Big Media CEOs Receive Pencils from TV Fans

For the last couple of months, television fans have been buying pencils to send to the media moguls — the heads of six major companies that dominate the AMPTP – to demonstrate their support for the striking writers of their favorite TV series. On December 11, the first 500,000 pencils were delivered in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, January 16, another 200,000 were delivered in New York.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which represents most of the non-supervisory educators working in the New York City public schools, agreed to accept any pencils that the media moguls rejected, and pass them on to students.

A spirited group of writers, fans, and supporters from organized labor gathered at UFT headquarters for a press conference and viewing of the mountain of pencils. Following that, small groups of writers and fans delivered bags of pencils to four media moguls in midtown Manhattan via taxicab. The moguls included: Leslie Moonves, CBS Corporation; Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation (Fox); Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner; and Sumner Redstone, Viacom. Representatives at all the companies accepted the pencils, with promises that they would be passed on.

"Pencils 2 Media Moguls" was organized by UnitedHollywood.com, a website hosted by WGA supporters. The website launched the pencil drive as a show of fan support for the WGA strike, now in its 11th week.

Here are some excerpts from the press conference.

Michael Winship, President, Writers Guild of America, East:

The fans, the markets for those shows and movies that the mega-conglomerates produce, cannot be dismissed, and they support the writers.

Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers:

We get the stakes in this strike. This is about, not just the first strike of this century, but in some ways, it's the first strike about the new economy. All this is about is the same thing that we've done years and years ago. It's that there's a new technology, there's a new industry, and instead of being fair, those that control the means of production decide they get everything, and we get nothing. And then we have to fight and fight and fight to get something. But this time, we're fighting in a situation where unions are only 7%. So every other union has to stand with the writers. This time we know that where you go, we go. It's great that you have the support of all the other unions in this town and these United States, because we understand the stakes.

Judy Tate, WGAE member, writer on "Days Of Our Lives":

My mother, a teacher, understood the power of the pencil. She was the granddaughter of slaves, of men and women who on any given day could be beaten or worse for even daring to possess one pencil, when people were fighting for the opportunity to read and write. She taught her kids to imagine a world they wanted to live in. To pick up their pencils and write about it. She understood that with a story to tell and the tools to write it down, they could do anything. And likewise, a good writer has the ability to not only describe the world the way it is, but to engage the imagination to describe the world as it could be. So let's engage our imaginations right now. Let's imagine a country in which the talents and energies of teachers and writers and airline pilots -in fact all laborers- are respected and fairly compensated. Let's imagine a country, yes, even under the stranglehold of multinational corporations, where the right to bargain collectively is protected, and unions stand strong in the face of unscrupulous companies who would roll back benefits and undermine the middle class. Let's imagine a country in which the stories we tell include the one about the time those nerdy writers took 200,000 pencils bought by TV and movie fans to media moguls and got them to come back to the bargaining table. And let's imagine a country where the future of kids like my mom's third graders is hopeful, because they've seen the power in a story, the word, and the pencil.

Elisa Zuritsky, WGAE member, writer on "Sex And The City":

We're hoping that what we're doing now will make it easier for future generations of writers to be able to make a living as writers.

Mike Donatelli, Air Line Pilots Assocation:

Mike shared a letter of support from the president of his union, Capt. John Prater, which read in part: Our members…are no strangers to the effects of corporate greed and no strangers either to the struggles that we as workers must carry on, to defend ourselves against those who have forgotten that all real wealth is created through the efforts of labor. Nowhere is this truth more obvious than in your industry, where nothing of value can exist without your members' remarkable creative efforts. We as airline pilots have been forced to conduct strikes ranging from a few days to more than two years. We know how important it is to know that you do not fight alone. There are defining moments in every industry, and this time is yours. The airline pilots of the US and Canada, represented by our union, wish you and all WGA members both east and west every success in this battle of the future.