Sports Unions Join the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in Fight Against Studios: ‘All They Care About Is Power’ (Video)

NHL and MLB Players’ Association heads came out in support of the WGA’s sports solidarity day

As Marty Walsh, the former labor secretary under President Biden and current executive director of the NHL Players Association, took the microphone, he grinned at the CBS Broadcast Center behind him.

“Let’s make sure we give them something to talk about in the boardroom today,” Walsh said to a roaring crowd.

That was the tone of the WGA’s sports solidarity strike, a distinct event during which members of some of the biggest unions in the sports world came out to show their support to Hollywood’s two ongoing strikes.

Later, Walsh assured TheWrap that both he and the NHL Players Association stood with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. “I think a lot of times, if you’re on strike, you’re thinking you’re alone, and you’re not. You have a lot of other union members around the country who support you,” Walsh told TheWrap. ” I’m asking [for the AMPTP] to get to the table, sit down and talk to these writers, these workers, because they’re raising families. Many of these writers have secondary jobs to make ends meet. That shouldn’t have to be the case.”

Bruce Meyer, the deputy executive director at the Major League Baseball Players Association, also had a turn at the mic. Meyer, who has had a great deal of experience with negotiations and who has practiced sports law for over 30 years, focused on the executives on the other side of the table.

“All they care about is power. They don’t care about the strength of your arguments. They don’t care what’s fair or what’s right,” Meyer said during his speech to WGA members. “The power you have is what you’re doing right now. The power you have is the ability to withhold your services. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. But what you’re doing here is what gives you power.”

Meyer later explained to TheWrap why he was out there on a sweltering New York day, citing that “solidarity is everything.”

“That’s the central power that a union has. It’s sticking together, withholding services where it’s appropriate and supporting each other and being unified. That’s all it’s about,” Meyer said.

To the MLBPA head, the battles that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA and his own union are fighting may be different, but the war is ultimately the same.

“Sports unions, first of all, it’s been mostly lockouts by the owners recently. But they’re always similar issues when you’re talking about workers’ rights. Obviously, fair pay, fair conditions,” Meyer said. “With our players, we like to say that players are the product, right? People go to games to see players, not owners. Similarly, with the writers, writers create the product — with others, obviously. So in that sense, I think this is very similar.”

For Bomani Jones, a sports journalist, WGA and SAG-AFTRA member who is currently the host of HBO’s “Game Theory with Bomani Jones,” it was partially his own experience heading a TV show that brought him to the picket line.

“I’ve seen what goes into the process, and honestly understanding how grueling it is to do the job and recognizing that the nature of the game is you have to fully invest yourself in something that is a short-term situation,” Jones said when asked what brought him to the strike.

“The only way that this can work is to have protections at times if you’re not working. Or at least some understanding what is going to come next,” Jones said. “That was a really made me look at this and understand if you want to have television streaming products and you want them to be good, you need to have writers, and these writers have to be able to afford to do the job.”

One of those writers is Greg Iwinski, a WGA East council member who was part of this year’s negotiating committee. An animation and late night writer for shows like “Game Theory” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” one of the biggest reasons why he is striking has to do with the state of late night.

“They’ve taken our already tenuous job structure, where every 13 weeks you find out if you’re gonna get fired, and asked to replace that with a day rate,” Iwinski said. “I would just ask those studio executives, how they would propose to rent an apartment in New York City, telling your prospective landlord I get paid on a day rate.”