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Volume 77, Number 26 | November 28 - December 04 2007

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Edwards tells writers he won’t cross picket line for TV debate

By Jefferson Siegel 

As the Writers Guild strike entered its fourth week, members proved they haven’t lost their touch. Several hundred writers — and actors in support of them — were joined by local union leaders, politicians and presidential candidate John Edwards in a show of solidarity at a rally in Washington Square Park on Tuesday.

“It’s nice to see so many creative people in Washington Square Park not buying marijuana,” quipped emcee Aasif Mandvi from “The Daily Show,” prompting laughter.

Not laughter, but enthusiastic cheering, greeted Edwards as he took the mic.

“I’m proud of what you’re doing,” Edwards told the crowd, vowing not to cross picket lines to participate in an upcoming televised debate if CBS News writers are on strike. Describing the union movement as “men and women who work for a living, standing with each other and giving the American people a real chance,” Edwards said the strike was about fairness and making sure writers are able to share in the profits of their creations. 

Edwards said he recently cancelled appearances on talk shows “Ellen” and “The View” in support of the writers.

“We are in this thing together,” he told the strikers. 

“Without struggle, workers would be nowhere. We would not have a middle class in this country,” said Congressmember Jerrold Nadler. Calling large corporations “greedy,” Nadler warned against media consolidation that puts more power into the hands of fewer companies. 

Malachy McCourt , the actor and writer, who ran for governor on the Green Party ticket last year, stood in the crowd listening.

“I was here because of the Bible, because the Bible says, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’” McCourt said with an impeccable sense of timing. “And then the producers made it flesh and bollixed it up,” he added.

Jonathan Tasini, president of the National Writers Union from 1990 to 2003 and a challenger for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat last year, seemed to know everyone in the crowd. Pausing from a round of hugs and handshakes, Tasini observed, “It’s a great show for an important strike. It’s very similar to what freelance writers fought for in the ’90s and it’s the same issue here: greed.” 

Actor Danny Glover stood onstage watching colleague Tim Robbins as Robbins said, “Without writers we would have a procession of crap reality television. This is not a strike of millionaire writers,” Robbins said. “This is a strike of middle-class writers.” 

Jim Solomon, a Community Board 2 member and writer of the ESPN series “The Bronx Is Burning,” joined fellow writers in cheering the show of encouragement from the speakers.

“It’s inspiring to see so many elected officials coming out in support and solidarity,” he said as writers held up “On Strike” signs. 

Other speakers at the rally included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressmember Anthony Weiner, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and actors Evan Handler of “Sex and the City” and Joe Pantoliano of “The Sopranos.”

Tuesday was the strike’s 23rd day. A writers strike in 1988 lasted five months. Writers are striking for a proportionate share of income from “new” media, such as DVDs and streaming content on the Internet.

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