[United Hollywood asked me to reprint this post here so they can link to it, instead of taking up their entire front page with all my blah-blah-blah. It’s very hard to do “Pencils Down.” I end up writing elsewhere. Like here.]
I’m a writer.
I’m a strike captain.
I’m a gate coordinator for CBS Radford.
I’m a writer first, so day one, morning shift, I was a little nervous to be in charge of a line. I’m barely 5’3″, and I’m usually dressed like an extra from Mad Men. But I’m also from Texas. So I’m friendly, but I’m not going to let someone get treated unfairly.
My lot coordinator was smart enough to arm me with muffins for the security guard, a man who has checked my ID every morning for the past five months as I’ve worked on Samantha Who?, so we were all getting along just fine for the first couple of hours.
CBS Radford has news writers who are currently working without a contract. They are working inside the lot, and are not protected under our strike until the 15th, but they are allowed to come out and walk with us whenever they can. Until:
The security guard pulled me aside. “You’ve got guys in your line trying to break the strike and go back to work.”
“No, those are news writers,” I said. “They’re supposed to be at work. They’re supporting us.”
He said, “I’m sorry, but once someone walks the line, I’ve been told I’m not allowed to let them back into the lot.”
I said he must be mistaken, but I’d resolve it at the main gate, and took Claudia to the front of the lot.
Oh, I should mention I work the back parking garage gate. If you need to picture this a little better, my line walks between the entrance to a parking garage and a ridiculously boisterous construction zone. We do not have glamorous views. We do not get celebrity sightings. We barely have bottles of water. One kind gentleman (who is too humble for the public recognition, but I will say that he’s a very good agent from Gersh) supplied us all with bottles of water and cheeseburgers from McDonalds on his dime. But the guys on my line, we aren’t fancy. We just walk. And shout. And walk. And pass out flyers to every single person who enters the parking garage on Radford. Come visit us. We’re very friendly. But not in that creepy way. Mostly.
After the second news writer wasn’t allowed to go back into the garage, to her car, because she’d walked the line, I knew this was more than a temporary misunderstanding. I found my showrunner from Samantha Who? and a co-executive producer forced to stand several feet away on the other side of an imaginary line the security guards were drawing. On the other side were our producers and our director for this week, coming to give their support. They were told that if they stepped over the imaginary line, outside of the parking garage, they’d be “one of [us],” and not allowed back into the Radford gate.
“I’m just trying to make sure of what you’re saying,” my showrunner, Don Todd, said. “They can’t come out here, or we can’t go in there?”
“Either,” the security guard said.
“They’re only coming out here to support us,” Don said. “He’s not on strike. I’m on strike. And if you’re telling me I can’t go in there, then you’re saying that CBS has issued a lockout. And that’s very different.”
I stepped in and asked if I could talk to the security guard alone. “I’m calling the guild,” I told the security guard. “Because they need to know that this is the situation down here. If we’re in a lockout situation, the guild needs to know.”
He took two seconds before he said, “I’m going to make some calls. I’m gonna get some clarification.”
“Me too,” I said, and stepped away with my phone. I called my friend at the guild and told him what was going on.
“What’s he doing now?” my friend asked.
“Oh, he’s getting some clarification.”
“I bet he is.”
Now a more secure security guard shows up (bigger badge), with his hands on his hips. I suddenly find myself talking like someone I don’t recognize. “I know your guys are just doing their jobs,” I said. “But my guys are doing their jobs, too.”
… “My guys”?
“We’re not trying to cause any trouble, but I need someone to explain the rules to me. If you leave that lot and walk our line, you aren’t allowed back in? If someone walks out here, then they’re on strike, too? I understand that I’m not allowed in there to picket on the lot, but if I walk in there, I’m going back to work, which is what they want me to do. Are you telling me that CBS Radford no longer wants me in there? That they are telling me I can’t go in there?”
“I’m not supposed to let anyone in a red shirt into this lot,” he said.
“But what if someone’s just wearing a red shirt that day? I’m really not trying to be difficult, but I don’t understand how you’re supposed to enforce that rule.”
Now my security guard, who’s awesome by the way, starts arguing for our side. “It’s just their friends in there,” he said to the guy in charge. “They’re in there working, and they miss their friends. They want to come out and support their friends walking out here. Bring them coffee. Water. Tell them hi. Why can’t they come out here? They aren’t on strike.”
“I’m calling the guild again,” I said. “Because I don’t understand how you can have a no ins or outs policy. What if they want to go to lunch? Are they forced to eat at the commissary?”
The head guy looks at me and says, “I’m going to make a call. I’m going to need some clarification.”
“I appreciate that.”
Ten minutes later, that same security guard walked out with his arms in the air and made a DECLARATION, announcing as much as you can over the constant construction noise. “As of 12:27pm” — (I think he forgot to set his watch back… it’s a stressful time for all of us) — “CBS Radford has officially changed their security policy! Anyone with a badge is allowed in or out of the lot at any time! If you have a working badge that gets you on the lot, you are free to enter or leave as you wish!”
I had to ask, just for clarification, and to see if he’d say it: “So we got insies and outsies?”
“You got insies and outsies.” And then he gave a little sigh.
“Yay! Thank you!”
But that explains why we hadn’t seen many people all morning from our crew and staff, and why the news writers were worried about stepping out onto the line. Within fifteen minutes I got a call from the guild. “The press room is talking about what you did!” the woman on the phone (also named Pam) said to me. “Will you write something up for United Hollywood?”
“How did you even hear about it?” I asked. Apparently, word spreads quickly inside that headquarters building.
I’m a writer.
I’m a strike captain.
I’m a gate coordinator for the am shift at the CBS Radford parking gate.
And somehow I’m now a person who refers to the fifty people walking in a circle around me as “My guys.”
I have also developed a Pavlovian response to “Woo!’ and raise my fist at the first sound of a semi honking its horn. If this strike continues much longer, I fear the reflex will become permanent.
Keep up the good fight, y’all.
writer, Samantha Who?
PS: i just wanted to mention that as strike captain, I’m incredibly proud of my team, the writing staff of Samantha Who?. All eleven of us reported for duty and walked the line bright and early day one.