Over and over, the attitude expressed on the lines was one of calm, cool determination to stick it out for a “fair deal.” Despite the early predictions that the Writers Guild of America membership would be split along income-strata lines, there is no doubt that writers of all stripes, of all levels of experience and success are fired up by the feeling that the major congloms have been hosing them for years.
The WGA leadership has expertly built on that foundation of pent-up ire to help scribes gird for the strike that many rightly predicted was inevitable. On Friday (Nov. 9) at the mega-rally of at least 4,000 guild members and industry supporters held outside the Fox Plaza building in Century City, guild leaders and guest speakers including the Rev. Jesse Jackson very clearly drew a line between the WGA strike — disparaged by some as a rich union’s attempt to paint itself as blue-collar — and the growing income disparity that has cleaved the nation into the super-haves, the haven’t enoughs, the have-nots and the have nothings during the past 40 years.
“If they gave us everything that we’re asking for, and then they went and did the same deal with the DGA and SAG, they would still be giving all of us less than each of their CEOs makes in a year,” WGA West prexy Patric Verrone asserted to a receptive crowd on Friday.
(Can’t absolutely vouch for Verrone’s math, but we’ve all seen the studies on CEO pay gone wild and the widening gulf between the salaries of top execs and lowest-paid workers at many corporations.) A picket sign in the crowd featured an unflattering picture of News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin, with “$34 million last year” scrawled underneath.
Seth MacFarlane, a wunderkind who scored his first multimillion payday before he was 30 with a hit animated Fox series “Family Guy,” was a savvy choice by the guild to address the rally. His is a voice representing both the future of the guild and the promise that the biz holds to make (very lucky) people fabulously wealthy on the strength of a great idea. MacFarlane (pictured below) made a point of urging his fellow high-earners to keep paying their freshly laid off assistants for as long as possible. And he urged “the press” to get the message out to the general public that WGA members are, in the main, members of the five-figure annual income middle class, not the six-, seven-, eight-figure and above ultra-elite.
“Writers in this guild are not millionaires,” MacFarlane stressed. “The royalties we’re fighting for will make a big difference to them.”
(Above pic snapped by Michelle Sobrino-Stearns/Variety)