Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Should talk show guests cross the Writers Guild of America picket line?

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Originally published on on Tue, 01/08/2008 – 10:31am

Just a reminder for those who, like Mike Huckabee, might think the writers strike has been settled just because late-night talk show hosts are back, the writers strike is still going.

Yes, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson were able to negotiate side agreements, so the writers are back on those shows. For everyone else, the writers are still out there.

The hosts were forced back in much the same way as they were forced back 20 years ago during the last writers strike. Letterman, the only veteran from that strike still around, utilized features such as “Hal Gurnee’s Network Time Killers.” Carson, who was not a member of the Guild, came back and wrote his own monologue.

The unsaid reason shows were forced back is that there is product to sell. Movies are out there needing publicity, books need to be sold. It’s about product.

Even though that’s true, some people have resolved not to cross picket lines and appear on talk shows until the writers strike is settled. Some of those are actors from the Screen Actors Guild, who have their own negotiations happening soon and want to show solidarity with the writers. Others are defiant about appearing on shows where picket lines have to be crossed.

During the strike of 1988, Phil Donahue was still in the talk-show business. Even though he didn’t have Guild writers, he taped his show at the WNBC studios at 30 Rock in New York City. Rather than cross the picket line, he set up shop somewhere else until the strike ended. That’s workers solidarity.

Author Naomi Klein and The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel have turned down invitations to appear on the Colbert Report. Apparently, Paul Krugman also bowed out of the Colbert Report.

Jon Stewart’s first guest was Ronald Seeber, a labor relations professor from Cornell University. They talked about the grief that Seeber got for crossing the picket line. Stewart’s other expected guests this week are David Frum and Lou Dobbs, two guys who you wouldn’t expect to have a problem crossing a picket line.

That leads to another fear — will the late-night shows have more conservative guests since they have no qualms about crossing a picket line?

Booking guests have been such a problem for Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel that they will interview each other Thursday on their shows. It’s insulting enough to cross a picket line to get to your own job, but to cross another line to appear on someone else’s show is mocking the standards.

While Huckabee might have learned his lesson, appearing on Letterman Monday night, unfortunately, he is scheduled to appear on the Colbert Report on Wednesday. Speculation is that he might appear via satellite so as to not cross a picket line, but the picket line is there even if you don’t physically cross it.

To hawk their product, some people, regardless of their situation, may be forced or strongly encouraged to cross. But should they? Is there a principle about respecting a picket line?


Written by democracysoup

January 8, 2008 at 10:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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