Edwards to Join Writers’ Pickets

Presidential candidate John Edwards will join striking writers on the picket lines in from of NBC’s Burbank studios on Friday afternoon, his campaign announced today.

Outside of statements in support of the writers, the presidential campaigns of Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have until now largely stayed out of the fray. About 15 Obama campaign supporters turned out at the rally in front of the Fox Plaza Tower on Avenue of the Stars last Friday.

But Edwards and other Democrats are anxious to show their solidarity with labor, even if that means placing them in opposition with some of the high-profile donors who have contributed to their campaigns. Edwards has drawn contributions from Warner Bros.’ Alan Horn, Universal’s Ron Meyer and DreamWorks’ David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Nevertheless, one major fund-raiser told me last week that he doubts studio chiefs will raise much objection to candidates getting involved — to a point — with the implicit understanding that it’s a natural that a Democrat would back labor. “It goes with the territory,” he says.

Moreover, even though the WGA is relatively small compared to other unions, it is drawing quite a bit of media attention. Cameras have been covering the picketers and the various stars and showrunners everyday since the strike began on Nov. 5.

Edwards said last week, in a statement: “The striking Writers Guild members are fighting an important battle to protect their creative rights. These writers deserve to be compensated fairly for their work, and I commend their courage in standing up to big media conglomerates. As someone who has walked picket lines with workers all across America and as a strong believer in collective bargaining, I hope that both sides are able to quickly reach a just settlement.”

Still uncertain is whether other candidates will follow suit, and if their rhetoric rises to a level that irritates their supporters and donors on the management side. “I think they understand” the candidates’ need to support labor, says one presidential fund-raiser. “The question is how happy they would be after they picket.”

There has been some skepticism on the writers’ side about the candidates’ positions — albeit in the form of some election year ribbing. Last week, in the New York Daily News, “The Daily Show” head writer Steve Bodow wrote of the candidates’ statements:

“Earlier this week, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton spoke out in support of the Writers Guild. Normally that’s the kind of toothless sucking up I’d spend my time satirizing. But this time they’re pandering to me – very different. In fact, I heard all three candidates have pledged to return all donations from Hollywood studio execs unless the strike is resolved. (Correction: they’re totally not doing this in a million years.)”

On Saturday afternoon, Edwards is scheduled to attend a forum on global warming and the environment at the Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles. Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich also are scheduled.

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