Writer’s Strikewatch – The Visible and the Invisible
News from the front: Success depends on the picket line.
Any strike action that is not resolved after the first few days runs into the same problems. Strikers get tired, they get disillusioned, they get broke. A strike captain's toughest job is making sure they get the bodies out there on the picket line every single morning, with union printing held high in the air.
The picket line is the face of any strike action – the visible front made up of signs and banners, musicians and megaphones, and most importantly, people marching.
In the below video, striking writers talk about the importance of the picket, and of marching. Sometimes, it can be hard to connect what's happening on the line with what's happening behind closed doors in the studios, but as these writers explain, the connection is vastly important:
I really like what screenwriter Jake Hogan has to say: “The strike is about us picketing…If we're not on the line, than the studio thinks they've got us, and they can't ever think they've got us. They have to think that we will walk forever, until we get a good deal in front of us…walk, strike, and show them we will wait them out. We will sweat them, they won't sweat us.”
As Hogan implies, the key to ending the strike is the visibility of the strikers. That's why union printing is so important to a successful strike action. And this is not just in terms of the black and red sign and poster printing that has become so synonymous with this WGA strike, but also in terms of the handouts, and the flyer printing that happens so that every supporting union, passerby, and even the naysayers, have access to information explaining why this (or any) strike is so important.
The issue of visibility vs. invisibility during a strike is all-important. Strikers marching with full color union printing are extremely visible, but as time passes, they risk becoming just another part of the scenery. This is why the whole 'sweat it out' union-busting tactic is so effective – because nothing stops people caring like the passage of time.
It's when strikes drag on, and signs begin to lose their luster, that the printing of union literature becomes so vital. Strike organizers have to move beyond black and white flyer printing, and start to put out daily newsletters. Full color booklet printing can also have a significant impact over the long term. It's the smaller, 'invisible' union printing, in short, that can make a big impact once the fanfare starts to die down.
Getting union literature out there is also important when the media begins to lose interest, or, as circumstances may have it, begins to black out strike news as another busting tactic.
Of course, the WGA is lucky. It's got a picket line full of writers who can't do their jobs, but that doesn't mean that can't write newsletters, or scripts for viral videos. The internet – the precise medium that studios say plays an uncertain role in television's future – is being used to get information about the WGA strike out to people all over the world.
But it's not only writers who can use internet advertising and union printing to their advantage. Odds are, there exists at least a few people with some facility with language on every picket line. And these days, anyone can make a video, start writing a blog, or order some inexpensive full color printing online from a supportive union printer.
Thanks to the internet, strikers from all industries can increase their visibility. The web is truly the ultimate medium of democracy. Which means, of course, that anyone can use it to make a point, be heard, or to get rich. And the studios are trying to say they can't make money off this thing? Give the writers a break!