When you think of the Oscars, what comes to mind? Marc Jacobs gowns? Yards of gold lame? The drama of who will take home the little metal statue? The red carpet? Barely sober actors? Stultifying speeches? Billions of wasted dollars? Best and Worst Dressed? Well, as a socialist myself and and and activist against child labor, sweat shops, human rights abuses here and abroad, and a staunch union supporter, I can’t find much to impress me about Oscar Night.
But here are some new twists on the Oscars that probably have not made much headline news. First of all, thewriters’ guild is on strike. So if there will even be an Oscar show is in question because the Oscars are a union show. According to an email I got from Michael Moore, the writers are only asking for 2.5 cents out of every internet sale dollar. Wow, now that’s greedy: less than 3% royalties for materials that the writers created. And the other 97.5 %? Where does this money go? Why to the studios and networks, of course. And you can probably imagine how generous studio barons are about sharing the pie. Not.
The Writer’s Guild’s other demand had to be dropped. Initially the writers had tried to unionize all reality shows, which are fast becoming the most popular shows on the network. Even with that major concession, there were a few studio barons who walked away from the negotiating tables and refused to bargain any further. Ultimately this unwillingness to talk pushed the writers out on strike. According to Moore, the actors and other union employees will stand in solidarity with the writers. The picket line will not be crossed.
And in case there is some misunderstanding about the significance of a picket line, let me elaborate. The picket line can one of the strongest form of peaceful, constitutional protest (Bill of Rights: right to peaceful assembly, right to petition) in the world. When workers stand in unity against oppression, they form a chain that can’t be broken. It’s like the game Red Rover you played as a kid. If everyone stands strong, no one can get through. And that is the point of a strike or picket line, to non-violently stand for the rights of all and not give your labor until it is recognized for it’s value. So if the Oscars can’t go on as a regularly televised event or if it is boycotted altogether, the network moguls get the message if by a loss of profit only.
The solidarity of one guild sets the stage for the growth of other trades, guilds and unions. It’s like the newsboys strike in 1899 in New York. The success and strength spread to other groups of laborers, mostly children well under 18. The metal workers, glass workers, textile mill laborers and so many more found their collective voice.
So if you are unhappy about the threat to a televised Oscar Night 2008, you may want to write to the studio moguls. Ask why they refused to bargain over and couldn’t be satisfied with their 97.5% of the Internet sales. Or maybe you think that the writers should forget their 2.5 cent demands and go back to work so we can have the Oscars. Like Michael Moore says in his email: ‘Now I won’t be able to talk to Joan Rivers on the red carpet or attend all those Oscar parties…My wardrobe and stylist people are already in tears!’