National Union Solidarity Day kicked off on Tuesday in New York City with several hundred marchers forming a picket line that stretched two full blocks outside the Manhattan corporate offices of Amazon and HBO. Striking writers and actors saw their ranks bolstered on Tuesday by unionized teachers, nurses, truckers, musicians, retail and hotel workers, and they got vocal encouragement from union chiefs who promised to have their backs.
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In what might be a sign of how long the WGA strike seems to have lasted, New York State Senator Jessica Ramos began her remarks with a reference to “the past 100 years” before checking herself to say “100 days,” a correction that drew laughs. “It felt like 100 years,” she clarified before moving on.
No better sound to start the morning than a union chorus: chants, cowbells, and Teamsters horns!
📍 WGA & @sagaftra National Day of Solidarity, Amazon HQ NYC #WGAstrike #SAGAFTRAstrike pic.twitter.com/P87dlEjxMT
— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) August 22, 2023
“You’re the tip of the spear,” Charles Wowkanech, head of the million-member New Jersey AFL-CIO, told members of SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America in one of a handful of speeches delivered by bullhorn to picketers massed in the city’s Hudson Yards business corridor. More than once, speakers criticizing CEO practices inside and outside of the entertainment industry had to pause for lengthy horn blasts from a passing Teamsters semi painted in patriotic red, white and blue.
Actors including Jesse Eisenberg, Morena Baccarin, Carla Gugino and F. Murray Abraham joined a demonstration that also featured union-themed karaoke, solidarity chants with drum circles and live music by a brass quintet from the New York Philharmonic.
Eisenberg told Deadline, “Everybody I talk to is obviously in support of the unions and in support of the strike, but everybody has different predictions” about when it might end. The Batman V. Superman actor and The Social Network Oscar nominee didn’t volunteer a prediction of his own, but his wife, Anna Strout, chimed in on his behalf, telling Deadline, “We’re excited to get back to work when our demands are met.”
(WATCH) Josh Gondelman, WGA strike captain, comic, TV writer, introduces the speakers for the National Day of Solidarity picket in NYC pic.twitter.com/sN9iGD14wX
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) August 22, 2023
They were joined on the picket line by Susan Pourfar, a Black Mirror alumna who also teaches at Voices of a People’s History, a high school theater project in New York inspired by historian Howard Zinn’s book about labor and other grassroots movements, A People’s History of the United States.
Pourfar said the turnout on Tuesday by workers from multiple trades was a testament to history repeating, saying, “I think there’s a great longstanding tradition of solidarity between laborers, especially when we see this kind of corporate greed and it feels familiar.”
“You hear the honking?” she said over one horn blast. “That’s because everybody agrees that corporate greed has taken precedence over the work of laborers, the people that make things happen, the people that are the creators.”
On the scene right now in NYC for the unions solidarity picket
📸 Sean Piccoli/Deadline pic.twitter.com/c0LGeQ61ae
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) August 22, 2023
Speakers stressed that there’s no daylight between the star-studded ranks of film and television and union employees in other fields. Randi Weingarten, longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers, told reporters before she hit the picket line that teachers, Teamsters, nurses and steelworkers alike were here with actors and writers “because we know an injury to one is an injury to all.”
“Workers from across the city, from every corner of this city, they are standing with you in this fight,” said New York AFL-CIO president Vincent Alvarez.
— IATSE // #IASolidarity (@IATSE) August 22, 2023
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander repeated a warning he sent in letters to three studio chiefs last week that they’re risking investor confidence if the strike drags on. Lander signed the letter on behalf of the trustees of New York State’s $250 billion in pension funds, which has investments in large media companies to help pay for state and local government worker retirement plans.
“Those workers are out here in solidarity with you as well, and they are not happy that their retirement dollars, that their pension funds, are invested in companies that are treating their workers like shit,” Lander said. Paraphrasing the investor letter to Disney, Paramount and Comcast CEOs, he added, “It’s not just your workers, it’s not just your customers, it’s your investors who are demanding that you sign a fair contract and that you sign it now.”
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