Dispatches From The Picket Lines, Day 52: NYC Pols Back Striking Writers At City Hall Rally

Dispatches From The Picket Lines, Day 52: NYC Pols Back Striking Writers At City Hall Rally

June 22, 2023

Spike Lee was not on the speakers list at a rally Thursday morning for striking film and television writers outside City Hall in New York. But one of the Brooklyn-born filmmaker’s best-loved movies, 1989’s Do the Right Thing, kept cropping up as local elected officials took turns calling for studio executives to resume negotiations with the Writers Guild of America and help end a strike now in its eighth week.

“Eight weeks is too long — It’s time for a fair contract,” said Carmen De La Rosa, one of 12 elected members of New York’s 51-seat City Council who spoke at a demonstration in downtown Manhattan organized by the WGA East. De La Rosa on Thursday introduced a formal resolution that her colleagues will vote on calling for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to resume “good faith” negotiations with the WGA and settle their differences equitably.

Or as other speakers put it, “Do the right thing.” 

Related Story

WGA Strike At Day 50: Writers Remain Resolved Amid Hardship, Keep Spirits Up Amid Physical & Mental Picket Line Fatigue

With more than 100 demonstrators looking on from inside City Hall Park, De La Rosa reeled off the core demands of the guild’s 11,500 striking members: more pay in the form of residuals for streaming television programming, limits on the use of artificial intelligence to generate content and a return to the traditional writers rooms that produce scripts while apprenticing younger hires. 

“These are all reasonable demands,” she said, especially in what she called “a union town.”

At a rally bracketed by two others on the same plaza that called for more affordable housing, speakers also connected the writers strike to a larger middle-class struggle to get by in one of the world’s most expensive cities. “You need not only a fair contract, you need to be able to live in New York City,” said Council Member Gale Brewer of Manhattan. “It is expensive.”

The head of the City Council, Adrienne Adams, said that while the studios reap billions in profits, “it’s not uncommon to hear about writers taking second and third jobs to sustain themselves between seasons of writing for a hit show.”

By one estimate, as many as 185,000 people work in film and TV in New York City. “That is more than the financial sector,” said Council Member Julie Menin, who previously ran the city’s Office of Media and Entertainment. 

The employment figures Menin cited Thursday come from a 2021 economic impact study by the city (read it here) that said New York’s film and television industry generated $18 billion in wages in 2019 and $82 billion in business revenues and receipts.

What that looks like in practice, said Council Member Carlina Rivera, is shows such as Russian DollJessica Jones and Succession filming scenes in some of the photogenic downtown Manhattan neighborhoods that she represents.

Rivera quipped that, with writers on strike, “those actors won’t be nearly as cute with nothing to say,” and she riffed on the old saw about politics being show business for ugly people: ”I will tell you that the City Council can get real ugly when you f*ck with our friends.”

The WGA has courted local, state and federal office holders since the strike began on May 2. In New York, elected officials have spoken at rallies including Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. 

Gillibrand and other electeds say their primary power in this dispute is persuasion. “Certainly through our voices and through our advocacy we can make anybody get to the table,” the senator told Deadline in May. 

De La Rosa seconded that idea in an interview after today’s rally, telling Deadline, “What we have is a platform and a bully pulpit to call for these folks to do the right thing.” 

But she didn’t rule out “hitting them in their pockets” by, for example, encouraging state lawmakers in Albany to revisit tax breaks that have gone to hybrid technology and content companies such as Amazon and Apple — inducements encouraging them to expand their corporate, commercial and content production operations in New York.

“I think we need to look at Amazon and Apple and what breaks they get,” De La Rosa said. “That could be a leveraging tool for bringing people to the table in good faith. We’re hoping it doesn’t have to get to that, because all of that comes with financial repercussions for workers as well. 

“But I think that the city shouldn’t be engaging with companies that continue to flagrantly exploit workers without even wanting to come to the negotiating table in good faith,” she said. “It’s pretty egregious considering that we call ourselves a union town.” 

WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson said it’s unlikely that lawmakers would suddenly “rip up the contract” containing tax incentives for Amazon. But he noted that some legislators in Albany are lending their voices to the writers’ cause and urging production companies, Amazon included, to resume talks.

On Thursday at least a dozen city officeholders joined that chorus. “To have city and state politicians say, ‘Hey, AMPTP, get back to the table and agree to a fair contract,’ I think that if I were the AMPTP, I’d be worried about that,” Peterson said.

Must Read Stories

All Aboard Feared Dead As Coast Guard Confirms Titan Debris Found: Latest

Disney Alum Zenia Mucha Joins Company In Key Post Amid Exec Overhaul

Entertainment One Lays Off 20% Of Staff In Cost-Cutting Move Ahead Of Sale

‘Succession’ Alum Sarah Snook To Play All 26 Roles In London’s ‘Dorian Gray’

Writers Guild Strike

Primetime Emmys Face Possible Delay As Writers Strike Continues

WGA West President Meredith Stiehm Seeking Reelection Amid Ongoing Strike

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article