Dems won't cross WGA pickets



WASHINGTON -- The writers strike is threatening to put on ice the Dec. 10 Democratic presidential debate hosted by CBS News as the party's front runners are saying they won't cross a picket line.

The strike also is cooling the ardor of the candidates and their wives to appear on ABC's "The View," as the candidates and their spouses are refusing to cross the picket line to make appearances on the talker.

In separate statements or interviews, the three front runners said Wednesday that they will honor picket lines set up by the CBS news writers if they go on strike, but the candidates also appeared willing to honor picket lines set up by the WGA.

While the news writers' union has authorized a strike, one has not been called. The WGA West has been on strike and has set up picket lines in Los Angeles, and could set picket at the CBS studio where soap operas, "The Price Is Right" and primetime shows are produced.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards all said Wednesday that they will refuse to cross a picket line to participate in the debate.

"The workers at CBS News have been without a contract for close to 2 1/2 years," Clinton said Wednesday. "It is my hope that both sides will reach an agreement that results in a secure contract for the workers at CBS News but let me be clear: I will honor the picket line if the workers at CBS News decide to strike."

The Democratic solidarity with the union cause is not unexpected as organized labor has been one of the party's building blocks.

Edwards said he and his wife will honor the picket lines of both unions, adding that they were canceling an appearance on "View."

"Elizabeth and I will honor the members of the Writers Guild of America who are on strike at 'The View' by canceling our appearance on the show next week," he said. "I call on all of my fellow candidates and their campaigns to do the same. In addition, we will also honor any picket lines at CBS News, up to and including the CBS presidential debate on Dec. 10. As I said when I walked the WGA picket line in California (on Nov. 16), these workers are making a simple request for their fair share of the huge profits being made by multinational media corporations."

Michelle Obama was scheduled to co-host the popular daytime talk show Dec. 5, but she also canceled.

"Michelle Obama will not cross a picket to line to appear on 'The View,' " Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt wrote in an e-mail. "When the strike ends, she looks forward to appearing."

Obama also is planning to boycott the debate if a picket line is set up.

"If CBS News is unable to reach an agreement with its workers and they decide to strike, Barack Obama will not cross the picket line to attend the debate," his campaign said.

LaBolt added: "He will not cross a picket line to attend the debate."

CBS said it was hoping that the debate could still go forward.

"We are going forward with our plans for the debate and hope that the WGA, in the interests of the American public, will pull down the pickets for the period of the debate," the network said.

Said the WGA East on Wednesday: "We are thrilled by the strong support we've received today from presidential candidates John Edwards, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. We are grateful to John Edwards for his decision that he and Elizabeth will not to appear on 'The View' next week in support of our striking writers there. In addition, his, Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's public commitment not to cross potential picket lines at CBS News, should our WGA-CBS News members go on strike in the near future, sends a powerful message that our members cause is just and important. They have given us more reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving. We hope everyone follows their leads."