WGAE takes new tack on Wall Street



NEW YORK -- A second week of picketing in Manhattan resumed Tuesday with the writers bringing the battle to Wall Street, where they said media moguls were bragging about their fiscal health while claiming poverty at the bargaining table.

After taking Monday off to plot strategy, more than 100 members of the WGA East and other unions set up picket lines at Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan and sent leafleters to locations around the financial district at Wall Street.

"We have to take it to the heart" of the financial center, WGAE president Michael Winship said. "It's the only way we're going to win."

It isn't easy, though. Security concerns after Sept. 11 made it impossible for the union to get a site closer to the New York Stock Exchange. The picketers also were not allowed to bring their placards the three-block walk or so to Wall Street. The weather, which was rainy when the protest began at 10 a.m., improved so that by 1 p.m. or so the sun had broken through and it was easily the warmest day of the strike so far.

The writers claim that they've told Wall Street that they've made more than $700 million in 2006 over new media but aren't willing to share with the writers. But the message seemed to be met with mixed success in the financial district, as some writers had trouble trying to get Wall Street types to listen although the union had to run off more leaflets because they ran out.

Meanwhile, a number of WGAE members were taking a page from the West Coast writers -- most notably the "Office" staff who released a video through UnitedHollywood.com early in the strike -- and were busy creating videos that mixed humor and advocacy. Winship said a meeting Monday was held with a number of comedy show writers, who agreed to work on videos that would be posted on the WGAE site and elsewhere around the Web arguing their case.

At least two groups of writers were doing videos at Battery Park, and union officials said more were shooting all over Manhattan.

One of those groups was the writing staff of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," who spent the morning creating a mock video newscast with the picket line as a backdrop. It featured "Daily Show" writer Jason Ross sitting at a coffee table, discussing the strike along with other writers doing brief bits elsewhere. Some of the scenes had to be moved away from the strike line because of loud jackhammering that was going on nearby.

Steve Bodow, head writer for "The Daily Show," said the "Office" video was a partial inspiration though the writers had been thinking of doing something and have spent parts of several days writing it. He said the video, which will be released later this week, will run about two minutes and will be funny but will also make a point, just like what they do with "The Daily Show."

The video won't show any branding of "The Daily Show," nor will it advertise itself as such.

"It's the first thing that we say in the piece, that this is obviously not 'The Daily Show,' " Bodow said.

Bodow said that the writers weren't planning on making it a regular occurrence and hoped that the strike would be short and that they would all be back to work on their show soon.

"We have no plans to be going to series with it," Bodow joked.