12/16/2007

Christopher Trumbo on the History of the WGA's Fight for Writers

This was submitted by WGA member Christopher Trumbo, member for 40 years, and son of WGA member Dalton Trumbo. His insights into the history of the guild are especially valuable now, as the strike continues and the AMPTP tries to divide us.

None of the AMPTP evasions, lies, delays , obfuscations or duplicity that we are all seeing surprises me. Such is its nature.

I can't remember exactly when I joined the guild -- maybe in 1967, probably in 1968 -- but I do remember when we had no medical plan. Actors and directors had a medical plan, and so did members of the United Auto Workers who checked in at the assembly line day after day. But, not writers.

Our employers, the AMPTP, didn't think we needed one.

We had to go on strike to get one -- and this at a time when it was normal for union members to have a medical plan, when others in our industry already had medical plans. We had to fight to get one. And we won. But the fight was painful, and hard. For that matter, when the guild was formed, writers had to fight to get their names on their own work.

My point is, whatever security we enjoy today as writers was always hard won. We have had to fight for everything.

There is nothing we have gained, that the AMPTP would not take back instantly if it could. Not one single thing.

And if they do manage to take away these things, the conglomerates will say it's a triumph of the free market system, and a leap forward for individual rights as writers are freed from the chains of the odious collectivization embodied by the WGA.

There's nothing quite like freedom from health insurance, a pension plan, and getting paid fairly for your work.

The AMPTP is nothing more than a collection of corporations, and the corporate dream remains what it always was: unimaginable wealth for a very few, and scraps for everyone else.

I sometimes think the current membership forgets the past, and I believe that our present circumstance can be better understood if more attention were paid to it. That is to say, what is going on now is not a unique event, nor are the problems or issues that we face. The tactics and desires of the AMPTP are not new, either.

What we often fail to remember is that the AMPTP, if it had its wishes granted, would inhabit a world in which the WGA did not exist. It may not be able to accomplish that, but a guild that is weakened, divided and increasingly ineffective is the next best thing. If they can't kill it, they'll try to cripple it and starve it.

The past is our strength. It shows us that the future is what we make of it.

1 comment:

embers said...

Thank you for writing this, it is a clear statement of information that everyone needs to know. It is easy to forget the sacrifices made by others in past strikes, but it is a valuable source of inspiration to strengthen the resolve of everyone involved in this strike. This is a cause worth fighting for, and the WGA members cannot afford to lose now, not if there is going to be a WGA in the future.