Speaking outside Amazon Studios in Culver City, California last week to a crowd of striking actors, writers and Amazon delivery drivers, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien spotlighted the growing prominence of cross-union solidarity in the United States.
“The great thing that’s happening right now in the labor movement, we are for one time — and I’ve been a Teamster for 33 years — collaborating with each other in a power collaboration to truly effectuate change,” O’Brien said.
Citing Amazon’s powerful role in both the logistics and entertainment industries, O’Brien called the tech behemoth a “common enemy.” (This spring, 84 Amazon drivers in Southern California unionized with Teamsters Local 396 and have been on strike since June 24 over alleged unfair labor practices.)
“We can have our arguments amongst ourselves right here and that’s okay,” the Teamsters president said to the assembled picketers from multiple unions. “But… we identify who our common enemies are and… we make certain they understand that you take one of us on, you take all of us on.”
Since July 14, 160,000 film and television actors with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have been on strike alongside 11,000 screenwriters with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), who themselves have been on strike since May 2.
The two unions are fighting to secure new contracts from the big studios and streamers that include improvements around job security, healthcare and residuals, as well as protections from the use of artificial intelligence.
The Teamsters and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) — the unions representing Hollywood’s “below-the-line” workers such as camera operators, gaffers, costumers, makeup artists, mechanics, drivers and others — have repeatedly expressed solidarity with the striking writers and actors.
About the Author: Jeff Schuhrke is a labor historian, educator, journalist and union activist who teaches at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies, SUNY Empire State University in New York City. He has been an In These Times contributor since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSchuhrke.
This partial blog was originally posted in full at In These Times on July 25, 2023.