"This is about justice and fairness and equality and ensuring those who work hard and are creative and create the product that generate millions of dollars are actually treated fairly," said Edwards, who stopped his picket, climbed on a flower planter and spoke from a bullhorn in the shadow of the Peacock on Alameda Avenue.
Picketers who had been staked out at NBC since 7 a.m. scrambled to shake his hand, to the point where NBC Universal guards gave up trying to keep them off a portion of the sidewalk that is network property. Actor Charles Haid and a team of advance men tried to form a circle around Edwards and clear a path as he made it once around the one-block picket ring. His visit lasted about 20 minutes.
"I am proud to be with you in this fight for justice," Edwards said. "I am proud to be with you in this right for fairness."
The intense media coverage of the strike certainly gave Edwards an opportunity to burnish his labor credentials, and he cast the issue in terms of the labor movement nationwide.
"We must strengthen and grow the union movement in America," Edwards said, as the honking horns of passing motors occasionally drowned out his words. "Through organizing. Through reaching out. Through bringing workers from all across this country into the organized labor movement. It is the only way that we ensure that these big corporate conglomerates don’t take over the United States of America."
The day the strike started, Barack Obama was the first out with a statement in support of the writers. Edwards and Hillary Clinton released statements later in the day. Edwards was the first of the candidate out on the picket lines.
After Edwards finished, Joe Medeiros, the head writer on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" who helped organize the NBC picket, related to Edwards’ message.
"If they could outsource all of the writing to overseas, I am sure they would do it," he said.
The strike has put them on the opposite side of some of their high profile donors in the studio ranks. Edwards, however, has collected some donations from studio chiefs, but he has been less aggressive than Obama and Clinton. In fact, just weeks before the strike, Obama raised money at the home of Universal Studios chairman Ron Meyer and his wife, Kelly. And one of Clinton’s bundlers is Peter Chernin, the COO of News Corp.
But Edwards says the conflicting agendas is of little concern to him. It’s a softball, but when I asked whether he had any concerns about taking the opposite side of a position as some of his donors, he told Variety, "No. That is no concern. I stand 100% with these men and women who are doing the right thing."
It’s uncertain if any of the other candidates will join the picket any time soon. Clinton visits on Saturday for a forum on the environment (which Edwards also will attend) and to raise money. Obama is not expected to visit Los Angeles again until Dec. 10, for another Democratic debate.
"I wish they were all here," said Susan Wald, a writer for "General Hospital."
His visit doesn’t necessarily mean she will vote for him, however. "What I was most impressed with was that Barack Obama was the first person out for us. I thought it showed integrity."
But although writers expressed gratitude for his visit, some wondered whether it would help their cause more than his campaign, given the emphasis his campaign has put on Iowa, a world away from the entertainment industry.