IATSE members came out in force Friday afternoon to the Writers Guild of America picket line outside Fox Studios, raising their voices — and picket signs — in support of fellow union members as the writers strike heads into its third week.
“Labor has to stick together. Workers have to stick together. We’re in a time when people need to be taken care of and have security in their jobs,” IATSE president Matthew Loeb told Variety.
Loeb was on hand with IATSE vice president Matthew Miller and dozens of members of IATSE’s Local 800 and Local 695, among other units.
The onset of the writers strike on May 2 has created hardships for many in the industry, including IATSE members who have lost scheduled jobs as productions shuttered. Fundamentally, however, IATSE members are facing the same challenges of maintaining historic income levels amid historic shifts in the way TV shows and movies are produced and distributed. And that common dilemma is fueling a we’re-all-in-this-together approach that is noticeably stronger than in years past.
“Crew members have been feeling the hurt for this entire year. There’s definitely a lot less work,” said Stephen Harrod, a member of Local 695. IATSE had its own tense negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in the fall of 2021.
Although Hollywood’s largest conglomerates have racked up billions of dollars in losses over the past few years from investing in streaming, the view from the street is that the employers are hoarding the profits and using the industry tumult as an excuse to undercut the substantial power that the WGA, DGA, IATSE and SAG-AFTRA wield.
“There were a lot of Negative Nancies within the union that were like ‘Were the writers with us (in 2021)?’ They were,” Harrod said. “That’s why we’re out here to support them. We’ve all been sick of streaming services raking in the dough and not paying their workers.”
The Fox picket site on West Pico Boulevard has had a steady and strong turnout, no doubt because so many industry insiders live on Los Angeles’ Westside. Striking WGA writer Peter Hankoff has perched himself in nearly the same spot every day, between the curb and an MTA bus stop shelter. Over the past two weeks, Hankoff has become a familiar site to motorists — a WGA sentry standing tall with the edge of his sign handle tucked into his waistband to help support the sign and give his arms a break. His visage is usually defiant but not unfriendly.
After days on the sidewalk, smothered by honks and shouts and chants, Hankoff has made a few observations about human nature and L.A. drivers, in that order. For one, the Los Angeles Police Department’s rank and file are supportive of the strike.
“I’ve seen them honk a few times. The city workers also honk,” Hankoff told Variety on Thursday. As he spoke, first-hand confirmation came in the form of a loud blast from a large L.A. city maintenance vehicle.
Not everyone is a supporter. “I got flipped off once. I was honored by that,” said Hankoff, who has worked in film, TV and in documentary production.
Fox Studios was already a stop on the route of the double-decker tourist buses that promise riders a look at “Movie Star Homes.” But now that writers are out in the wild, the buses seem to be coming more often. “They’re all taking pictures,” Hankoff noted.
Hankoff has also been pressed into service at times for visitors trying to navigate Los Angeles without their own wheels. “I’ve given directions to people who are taking the bus from out of town,” he said.
Watching the world go by across six busy lanes of traffic all day, Hankoff has had plenty of time to look for trends in automobiles and those who pilot them. The overall rate of supportive honks is about six per minute — Hankoff knows because the stoplights at the intersection of Pico and Motor Avenue turnover on 60-second cycles. (He knows this because he timed them. “I’ve been out here too long,” Hankoff admitted.
Given his newfound perspective on traffic patterns, Hankoff has some simple advice for motorists.
“People drive too fast in the (far) right lane. Usually Teslas,” he said. “A lot of Tesla people are honking. A lot of Lexuses are honking. I have not seen one Bentley honk yet. Nor have I seen a Rolls-Royce honk. I have seen a couple of Porsches honk.”
(Pictured top: IATSE members join with WGA negotiating committee members)