There has been considerable debate since the WGA strike started on November 5th about the degree to which the teamsters have crossed the picket lines and whether the Teamsters support of the WGA strike has impeded deliveries to the studios. (Photo above courtesy of Jim Stevenson.)
AMPTP informed me earlier that, despite the reports I posted on Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the WGA strike about Teamsters leaving trucks by the side of the road or medians and dropping off Dove bars to the strikers, there were “no signs” by November 7th of Teamsters not crossing the picket lines, “especially since a few studios made arrangements to have deliveries made to an off-site location so the Teamsters wouldn’t have to physically cross.” I asked AMPTP again today for a progress report and I’m told Teamsters crossing the picket lines have not impacted the producers. Still, beginning on November 12th, the WGA West changed its strategy and asked striking writers to do the 5 AM or 6 AM shifts aimed at encouraging Teamsters not to cross picket lines or conduct business as usual. Since then I have received these anecdotal reports:
For instance, Patrick Meighan, a Family Guy writer who pulled the 5 AM – 7 AM picketing shift at the Fox truck gate on Pico, just south of Motor, witnessed that during those two hours a total 7 different Teamster trucks honored their picket lines. Four of them, by his count, sat in the median for a bit less than an hour, then eventually drove away, refusing to cross. One of the trucks was idling in the median for about an hour, also refusing to cross, until Fox found a manager willing to drive it on the lot in the Teamster’s place. Another of the trucks sat idling in the median for about a half hour or so until Fox found a manager willing to unload the trailer (bearing two small tractors) in the middle of the street. And still another one of the trucks was still idling in the Pico median as Meighan left his shift “with the Teamster driver still sitting inside, smoking a cigarette, refusing to cross our line. This marks the best showing yet (at least that I’ve personally seen) of Teamsters choosing to honor the Fox lot picket line.”
More recently, writer Erich Hoeber, a WGA strike captain and co-ordinator for picketing at Fox, reported a similar incident on November 19th when 25 WGA members were protesting outside the truck gate at Fox in the pre-dawn hours. It was pitch black when a teamster truck from “Hollywood” Local 399 pulled up outside the gate at 5:30 AM. Instead of passing through, the driver instead waited on Pico and chatted with the picketers who urged him not to cross their picket line. While he was deciding what to do, three more trucks with cranes from the “International Union of Operating Engineers” (IUOE) pulled up behind him. They got out as well and joined in the discussion with the Teamster and WGA members. (This is documented at left by the three photos taken by writer Craig Gerber on his cell phone camera.)
Then another Teamster arrived. Soon, all the drivers were debating for an hour when, finally, the three IUOE drivers decided they weren’t going to cross the picket line and drove off, horns blaring in support. After they left, the Teamsters decided that if the other union guys weren’t crossing, they weren’t crossing either. So they turned around and left as well, also honking as they drove down Pico. At this point, it was 6:30 AM, the sun was up and the 25 picketers at the truck gate, as well as the other picketers at the main gate, were cheering. “These teamsters knew they had a very good chance of being fired, and they didn’t cross the picket line anyway,” Hoeber told his picket crew. “They put their necks on the line for union solidarity and I won’t forget what they’ve done.”
But there’s also this sad story of a Teamster fired on the morning of November 16th at Fox for refusing to cross the WGA picket line. Both Patrick Meighan and a WGA strike captain witnessed the incident. “I was there at the Fox truck gate and saw him sitting in the median for hours, and saw him relieved of his vehicle by one of the Fox weasels. I did not know, until later, though, that the Fox weasel had fired the guy,” Meighan commented. The teamster was identified by WGA strikers to me as Mike Groom, who was driving the tractor and generator rig for a Fox show and had attended the meeting a few weeks ago where WGA members asked for his support. he told a strike captain that he had made up his mind and wouldn’t cross the picket line. So when he saw the picketers at the truck gate at 6 AM, “he sat there in the turn lane. And sat. And sat. For two and a half hours,” according to the WGA strike captain’s email.
“Finally Fox sent out a second guy to drive the truck into the lot. Mike was left on the sidewalk with the picketers, waiting for a ride home. Tommy Moran of House realized that the guy standing there was the driver and asked for his name.” Later the strike captain spoke to Groom to thank him. “I talked to Mike, who has an aw-shucks demeanor and didn’t understand why I was so impressed with what he’d done. His puzzlement (and discomfort) increased when I became choked up when I told him how much his actions meant to me and everyone on Team Fox. When Teamsters refuse to cross our lines, it is HUGE for them and fucking brave.’ ”
There’s no doubt that the Teamsters refusing to cross the picket lines at the studios and networks isn’t a massive movement. “This is, of course, a blip on the radar to them,” Meighan points out. “Cumulatively, though, I think days like this can make a difference. And, in any event, the morale boost on the line is a real one.”