As contract talks between striking writers and their studio counterparts entered a third straight day, picketing in New York City continued Friday at the home of ABC’s The View amid reports and rumors of progress in a stalemate that has lasted 144 days.
On a day when such boldface names as Amy Schumer, Bradley Whitford and Busy Philipps were on the picket line, the real stars of the day might have been a vacationing family from Florida who gave up their tickets to the show to join the strikers. Read more about them below.
“Our heads are all spinning,” Schumer told Deadline after joining the picket Friday. The Emmy-winning comic actor, writer and director responded to a call by the Writers Guild for picket line reinforcements on both coasts and said that of all the issues driving the strike, the rise of artificial intelligence in workplaces like hers is “the thing that’s scaring me the most.”
Schumer also said that striking writers and actors are “trying to be an example” for labor movements globally. “And it feels really good to have so much support behind us,” she said.
Guild picketing of The View has ramped up this week after The Drew Barrymore Show, The Jennifer Hudson Show, Real Time With Bill Maher and The Talk postponed efforts to resume production in the face of WGA criticism and — in Barrymore’s case — worksite protests.
The View has continued airing throughout the writers strike. Panelists including moderator Whoopi Goldberg have said that they’re abiding by guild rules in producing the show without the services of their striking WGA staff members.
The writers union disagrees, and Friday was the fourth day this week of picketing at ABC’s Upper West Side studio complex. Turnout more than doubled over Thursday, with 100-plus demonstrators circling entrances on both sides of the building at any one time.
Writers on the line included longtime Stephen Colbert collaborator Opus Moreschi, Longmire and Emerald City scribe Sheri Holman and Courage the Cowardly Dog writer David Stephen Cohen. They were joined by striking SAG-AFTRA actors including The West Wing’s Whitford and Freaks and Geeks’ Philipps.
Holman, a WGA strike captain, told Deadline that she was encouraged — with caveats — by the sustained resumption of talks.
“I wish it could have happened back in May,” she said. “I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to get everybody in the room. We’re encouraged that it seems to be actual negotiations happening. But we’ve been burned before. I tried real hard to stay offline yesterday and just spend time with my family and to come out to picket lines. But it feels encouraging that everybody seems committed to it.
“I feel like enough pain has been inflicted on this industry,” Holman added. “I have three kids I’m putting through college. I want to be back at work. But I’m also willing to hold out for a fair contract as long as it takes.”
Holman and Schumer both said they are continuing to raise money for strikers and other film and television workers who’ve gone without pay. Schumer cited The Union Solidarity Coalition, and Holman cited the Entertainment Community Fund and The Green Envelope Fund — the latter run by a former colleague of Holman’s, WGA member Joelle Garfinkel.
“Even if it was settled today,” Holman said of the writers strike, “more than likely most shows won’t get back up and running for another few months. … They still have to negotiate with [SAG-AFTRA]. So anything that we can do, even if we are back at work and our strike is settled, anything we can do to continue to raise money for our allies — they were there for us, and we’re going to be there for them.”
Picketers on Friday got a boost from an unexpected source: a family of five from Orlando who were vacationing in New York and had tickets for Friday’s taping of The View. Instead, Tasha Robinson-Banks, her two daughters, an aunt and cousin joined the picket line after they encountered WGA representatives outside ABC.
“We are changing plans,” Robinson-Banks told Deadline. Minutes earlier, picketers greeted the family with a group cheer, and Robinson-Banks changed into a guild strike T-shirt.
“There are times when your voices are needed,” she said.
The family took a rideshare to the Upper West Side from a relative’s home in Brooklyn, with their e-tickets for The View stored on their phones, and got on the audience member line. Then they saw the pickets.
“Mommy, what’s the purpose of this? They’re just walking around in a circle,” Robinson-Banks said one daughter asked her. “I said, ‘Well, this is how you advocate for yourself.’”
Robinson-Banks said that she doesn’t have union members in her family but that her husband is trying his hand at scriptwriting.
“Every night he’s plugging away real late at night — sometimes two, three hours,” she said. To learn that writers in the profession feel “not appreciated, not valued, is something,” she said.
Asked if it was painful to give up seats to The View, Robinson-Banks said, “No. Right is right.” She said the unscheduled change of plans would make for “great talking points when we go back.”