We hope and pray you guys get a fair contract,” she said. “And if you don’t, we’ll see you here.”

On the West Coast on Monday, comedy writers gathered in Burbank at the Olive Avenue entrance of Warner Bros. Among the attendees was Flavor Flav, who brought food, and comedian London Hughes.

There were also picket lines seen at Universal in Universal City, and Sunset Gower, CBS Television City and Paramount in Los Angeles; at the later location was a Michael Connelly-themed day featuring actors and writers from the Bosch franchise and The Lincoln Lawyer.

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