This Thanksgiving I went back home to Chicago. Amidst the turkey, dressing, mac & cheese, sweet potato pies, collard greens and other calorie laden holiday delectables, I was frequently asked, "Are you on strike?" That question puts me in an odd position. On one hand, I totally support my fellow writer's and their cause to such a degree as going out marching myself and possibly leading them in a good old Negro spiritual inspired civil rights marchin' song:
Ain't gonna let no 'ducers turn me 'round, turn me 'round, turn me 'round Ain't gonna let no studio turn me 'round, Keep on a marchin', keep on a writin' , wit all my residuals in hand...
On the other hand, "being on strike" means that you are refusing to work until certain employment conditions are met. But what if you weren't working before the strike was called? The WGA brass would answer that being on strike also means that you refuse any work offered while the strike is in progress. Okay, that's sort of a positive approach, but with 48% of the Guild's membership not working at any given time, how realistic is it that writer's will be given "offers"--especially now? I'll tell you: not very likely at all.
I would imagine that if you're a writer who has walked off a television show, there's a good chance you've got a financial cushion to ease your glutes after you leave the picket line. But if you weren't working before the strike, get no "offers" during the strike and the opportunity for work after the strike looks as bleak as it was before all this began, then where are you? Singing a spiritual I guess, expressing solidarity, fighting for the cause. However, given the extremely tough nature of employment in his business, this writer's spiritual may sound less like a civil rights song, but more like a blues tune.
"Am I on strike?" Yeah, I am--not by refusing work (because that's not really MY situation at present)--but more on the issues the WGA is fighting for: DVD residuals, a piece of "emerging media" ect. So, while the big boys (and girls) haggle this thing out, I'll be doing what I've always done: hustle to survive and hope that this "strike" yields not only better benefits but will also open some doors I've kickin' at with my marchin' feet for a few years.