Over-simplified Aide to Colbert and Stewart  

I read through the comments on Firedoglake today. They've been posting some pieces on the writers strike and more importantly, the return of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. Then I read this comment

Christy Hardin Smith

Stewart and Colbert have contracts which are currently in force, and they have production obligations as well. If they didn’t go back on, they could (a) be fired, (b) have their shows cancelled meaning everyone else would lose their jobs, (c) get sued, and (d) get blackballed by the studio system meaning they couldn’t get more jobs for others working for their shows in the future. The writers currently do not have active contracts — they expired, and the studios didn’t re-up with the writers under the terms proposed, which is why there is a strike.

Talent and writers are two separate categories in terms of contracts here. As are producers and directors.

True, talent and writers are two different things. But, perhaps a better example would be how Dock Workers and Truckers are two different things.

Dock workers are most often represented by the ILWU, The International Longshoreman and Warehouse union. Truckers, well, they are most often Teamsters.

I know, I know, what the F$%k am I talking about? I'm getting to it...

Years and years ago, when workers went on strike they had power in their numbers. Not just the strikers numbers but in combination with their brother and sister unions. It's a term affectionately dubbed "secondary boycotts."

A secondary boycott is where workers set up a picket line with the intention of stopping everyone from entering. The link has a good example of this and here's some of the text:

On the morning of the picketing, two gates had signs stating that the seating contractor and its employees, suppliers and visitors were prohibited from using those entrances. A third gate was labeled as being exclusively for the seating contractor, its employees, suppliers and visitors. Because the signs did not specifically mention the seating subcontractor – the announced target of the picketing – union members picketed all three gates, not just the one reserved for the seating contractor. All work on the project was shut down because other union members refused to cross the picket line.

The seating subcontractor's name was added to the signs four days later, and the union stopped picketing at those gates not meant for the seating contractor and subcontractor. The day after the signs were changed, all other unions returned to work. One day later, the union stopped picketing after a letter arrived from its national headquarters advising that the strike was affecting a union contractor with a no-strike clause. At no time during the strike did the union encourage its members to return to work.

The concrete contractor sued the union, alleging injuries from the secondary boycott and a violation of the no-strike clause in the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky held the union liable and awarded damages. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the finding of liability, affirmed the award of certain damages and reversed the denial of other damages. F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. v. Kentucky State District Council of Carpenters, 293 F.3d 935 (6th Cir. 2002)

Okay, so what I'm talking about here is when workers set up a picket line to protest unfair owner-business practices and other unions who have workers at the same location abide by the picket line.

So, lets say the Teamsters are protesting Federal Express and have set up a picket line to prevent scab federal express workers and their rats (could be bosses or non-union co-workers) from getting to work or at least cross the line. So, to support this effort, the longshoreman refuse to cross the teamster picket line and unload a Federal Express shipment. This would be a secondary boycott. If more unions join into this, it's also frequently called a General Strike.

So, let's go back to Christy's comment,

Stewart and Colbert have contracts which are currently in force, and they have production obligations as well. If they didn’t go back on, they could
(a) be fired,
(b) have their shows cancelled meaning everyone else would lose their jobs,
(c) get sued, and
(d) get blackballed by the studio system meaning they couldn’t get more jobs for others working for their shows in the future....

Perhaps a little labor history is in order for the Progressive Ms. Hardin Smith. Let's start with Longshoreman Paul Heide:


...During the L.A. Spring Co. strike for recognition in 1936, I got a telephone call to come out right away. I drove out and parked directly across the street from the Oakland plant. It had to be a frame-up. The police wanted me out there so they could work me over. Those were the days when they had an anti-picketing ordinance. They did away with it later. Captain Brown was in charge of the Oakland Police Department’s Eastern Office Division. He hated labor organizers.

Anyway, there were two cops in front of the L.A. Spring plant. One of them walked over when I parked. He said, “You can’t park here.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because Captain Brown says so.” I said, “Well, screw Captain Brown!” He took out his club and almost broke my arm he hit it so hard.

“Get out of the car,” he said. I stepped out and he hit me in the back. I knew he was trying to get me to do something so I could be charged. He said, “What are you coming out here, starting trouble for?” He took his club and punched me in the rib cage. I’d trained as a boxer and I hit him by automatic reflex before I realized it. I punched his teeth and cut a hole right through his lower lip. Then the other cop stepped behind me and hit me over the head, and split my scalp open. I was bleeding all over.

They took me to Highland Hospital and put me in one of those barred rooms. They charged me with resisting arrest and battery. I had a trial in Municipal Court and the jury found me guilty of battery but not guilty of resisting arrest. If you can make those two things fit together—I’ve never been able to understand how they figured that out. ...we won the beef, got the contract, and were satisfied

Colbert and Stewart face the same sanctions as everyone else who supports a strike. Heide was beaten and jailed basically for organizing. Sure, they can a) be fired,
(b) have their shows cancelled, (c) get sued, and (d) get blackballed, but how is that any different than any other worker out there? The problem is that it isn't.

The reason I'm so pissed at the two men I held in such high regard, Colbert and Stewart, is that they don't seem to understand what we all risk when involved in a strike. Perhaps Bill Ward can describe what I mean a little better:

Before the 1934 strike longshoring was all heavy, hand-handled work, and the men were fighting the speed-up at every turn. After those 12 and 18 hour shifts some longshoremen would go to the Robel Inn, a transit hotel in San Pedro where I used to deliver papers. They'd be completely exhausted. They'd sleep eight, ten, 12 hours. It was usually a day and a half or two before they were ready to go again. One time I went down there to deliver my papers and five or six longshoremen were getting rubdowns. They had hot steam towels they'd wring out and put on. Their legs were all sore and bruised.

I really didn't realize what the hell was going on until after the shock of the killing of longshoremen during the 1934 strike. That was a clear recollection I could identify with. I knew many longshoremen. Their kids were in my age group and we hung around together. So that was an impact that really started me to be aware of what my father was up against.

I've written here about what happens to latino women who work at Smithfield. How they are hired for less pay to replace black women at the same factory. And after they replace those women, the plant has spread rumors about INS coming to check papers. This usually causes groups to be out from the jobs but it also ensures they can keep their workers down by basically telling them, do what we say for what we pay you and don't unionize or we'll tell the INS about you, your friends, your family and anyone we just think might be connected to you. It's called intimidation.

So, how do these longshoremen stories or my stories about Smithfield even come close to describing what it is that Colbert and Stewart are doing? It's because, they risk no more for themselves, their families or the workers who depend on the jobs on their shows than any other union member who makes the decision not to cross a picket line.

As members of WGA, Leno, Stewart, Maher and O'Brien are saying not simply to their writers that they are thinking of themselves first but they are also telling everyone who works for them that they too won't be supported if push comes to shove.

Colbert and Stewart, push has come to shove and the two of you, like Christy Hardin Smith, just don't seem to get it. People like Heid and Ward fought for your right to set up a picket line. What does your crossing it say about their sacrifice?


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