Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor day: A message from Hollywood

Every time I hear red staters demonize Hollywood, I keep wondering how they would feel if they actually drove through the streets of Burbank, Toluca Lake, Encino, Sherman Oaks and other "bedroom communities" serving the well-paid, unionized folk who work in the film industry. These beautiful neighborhoods always struck me as the embodiment of the middle class American ideal -- moreso than are the neighborhoods you'll visit while driving through the right-to-work states.

In Burbank, you'll find beautiful parks, good schools, war memorials, civic pride, well-kept lawns -- and, in December, an amazing number of elaborate Christmas displays. To all outward appearances, it's a conservative place -- conservative in the best sense of the word, and 180 degrees removed from the sinkhole of depravity that many right-wingers imagine it to be. Burbank is what happens when unionized workers get paid what they're worth.

In that light, I'd like to share this message from Howard Rodman, a friend to this blog and the vice-president of the Writer's Guild of America West (the guild for screenwriters):
A Labor Day Message from the WGAW

Fellow Members,

On this Labor Day, the members of the WGAW reaffirm their solidarity with Labor all across this country.  The dignity of work, the dignity of humane and safe working conditions, the power of a living wage to provide a life for oneself and a better life for one’s children, the promise of an old age free from want and with access to good care — these are, like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, building blocks of middle class life, of national prosperity, of job creation.  And all of them derive from the victories of the American Labor movement.

It is worth remembering that if we find ourselves, in this period of stagnation, nostalgic for the promise of post-war America, the central thing we miss is a certain optimism, a sense of future generated by a steadily rising middle class and the growing prosperity of American workers.  It’s an optimism that was enabled by the power of our unions.

We therefore decry any attempt to diminish the status of Labor, or to begrudge workers their right to bargain collectively, or to collect on their hard-earned pensions.  (You would not permit your insurance company to shame you out of a proper claim by crying poverty because it had failed to manage its money correctly.  Why should cities, states and counties be allowed to do the equivalent?) In this era of bank bailouts, tax loopholes, obscene executive compensation and the lowest marginal tax rates in memory, it is a gross and unconscionable distortion to suggest that Labor’s battles on behalf of the American worker come, somehow, at the cost of our general prosperity.  This is not, has never, will never be true.

The Labor movement is most certainly not without its faults.  Without it, though, a worker is like a single soldier against an army. But an army of workers can take care of themselves and their families and build everything in this country of which we are proud.  Most important: they can build the future.  On this day, we – as Labor – stand, shoulder to shoulder, with every working man and woman in our nation and around the world.

The writers of the WGAW are proud of the job they do and of their union.  We are part of one of America’s great industries and iconic exports. We are entertainers, storytellers and, at times, a conscience to the world.  The fact that we can make a life out of this work, with all its uncertainty, we owe to those men and women who went before us, who built this Guild, who sacrificed greatly for every benefit we enjoy.  We follow in their footsteps.  We promise to do no less for the writers who follow in ours.

In Solidarity,

Chris Keyser, President
Howard Rodman, Vice President
Carl Gottlieb, Secretary-Treasurer
David Young, Executive Director
The Labor movement is most certainly not without its faults. Without it, though, a worker is like a single soldier against an army...

Hear hear!!

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." (Molly Ivins)

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