Maybe it's just the east coast, but I have to say that 30 Rock didn't feel like a hotbed of labor activity this afternoon. There were a lot of writers--actually too many for the small "pen" erected by the NYPD. There was also an excellent band, a fine snare drummer, and the omnipresent inflatable rat. But somehow the rabble-rousing confrontational part of striking for decent pay didn't really take off (at least not compared to the last strike I was in--a 1993 action by a bunch of pissed off Legal Aid lawyers). Admittedly, this was the sort of strike in which a disproportionate number of people carry iPhones, and at least one had a croque-monsieur on the way to the picket line.
Still, starting tomorrow, we need to do a better job of being strikers. First, we were confined on a side street far from any of the entrances to the building. It didn't have to be that way--the NYPD pen was not our only option. (I confirmed this with the nearby cop who monitored us with a lethargy bordering on somnolence). We are allowed (in small groups) to march around with our signs so long as we don't impede traffic (including pedestrian traffic) we are also allowed to leaflet along the streets including at the entrances that border on the public rather than the private street. Next time let's try some of that.
Next, what's with our signage? A number of pedestrians I spoke to made the not unreasonable point that for a bunch of writers, our signs were awfully boring. And they were. Almost all the photos I've seen of the protests today show someone holding a sign that says "On Strike." C'mon we can do better than that. I saw a few decent slogans ("The rest is silence" "We want our word's worth") but far too few. Also, it's critical to remember that much of the public really likes what we do. When passersby found out that lolling around in the cold were writers for Colbert, The Daily Show or for Late Night, they responded with real support and genuine enthusiasm. The truth is that what we do is really cool and people like it and will support it. But it's up to us to make clear to everyone what they'll be missing. What we should be doing is writing the names of the shows we work on our signs. That way there's a parade of things people can relate to and will actually miss.
This strike is important and our position is righteous. Walking the picket lines with lots of talented impressive people is a hell of a way to spend an afternoon or many. Still, since we're going to strike, let's at least maximize our effectiveness.
Read more thoughts about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.