Politicians support strikers at NBC, CBS



UPDATED 5:48 p.m. PT Nov. 16, 2007

Politics played the lead role Friday at NBC and CBS in Los Angeles as the strike entered Day 12.

At NBC Studios in Burbank, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards rallied with striking scribes, shouting "Be strong! Be strong!" after giving them a pep talk via bullhorn.

Edwards' motorcade pulled up to NBC in the mid-afternoon to a mob of 700 striking writers, their supporters and the media. Flanked by a flood of cameramen, Edwards worked the crowd, smiling and shaking hands before jumping up on a long concrete planter to address the crowd.

"I'm here to support you and to fight for justice and fairness," Edwards yelled into a bullhorn to a sea of strikers wearing mostly red WGA shirts. "What you represent and stand for is to make sure everybody in America gets a fair chance."

Cheers erupted when Edwards said America needs unions so that "these big conglomerates don't take over the world.

"I promise to be with you in this march and I will be with you everyday when I'm president," he added before dropping the bullhorn and walking the line.

As he passed by, scribes yelled "Thank you man!" and "Thank you for being with us."
Many walking the picket line were energized by Edwards appearance, noting that he has legitimized their crusade for a share of the Internet residual pie.

"It's a big deal," said "Real Time with Bill Maher" scribe Jon Schmock. "The WGA is an American union that makes an American product. We can't be outsourced."

California Sen. Ron Calderon and several other politicians joined "Dreamgirls" writer-director Bill Condon, "Family Guy" showrunner David A. Goodman and "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Jeff Garlin Friday on the picket line at CBS Television City, where the legislators called for a quick resolution to the strike.

After being introduced by Condon, Calderon (D-Montebello) and the others all expressed their support for and "solidarity" with the writers and called upon the studios and networks to get back to the negotiating table.

"The pigs get fed, but the hogs get slaughtered," Calderon said to applause outside Television City in Los Angeles. Calderon was likening the networks and studios to the "hogs" in the expression, which generally serves as a cautionary warning to those who take more than their fair share.

In an interview, Calderon said that "what the writers are asking for is reasonable." He also argued that the strike is impacting the bottom line of more than just the entertainment industry.

"It's affecting all ancillary businesses in the local economy, and it's also affecting the statewide economy," he said. "With all the revenue that we're losing because of this, it will be that much tougher (for the government) to continue funding (various programs and initiatives)."

Calderon also got laughs from the picketers when he said that "my staff wanted to write me a speech, but I said, 'No, we're on strike!' "

Also among the politicians was Assemblymember Fiona Ma, who said she's a SAG member and pointed out that the actors have their own negotiations coming up. SAG's contract with the studios expires June 30, and it's expected that negotiations on a new pact will hinge on issues similar to those at the center of the writers guild talks.

City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Assemblymember Mike Davis addressed a specific group of writers in their remarks.

"We need to protect the middle-class writers because they are the backbone of this industry," Rosendahl said. "Profit is up (in the entertainment industry), and that needs to be shared with the people who create the product."

On Thursday, the group of politicians sent AMPTP president Nick Counter a letter urging the organization "in the strongest possible terms to return to the negotiating table with the Writers Guild of America to address their fair and reasonable contract demands." The letter also said the AMPTP "has been lacking in good faith to resolve outstanding issues" and that the strike is having a "detrimental impact on the state's economy," particularly Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Condon and Goodman, both members of the WGA's negotiating committee, remarked in a joint interview Friday outside CBS on the support that the writers have gotten from other guilds and unions.

"The residuals we get, they get too, so this is affecting them as well," Goodman said.

Added Condon: "The sense of unity is growing instead of diminishing."