Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Sound of a Strike

While walking across Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village today, I caught the notes of a fine band playing a mix of jazz and r and b. They were drawing a good pre-lunch crowd and a lot of television cameras, so I assumed it had to be for a political event--perhaps a Barack Obama rally. (With all due respect for Hillary Clinton, I just couldn't imagine her people hiring a band this cool.) But it wasn't a campaign event, it was a union rally for the Writers Guild of America. And that says a lot about the creativity gap between the two unions now on strike in New York City.

Local One of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, as I observed in my post Sunday, is conducting a very old-fashioned kind of strike, with tired-looking picket lines and a ban on talking specifics with the public. They may enjoy the advantage of being a workforce that can't be outsourced to another country, but they're not doing all they can to build public support.

In contrast, the Writers Guild of America has been staging events that inspire the membership and connect with the public. They're described in a great piece in the Times that contains an important statistic: according to a poll at Pepperdine University, 63 percent of American side with the WGA.

I have no idea of what percentage of Americans supports Local One, but my hunch is that it is not that high. For the sake of this strike, Local One--and other unions--should take a lesson from the WGA.

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