WGA stages massive rally with celebrity fan-fare

LOS ANGELES: In the name of unity (and photo-ops), the Writers Guild of America, West marked Day 5 of its strike against the studios and networks of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) this morning with a massive, rush-hour rally just outside LA's Fox studios.

LOS ANGELES: In the name of unity (and photo-ops), the Writers Guild of America, West marked Day 5 of its strike against the studios and networks of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) this morning with a massive, rush-hour rally just outside LA's Fox studios.

While local and entertainment-industry media strike coverage has been as ubiquitous as the free pastry and pizza supply sympathetic supporters are delivering to picket sites, the WGA has been slow to reveal any kind of beyond-the-signs-and-leaflets PR strategy. This week, however, the union's communication plan appears to have strengthened: It's bolstered its comms team, equipped strikers with a set of uniform talking points, and started leveraging YouTube and “unofficial” strike captains' blog, United Hollywood, to attract new advocates (or at least new snack suppliers). And talk about a turning point: On Wednesday, the WGA arranged for the Rev. Jesse Jackson to make a statement in support of the on-strike writers, right outside of Paramount Studios. (Quite possibly, no one understood a word he said. But still.)

Today, though, the WGA really stepped up. In what the union called “a major show of solidarity,” picketing was scheduled to be held in one location only, Fox Plaza in Century City, and police blocked one of the area's main N-S thoroughfares in anticipation of the 2,000-4,000 demonstrators expected from 9am - noon. Because all of this was certain to cause as much confusion as the most convoluted Lost subplot, WGA recommended carpooling, or perhaps even taking the bus!

But here's the kicker: Because we've already heard plenty from WGA West president Patric Verrone, the union launched its rebel rally with a 10am “acoustic mini-set” by Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, apparently moved enough to take the morning off from his numerous other activist commitments. So Jesse Jackson was just the beginning of the writers' secret media-attention boost plan!

For Fox's part, the studio spent the morning attempting to keep employees calm. In a widely distributed corporate e-mail sent Thursday afternoon, the studio reminded staffers that "rallies such as this are considered normal when a union is on strike," and that they should remain courteous and refer all media inquires to corporate comms or HR.

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