YouTube video

Bob Batz Jr., who has been on strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since October 2022, and Bethany Anne Lind, a SAG-AFTRA actor who has been on strike since July 2023, speak with TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez in a worker solidarity livestream. From logistics and auto manufacturing to higher education, hospitality, and entertainment, workers across industries are fighting back against corporate greed and exploitation, and fighting for the dignity and security they deserve. If we want to see workers win these fights, however, and if we want to see the labor movement grow, then we need to mobilize and sustain support for them.

Links to strike/hardship funds:
– Support Striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Workers:
– Emergency Financial Assistance and Disaster Relief Fund for SAG-AFTRA Members:
– Entertainment Community Fund:
– Talent Supporting Talent:

Production: David Hebden, Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino, Kayla Rivara


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Speaker 1:

Good. There we go.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Welcome, everyone to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us.

From logistics and auto manufacturing to higher education, hospitality, and entertainment, workers across industry are fighting back against corporate greed and exploitation and fighting for the dignity and security that we all deserve.

In the past year alone, we have seen major strikes, unionization efforts, and high stakes contract fights at UPS, at the University of California, performers at Medieval Times, locomotive manufacturers at Wabtec in Pittsburgh represented by the United Electrical Workers just ended their two month strike with a new contract.

Meanwhile, thousands of hospital workers at Kaiser Permanente just voted to authorize a strike. Hollywood writers, of course, with the Writers Guild of America, have been on strike since May. Let’s not forget, unionized Starbucks workers around the country who have yet to reach a first contract at any store continue to take collective action to combat the company’s rampant union busting.

Also, workers at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland are currently on strike. Hospitality workers with UNITE HERE have been on strike at hotels across southern California.

All eyes are currently on the United Auto Workers, as they negotiate their master agreement with the Big Three automakers. Their current contract expires on September 14th. It is very possible that we will see a strike in the auto industry later this month.

Something is happening here. The class war is heating up. Everyone wants to know where things will go next, but as we always say here at The Real News Network, we all have a role to play in shaping the outcome here. All of us have a stake in these struggles. What happens next depends on what we do right now.

If we want to see workers win these fights, and if we want to see the labor movement grow, because the more that we win, the more that other folks will be emboldened to get into the fight, then we need to mobilize and sustain support for them until they achieve victory.

As exciting as it is to see big potential strikes on the horizon, like at UAW and Kaiser Permanente, we cannot forget about our fellow workers who have been on strike, and who have been holding the line for months or even longer.

With so many strikes and workers struggles taking place all around us, we need to maintain continued, consistent, up-to-date coverage. We need to be checking in regularly with our fellow workers who are holding the line. We need to hear directly from them about these struggles, how they’re developing, and what they need from us to keep fighting and to win.

That is why moving forward, we at The Real News Network, are committed to hosting these worker solidarity livestreams every other week. Earlier this year, we were doing them once a month but, clearly, the need is greater and we are going to meet that need.

We will be bringing y’all more voices from the frontlines of struggle. We’re going to be bringing together panels of folks involved in these different struggles, so you need to watch this space.

Like we did ahead of the potential Teamsters strike at UPS, we’ve got an all-UAW panel coming later this month, ahead of what could be a potential auto industry strike.

Today, we’re going to get things rolling with another special panel with some folks who have been holding the line and need our support. I just want to stress to everyone watching, first of all, thank you for being here, thank you for caring, and if you want to donate to the strike funds for the strikes that we’re going to cover today, we have links in the show description to this livestream that you can go to and you can donate right now. Please share the stream, share those links, do whatever you can to show support.

All right. Let’s get to it. Today, I’m honored to be joined on the livestream by Bob Batz Jr., who has been on strike at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette since October of 2022. I’m also joined by Bethany Anne Lind, a SAG-AFTRA actor, who has been on strike, since July 2023.

Bob, Bethany, thank you so much for joining us today at The Real News Network, I really appreciate it.

Bob Batz, Jr.:

Thank you for having us, Max. Thanks for remembering us.

Maximillian Alvarez:

You got it, brother. We are here to the bitter end. We will not forget about y’all, and I am begging folks, as I already did, and I’m going to keep doing throughout this livestream, please, please, please do not forget about our fellow workers at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, WGA, SAG-AFTRA, Medieval Times, so on and so forth. We can make this happen. We can keep the pressure up, but we cannot forget about them.

Speaking of not forgetting, I know that there’s still a lot happening in the country and beyond right now. The news cycle never ends. I wanted to take this first round as an opportunity to just refresh everyone’s memories about these two crucial struggles, the SAG-AFTRA strike and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette strike, which involves multiple unions, and, as I said, has been going on since October.

Bob, I want to start with you, and I want to ask if we could first just reintroduce yourself to the great Real News viewers and listeners, tell us a bit about yourself, and could you give us just a rundown of what led us to the point of this strike. We’re going to talk about what it’s been like for the many months that y’all have been on strike in the next round but just before we get there, let’s make sure everyone has the context that they need to remember what brought us to the point of these strikes at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and SAG-AFTRA actors across the Hollywood industry. Bob, take it away.

Bob Batz, Jr.:

It’d be my pleasure. Feel free to interrupt or guide me. I’ll try to keep it brief.

One of the difficulties about our strike is it goes back years before it was actually a strike. It’s very complicated, it’s multiple unions, as you said, Max, but my one beginning point to our strike is I’m a longtime journalist, I’m a feature writer, an editor, a photographer, a content producer, I’ve worked in Pittsburgh since the mid-’80s, I’ve worked at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which is a major daily news operation here for 35 years, something like that, 30 years.

I’ve got a 16 year old son, and my last contractual raise is older than he is. Workers in Pittsburgh haven’t got a contractual raise since 2007. Fast-forward to 2017 when our last contract expired, and this is for multiple unions, because we bargained together back in the day, so you have people like me that write and edit, you have people who drive the trucks, the Teamsters here in Pittsburgh, you have mailers, you have pressmen, and you have advertising workers. Those are the five unions at the Post Gazette that are all in this together.

Our last contract expired in 2017. We tried to bargain, we tried to come to a deal, year after year on that. We’ve always come to deals over the past decades, that our union has been around for 67 years, we always came to deals, sometimes that meant giving up a lot of concessions, millions of dollars of concessions and we did that, we got it done. Other unions did the same thing.

This time, the company said, “We are at an impasse” in 2020. “We can’t bargain anymore. This is how it’s going to be. We’re going to impose conditions on you guys”, and so there’s not much we could do about that. We had conditions imposed on us. We lost a lot of the things that we had bargained for over decades, so did the other unions. We were still trying to get contracts done, reach agreements, and in October of 2022 … It’s bad when you have to go back a year on your strike, again, don’t recommend it. Bethany, you’re, at least, in 2023 still.

In the fall of 2022, this company decided that it wasn’t going to pay an agreed upon $19 increase in these other workers’ healthcare plan. They wanted to put them on the company plan that we, journalists, had already been put on, just forced on, basically, when they imposed conditions.

These other unions went on strike in early October. We did not. The journalists did not even know we’re like a sister union to, especially, the CWA unions, because we’re a unit of the CWA as well. We were in the middle of a federal case, basically, with MLRB on our own issues that we had with this company, and we thought we were going to be successful on that. It was a very odd wrinkle at the start of our strike where we’re like, “We love you, brothers and sisters, but we’re not going … We support you but we’re in the middle of trying to help us all with this federal case, so we’re not going to go on strike yet”, but we joined them on October 18th on our own unfair labor practice issues.

I worked until noon on that day, finished my Sunday section and my stories and my photographs and did them as good as I always could, and then I went downstairs and put on a picket sign. I told my bosses, “You know where I’m going to be at noon, because that’s where I have to be.” That’s put me where I am right now, like you said, almost 11 months ago.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Man, it’s just wild, to me, and I would highly recommend for folks who want to know more about the Post Gazette strike, you can go back and watch previous livestreams that we’ve done, including one with Bob as well as one of his coworkers.

We also did a great extended interview on my podcast Working People, which we publish here at The Real News, with Bob’s colleague, the great Steve Mellon. If you haven’t listened to that, you can go onto The Real News, find that, and listen to that conversation. I also had Steve and Bob on for a segment at Breaking Points, one of my Art of Class War segments there, so you can go watch there.

The info is there, I’m begging y’all to go take advantage of it, because the more you learn about this strike, I promise you, the more pissed off you’re going to get, especially with the papers’ owners.

Before we toss it to Bethany, I just wanted to ask about that, Bob, if I could, because it’s something that y’all have mentioned before, that the media industry is not doing great, in general. National Geographic just laid off all of its staff. We have been seeing these newsrooms close, like the Texas Tribune, solidarity with all the laid off journalists who just got the terrible news last week about what’s happening to that paper.

It is a bloodbath across the industry, but this is a trend that we are seeing, a mindset from the owners that is destroying the Fourth Estate, essentially, like a vital pillar of democracy is a free press. Our free press is dying under the weight of corporate greed, a busted advertising model, so on and so forth, so I just wanted to ask, we don’t have to go into the deep history here but could you say a little bit about how the trajectory of the paper itself has changed with the new ownership in recent years?

Bob Batz, Jr.:

We’ve talked about this before, Max, that’s certainly true. The industry has its struggles and it has for a long time now, but it also is rife with corporate greed. A lot of these local newspapers, including last week and the week before, are getting bought out by venture capital firms that make them smaller and sell their newsrooms and squeeze every bit of money out of them that they can, and that’s something different than changing readership habits, and advertising models.

In our own strike, and this is one of the things that’ll piss you off about our strike, especially if you’re in it, is at the so-called bargaining table, the company will say, “This isn’t about money. This isn’t that. It’s not that we can’t afford to give you healthcare. It’s not that we can’t afford to give you raises. We’re just not going to do it. That’s not something we’re willing to do. That’s not an economic concession that we’re willing to make.”

We’ve had that line given to us so many times over all these years, that our company has its challenges, but our company is bigger than just the newspaper and it owns a whole bunch of cable TV outlets across northern Ohio that make shit tons of money.

There’s money there for some of this stuff. In our case, and this is the case with some other strikes, this strike that’s cost the company millions of dollars, and who knows what the non-monetary costs have been to their brand and to its reputation, but the strike could have been settled for $70,000 could have paid for these other workers’ healthcare costs for a while.

The things that we’re asking for, which we’ve been very public about, they’re written down, we haven’t changed that, they’re very affordable. Again, I think our strike is actually one of the ones that is a very good exemplar of corporate greed, and they don’t even try to lie that it’s about money. If you’re in the media industry, it’d be very easy to do that but they don’t say anything except we don’t want to pay you, we don’t want to give you this, we don’t want you, and that’s what we’re dealing with.

Maximillian Alvarez:

We’re going to get to this later, but the NORB has always ruled that the owners of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette are bargaining in bad faith, that they are not actually fulfilling their obligations as employers according to labor law in this country, but, apparently, in this country, that doesn’t mean jack shit. You can just keep stonewalling at the bargaining table, you can keep refusing to bargain, you can keep waiting your workers out, hoping that they starve, that they lose their houses, that they have to move and find other jobs, and, ultimately, in my personal opinion, I think the owners of the Post Gazette have made it very clear that their end goal is to crush the unions. They don’t want to be a union newspaper. They would like to demoralize and, ultimately, decertify these unions, so that they could, effectively, do whatever they want.

Again, I’m speaking for myself. That’s just what I have gleamed from watching what these owners have been doing throughout this strike, and even before.

Speaking of corporate greed, and speaking of another side of the media and entertainment industry, I’m super excited to have Bethany on The Real News for the first time today, because a lot of folks have been asking us about what’s going with the Hollywood strikes.

As we know, writers, Hollywood writers with the Writers Guild of America East and West have been on strike since May, and they were joined by their industry coworkers in the Screen Actors Guild earlier this summer for the first time in 60 years.

The last time the actors and writers were on strike together was when Ronald Reagan was the president of SAG, so that should give you an indication of how seismic this moment is.

Bethany, I wanted to bring you in here and ask if you could start by introducing yourself to the good livestream viewers and listeners. Tell us a bit about how you got into acting and what your experience has been like in the industry. As best you can, because I don’t want to put it all on you but just give us a bit of a refresher on what led to y’all in SAG hitting the picket line and joining the WGA on this strike.

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yeah. Thanks for having me. SAG-AFTRA is a member of 160,000 people, so it’s a huge union that encompasses people who work as principal performers but also background performers and stunt performers and dancers, so it’s an enormous union that needs a lot of things, so I speak, for myself, as a member but not in any official capacity, obviously.

Yeah. I started as a theater actor, and I live in Atlanta actually, so I am not one of the Hollywood elite, if you will, but I started acting when the film industry came to Georgia, because tax incentives were passed here and a huge industry just sort of exploded here about 10 years ago and …

Bethany Anne Lind:

… exploded here about 10 years ago, and it was a great way for me to get my foot in the door without having to go to a place where I didn’t really feel like I wanted to live. I get to live in a place that is home to me. So leading up to these strikes, it’s been really, really fascinating. I’ll just go over a few of the main points of what we’re fighting for, but there are a lot, because what’s been happening in the last, really since that strike 60 years ago, is just a stripping away of needs and rights for workers in the film industry as a whole, but as an actor, particularly today.

One of those things is what we call scale, which is the base rate that they are allowed to pay us as actors, which a lot of people know is a thousand dollars a day or four to 5,000 a week depending on the contract, which sounds like a lot of money if actors were working five days a week, 50 weeks a year. But we’re not, or at least not for pay that often. A lot of our work is being sent on auditions. I’ve never done the numbers on how many jobs I actually book per audition that I tape because I think it would be too depressing, but there’s a big difference between how many auditions you’re taping and how many jobs you have. So I might spend a week taping three or four auditions for larger roles where I’m spending a full work week researching, memorizing, setting up my home studio, which I now basically have to have or pay someone to tape me, and I wouldn’t obviously be paid for that work. All I’m doing is sending that in for them to decide if they want to hire me or not.

So that base rate, that scale is very important because it has to hold you for a long time often. And another number that gets thrown around a lot, but I think it’s important, is we have to make $26,470 a year to qualify for health insurance. And that’s not even enough to live on in most of the markets where we are, or probably anywhere, where we are filming. And only 12.5% of SAG-AFTRA actors qualify for health insurance every year. So the amount of money that people are making most actors in SAG-AFTRA, it’s not a living wage.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Can I hover on that for just one second?

Bethany Anne Lind:

Please do.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Because I want to drill this home for everyone watching. Because it’s been… We don’t have to get into this right now, I just want to be upfront with people watching and listening is that, you guys know me here on The Real News for my podcast Working People for my segment at Breaking Points, I try to cover as many labor struggles as I possibly can. And I’m generally really encouraged by the way that… Workers’ struggles, our fellow workers fighting for their livelihoods, the dignity that we all deserve, fighting against corporate greed. This manages to, I think, bridge a lot of political divides. It enables people from different sides of the political spectrum, different backgrounds to come together in a sense of common struggle because we realized that we all work for a living.

And there are, as the great speech in the movie made once, since we’re talking about Hollywood says, I’m paraphrasing, but, “There are two kinds of people in this world, people who work, people who don’t.” You work, they don’t. The people at the other end of the bargaining table, whether that be at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or the Hollywood Studios, they’re on one side, the rest of us are on another.

But I give all that preamble to say that I’ve been very disappointed and am frustrated with how much the culture war bull shit has infected people’s brains, and I have found it very hard to get people to show as much solidarity for the writers and the Hollywood actors as they show for other struggles like at UPS, the UAW, so on and so forth. And I understand there are reasons for that. There are a lot of parts about Hollywood that we don’t like. I promise you writers and actors don’t like that stuff too, and they’re getting screwed by the same people. But I really want to drive home what Bethany just said, because obviously Hollywood has a huge cultural impact, and we associate Hollywood with the superstars like Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, yada, yada, yada. But what Bethany just said is that less than 15% of SAG-AFTRA members make enough to even qualify for healthcare, which is, what was the number again, 24,000?

Bethany Anne Lind:

$26,470. [inaudible 00:25:04].

Maximillian Alvarez:

That’s poverty. That’s the poverty line. So the vast majority of members of this union aren’t even reaching that threshold. So before you jump into the live chat or go talk to your friend about how this is all just a bunch of rich, elite actors, take that point to heart. And you’re going to learn more about this struggle because I’m about to shut up and toss it back to Bethany, but I just wanted to make that point.

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yeah, I think that’s so interesting because I’ve been encouraged overall because I was afraid when this strike started that the media was going to be by and large just covering movie stars, who by the way, don’t particularly need the union. They negotiate way above scale, and they bring their own negotiating power to the table. It’s working class people like me who need my union to fight for me. But there is a lot of having to perform a degree of success even before you have it that I think also works against us in times these where… I’ve been to plenty of red carpet events where I spent a chunk of my paycheck to rent a dress and gotten my picture taken, and it looked like I was a very successful person, and in that moment I am. And success means all kinds of things besides money, of course, but there is a degree to which you have to perform success in order to achieve success. And so it’s really hard to remind people that that performance isn’t always what’s actually happening in one’s bank account.

But I’ll go back to some of the… Just a couple other points that we’re fighting for. One of those things is residuals. About 10 or so years ago when the streaming platforms were very new, they were being called a new media in our contract, and we were sort of giving them a break while they figure this streaming thing out. And if you follow some of the folks from Orange is the New Black, which was obviously the first big hit streaming show, they’ll share what they are making in residuals and it’s mind-blowingly pitiful. And the contract has not been updated to any meaningful degree with the streaming services. They’re just vastly taking advantage about what they pay us and also the residuals that they get. They also do not release their numbers of how many people are watching any show at any given time or their network at all, which makes it very hard to negotiate when you don’t know exactly how many people are watching. So I know one of the things the writers have asked for is to know the numbers and they will not come around on anything in that regard.

Yeah, there are a lot of other things that relate to particular performers. One thing for me is geographic discrimination. I have seen it in my own paychecks and also with friends where you have a similar size role to someone else on the show, a similar resume, and the other person will be brought to Georgia from LA to film, and that person will be making sometimes almost double what we’re making here, not to mention they’re being flown and housed and given per diem. And it’s real hard to get them to get around that. It’s a very take it or leave it attitude. You should be grateful to have this job, and if you don’t want it, we’ll move on to the next person. I’ve literally been told that quite a few times.

My favorite example is Marvel comes to Georgia, they bring their movie stars, they bring their directors, they get all set up here, then they send out the auditions to Georgia actors. And it will say on the audition, “You must be willing to work for scale only, we will not negotiate with you,” which is just ludicrous that you’re not even allowed to negotiate with Marvel. You’re just supposed to be grateful that you’re getting a job in their universe. So it’s exploitation like that. Actors are just primed to be taken advantage of because we do love what we do, and most of us didn’t even get into it to get rich or famous or anything like that. Contrary to popular belief, we want to do the work, but we also see these huge bonuses given to CEOs, and we see the money and the viewership, and we just want our fair piece of it, that’s all.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yeah, I think that’s beautifully and powerfully put. And before we turn things back to Bob to talk about what it’s been like for y’all since these strikes began, I’d be remiss, and I know if I didn’t ask about, and I know that folks in the live chat are going to be asking about it, but like you said, Bethany, there’s a lot of issues here. The union covers a lot of different folks doing a lot of different kinds of work in the industry. But one of the biggest, next to the residuals and streaming model, has been everyone’s freaking out about AI and what that is going to mean for a range of industries. This even includes Bob and mys industry. What is that going to mean for journalism and copywriting and so on and so forth? There are already outlets that are trying to produce AI generated or assisted articles.

It’s a really interesting moment that we’re in, and I think a lot of people were taken aback to learn from the writers and now the actors strike that this is a really big issue. Not necessarily saying that AI is taking over Hollywood as such, or that the technology is there to do what the studios say it can do or what they want it to do, but essentially what the studios want to ensure is that they have carte blanche to do whatever the fuck they want with AI when the technology is ready. So I just wanted to ask, because it’s been such a sticking point for people, how does AI enter this story? What does it mean for you all on the actor’s side in these negotiations?

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yeah, it’s scary just like it is in every industry. I mean, the craziest thing that the AMPTP came back with was they offered to scan background actors and give them a day rate, which is maybe $150, and they would be able to use that background actor in anything, anytime, anywhere, forever. That’s the kind of thing they want to do. That’s the kind of thing they want to be able to do. And it blows my mind that we are an industry that tells the stories of the human experience, we reflect humanity back to itself, and they literally would take the human beings out of all of it if they could, because it would be cheaper. They can’t, and I truly don’t believe that it would be the same thing, have the same influence or effect. But that’s what these people want to do, and the fact that we have to go ahead and get it in writing that they won’t be able to, it’s pretty wild.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yeah, you’re not kidding, man. I mean, we’re going to do more in depth coverage on the AI labor question here at The Real News. So I promise folks watching and listening that more of that is coming, so stay tuned for that. But I did want to get that question in before we move on. And in this next round, I want to just sort of talk, frankly, with both of you, about how it’s been for you and your coworkers since you hit the picket line. For Bob, that was late October. For Bethany, that was earlier this summer, right? But as I said, there’s been a lot going on. The country was kind of expecting a potential UPS strike, there were practice pickets going on around the country. We still got wars going on across the world, economic ups and downs, Trump indictments, a presidential election, so there’s a lot happening.

But while all of that is happening, Bethany and Bob are still on strike. Every day they’re still on strike. And every day it can feel like a week, especially if and when people stop paying attention. But you can also be sustained to hold the line one day longer, one day stronger if you get more support, if people don’t forget about you, so on and so forth. So I wanted to ask y’all, while we’re all here on the call, if you could just say a bit about what it’s been like for you on strike all these months. What do you think folks out there watching and listening who maybe have never been on strike need to know about what that entails. And also what developments have we seen, if any, from these respective struggles?

I mean, I mentioned earlier that it’s very clear to me at least that the owners of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette want to delay, demoralize and ultimately decertify these unions until they don’t have to deal with them anymore, hence where they’ve been on strike for 10 plus months. But the AMPTP, the studio directors or the studio bosses in Hollywood, they’ve also said that they want to wait out the writers and the actors. There are all these leaked comments from executives saying, “Yeah, we’re going to wait until they start losing their apartments and losing their healthcare and going poor, because that’s just what we want to do.” So Bob, I’m going to toss it back to you. Yeah, tell us what it’s been like for you on strike. What do you think people need to know about that experience of 10 plus months on strike, and what if any developments have occurred in that time to bring this strike to a resolution?

Bob Batz, Jr.:

I think my answer is the same as when we talked the last time, Max, it sucks. And I can elaborate on that, but I do want to touch on something that Bethany brought up that I think, you started out by talking about how workers have certain things in common, and listening to her talk, there’s certain parallels with her industry and our industry where these struggles start way before the strike starts. We’re getting taken advantage of for years and decades sometimes. And the thing that I see that’s similar is that these are both really kind of fun jobs, you get some access, you feel a little bit special. A lot of people think it’s cool to be on the sideline of a high school football game or a professional sports game, or they like to get flown out to the bowl game when…

Bob Batz, Jr.:

… or they like to get flown out to the bowl game when their local university plays. And I think there’s a lot of people that are lower level but that still have… there’s sort of that shine to the job and they’re willing to do it for not very much money in the first place. So when they come for you and they try to take more away, you’re like, “Well, I really do need to live here. I do need to eat. I do need to have a place to stay.”

But that’s similar… And the star thing, A lot of people who hate the media hate the pundits and the anchors and the big name men and women, and the media is a bunch of people going to school board meetings that need to be covered in high school football games like I’ll be doing on Friday.

So there’s these different tiers to it, but I think a lot of us were getting taken advantage of even before we went on strike, and that certainly was the case for us. So yeah, it has sucked to be on strike for almost 11 months.

A couple of things that I feel every minute of it and that I repeat to people, my nice neighbors, my good friends always ask me about how it’s going, if there’s any news, and I always appreciate that; it’s better than them acting like there’s no strike going on. But it wears you down in the sense, and I know we talked about this, Max, and Steve, my colleague Steve Mil and I talked about it too, you’re never off. If you work and you work really hard, you could work six days of 20 hour days and at least you’re off on the seventh day and you can catch your breath.

When you’re on strike. You’re never not on strike. You’re always on strike 24/7. And it takes a while to get your head around what that means, but it is a grind. It’s very hard to be on strike this long.

But the other thing that I’ve realized, I would’ve said this in the first month of our strike or the first week, I’m on strike because I knew I was right, I know I’m right. I know that… We got a federal administrative law judge to rule that our workers are right, that our company has broken federal law on multiple counts just about on every count, but one that we charged them with, and then the company appealed it again. That was in January that we were told that we’re right.

And we’re still, as you alluded to Max, there’s no… The NLRB, which is working with us, and they took up our case, they don’t have any enforcement powers. So you can be right, but you’re still on strike.

But no, we are surviving on strike benefits from our union, the CWA News Guild. A lot of people are surviving from donations that are coming in from little old ladies and big unions and other supporters to our strike fund that we’ll talk about later, and supporting us in other ways too. It’s not just a financial thing, but it’s a very complex mental health…

It hits on every level when you’re trying to last, even… I don’t want to dismiss how long Bethany’s been on strike. We got you there a little bit on time, but being on strike since July is no picnic either, and I know it comes with all those same things.

But if you’re right and you’re on strike, you can’t change. I don’t even want to be on strike, but there’s no exit strategy because I’m still right, the company’s still wrong. I would never cross my own picket line much less anybody else’s, and I don’t want to give up on my striking workers.

We slowly… You lose people over a long strike like this. There’s some people that have to go get jobs, or they got to move on with their lives. So we shrink a little bit, but you bond with these people that literally, I don’t know, we all throw around the term, “I’ve got your back,” there’s people that they’ve got my back front and sides, and I would die for some of these people because they’re dying for me and some of these other workers in Pittsburgh, not just in our union, not just workers that are on strike. Because with our strike, we want to help the people that are undermining us by going to work every day at our company and for our paper.

And so we’re going to help them. I don’t think at seven o’clock tonight, that’s going to be my biggest priority. But I know that by being on strike, I want to help everybody and I want to help the media industry, that’s not hokey. If we can hold the line here and make a living wage and get some of the things that aren’t asking for that much, we might help keep some other people covering high school football games, making more than $25 a game.

It’s all tied into that. And our struggle is tied into you guys’ struggle. And even though the unions seem like they’re vastly different, but we sort of do the same thing. But yeah, it’s hard and there are ways that people support us and just you don’t have to send a check. Checks can be nice, but kind of knowing that we’re on strike…

The last thing I’ll say, because I want to come back to it later, Max knows this, but a couple of days after we went on strike in Pittsburgh, we’re the journalists, we’re the people that make the paper. We write stories, we edit them, we take photographs, we cover high school football and city council meetings and presidential visits and you name it. And we decided that we were going to withhold our labor based on our situation in Pittsburgh of having a company not even talk to us, not bargain, impose conditions, take away healthcare, take away money.

A lot of us lost salary, such as it was when they imposed conditions. We lost short-term disability. They took a bunch of stuff from us that we had legally agreed they were going to give us.

One thing they weren’t going to take away from us is our advocation. We were, and we still are journalists, so we started up what we called the first digital strike paper ever. Strike papers are something that have a great history, but there hadn’t been a big newspaper strike for like 20 years. And when we decided we were going to keep doing what we do, we didn’t have to figure out how to print it or deliver it. We just fired up a WordPress site. And we went on strike on the 18th of October, and by October 20th we had launched the Pittsburgh Union Progress, which was our strike paper.

And it was our way of doing exactly what we did before we went on strike, just doing it for ourselves and doing it for no pay, which is not as much fun as getting paid for it, but that’s one thing that we’ve done to… A big part of it is keeping our sanity, and keeping our identities, and keeping our shit together.

It has tactical purposes and it helps us tell our own story, and it helps us tell other stories. My colleague Steve, that Max knows, did a wonderful big story about local actors in SAG-AFTRA and how this impacts them and how they’re not people you know of, even though they’re very accomplished, but they’re not Tom Cruise.

And that was a story that was just… It was a great story to read. Steve’s photographs were great. I’ll send that to you Bethany later, or anyone can look it up at our site But if you can find ways to still do the thing you do while you’re on strike, which takes a lot of time just to be on strike. Not working, it turns out to be a lot more work than you would ever imagine. I’m sure Bethany can tell us about that too.

But I’ll gladly work unpaid overtime on my strike paper because that’s what I do. And I’m not going to let some greedy company tell me whether I do that or not. I’m just going to try to get them to pay me if I do do it for them.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Hell yeah. I cannot stress enough to people watching and listening how amazing of an accomplishment it is that Bob and his colleagues have maintained this strike paper, the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Which again, I want to remind folks the link to that is in the YouTube description for this live stream. So please go support it because this is an incredible story.

Striking journalists who are making no money are still doing vital journalism for the community and publishing it on their own strike paper. And Bob’s not lying, the stuff that they’ve been doing, these are accomplished trained journalists doing what they do best. They have covered in more depth than most national media the ongoing catastrophe in East Palestine, Ohio, and the Pennsylvania side of that, the SAG-AFTRA strike, Starbucks workers, local issues across the board. They have maintained coverage even while on strike.

And you can support them by supporting that magazine, by supporting that strike paper. You can donate through there to the strike fund. You could buy advertisements, so on and so forth. But if you want to check that out, the link for it is in the show description along with links to the strike funds at SAG-AFTRA and the Entertainment Workers Community Fund, which is for entertainment workers across the board, who are being impacted by the strike, even if they are not on strike with SAG-AFTRA or the WGA.

Okay, so we got a little more time left. So Bethany, I wanted to toss it to you and ask if you could say a bit about what it’s been like for you on strike since y’all hit the picket line in July. Give us a sort of breakdown of what it’s been like for y’all out there in Atlanta, what you’ve been hearing from folks at the picket lines on the East Coast, the West Coast, and what support you’ve been getting, and what developments, if any, have occurred in that time.

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yeah, I’d say the strike officially started on July 13th, but the industry itself has been slow all year. And like I said before, we only work so often. So even the opportunities for jobs had vastly diminished since I’d say January, February of this year. I have not worked a film or TV job since February.

But that also goes to say that we are used to feasts and famines. It’s kind of like the people that won’t negotiate with us have trained us for this. You can’t starve people when they’re not working when you’ve trained them by starving them while they’re working for you; it doesn’t make any sense.

So I mean, so many actors have side hustles, have day jobs. I hate to see some of the best actors I know who are not household names, but just such good actors are working at Trader Joe’s and getting their health insurance that way and doing other things. I’m about to start doing a play because we are not on strike with Actors’ Equity through our stage union, thankfully. So I love what you said, Bob, about finding the ways to do the things that you were born to do that you love to do. So I’m so grateful I’ll have that outlet soon.

In Atlanta, we are not allowed to picket because we don’t have an actual AMPTP presence here. Even though we have studios built here, there’s no actual, I guess, member there. So we are not allowed to picket. But we have been doing a lot of solidarity rallies, things like that, where we’ve had, I think about 1,000 people at each one come and give speeches. And I feel for my brothers and sisters in LA and New York watching them in the heat on those picket lines. And man, just sending my solidarity every chance I can get with them.

But the truth is we know how to survive. We know how to pay our bills outside of what we depend on them already. It is hard. It is not fun, especially I feel bad, I feel a degree of guilt even with our IATSE brothers and sisters who work on crews and people that are just out of work because of this. But I keep emphasizing, “When it’s your turn, we have your back too. We will strike again with you or we will gladly be out of work again when you strike for what you need.”

Because these people just keep taking and taking and taking. And as has also been said by Bob, when you have the righteous cause, when you know that you’re not going to settle for the crumbs that they toss you anymore, you don’t have a choice and you’re glad to make it. And I imagine if this goes on for 11 months, you’re going to see a lot more just people making creative things on their own that don’t rely on those, I’m not going to say it, but the people who hold the purse strings.

I think you’re just going to see a lot of creativity. I think there’s a weariness and a grief to it for sure. There’s a grief that like, “Oh, they really don’t value me.” Every time I negotiate a contract I do sort of feel that. But then you get on a set and people are nice working with other workers like you, but there’s a grief to just seeing it so plainly that they don’t value what you do. They don’t value your humanity, they don’t value all of your friends and collaborators. And when it comes down to it, that grief turns into rage, which turns into action and solidarity because there is no other way out of this except winning.

Maximillian Alvarez:

That’s very powerfully put. And I just wanted to quickly ask Bethany, just because I know folks are wondering what does the industry look like right now? Folks are wondering, “What’s this going to mean for the fall lineup? What is this going to mean for movie production, streaming?”

I guess just if you could give a quick summary of what the industry looks like right now. You rightly mentioned, this is another really important point that I want to stress for people, is in the same ways that the Hollywood studios have been able to weaponize divisions within the industry to kind of foment division, because you’ve got IATSE workers working on the set, you’ve got teamster workers doing various different jobs, delivering stuff to different sets. You’ve got SAG-AFTRA members, you’ve got animation guild folks, there’s a lot of people working in Hollywood, but they can all be pitted against one another.

And when you have a strike like this where, say the writers and the actors are on strike, that still shuts down production for other people who would be working on those productions. And so the studios are hoping that those divisions will sort of eat away internally.

But in fact, what we’re seeing is an incredible amount of solidarity with WGA and SAG-AFTRA and others like working to raise money for their affected coworkers in other unions. My colleague Mel Buer has a great extensive piece about this coming out at the Real News later this week where she’s been on the ground in LA covering the different solidarity efforts to keep other workers in the industry afloat.

And like Bethany said, when those workers are negotiating their contracts and could potentially be on strike, the only way to counteract that manufactured division within the industry is broad sustained solidarity. And that’s what we’ve been seeing right now, which is really incredible.

But I wanted to ask Bethany, just like, is production happening, I guess, what should folks understand about where the industry is right now after WGA folks have been on strike since May, and y’all have been on strike since mid-July?

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yeah, so much was shut down when WGA went on strike, but they were still kind of holding out as long as they could, allegedly without any writers on the sets with them. And then once we joined them, pretty much everything stopped immediately.

They now have an interim agreement, which is being given to productions that have no ties to the AMPTP. So that is starting a little bit more work. And those agreements have stipulated… they’ve basically agreed to literally everything we have asked for. And it also shows these big corporations, “If these smaller productions can do all of this, why can’t you?”

Bethany Anne Lind:

Smaller productions can do all of this, why can’t you? So that is slowly happening. I don’t even know of any around here. I’m hearing of more short films, things like that. As far as what you might be seeing, it’s hard to say. I mean, I know a few of the networks have released fall lineups and there’s a lot of reality TV and Netflix sort of claims that they have a bunch of stuff just waiting to go. I know I was on a show on a streamer that I thought was going to come out over a year ago that hasn’t come. The second half of the season just has not appeared yet. So I think maybe they saw this coming and have held things back. Now, of course, we can’t promote anything for them. So you might have something come out with an actor you follow, but that actor is not going to be telling you about it on Instagram or anything because we aren’t going to promote it for them.

So it’ll be interesting to see what does end up coming out that they’ve just had sitting in the can for a while and how it will get released and promoted and all that without the faces that people recognize promoting it. But I don’t know a whole lot and I also don’t even always know what to believe of what I read because the AMPTP controls so much of the press. Sometimes you’ll read something and just the way it’s worded, you’re like, “That sounds real, I don’t know, pro the producers and I don’t know if I buy it or not.” It’s been interesting trying to filter what you’re getting and who has filtered it before it got to you.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yeah, they’re really trying some shit there because the AMPTP, they also did that thing earlier this month where they leaked the offer that they presented at the bargaining table in the hopes that they could basically go to the public and say, “Look at all the great stuff we’re offering these Hollywood actors and writers.” And it kind of backfired on them because people were like, “Yeah, that’s a shit deal, man. That’s why they’re on strike.” So there’s an interesting yet tug of war in the court of public opinion right now, and that’s where I want to end up actually because we only have a few minutes left here, and you both have been so incredible and I’m so grateful to you for giving us this much of your time while you’re in the midst of these high stakes strikes.

So I don’t want to keep you much longer, but just with maybe the last five or six minutes that we have together, I wanted to ask, what can folks out there do to help, and what do you want to say to people watching and listening right now about why it’s so important for you all to get that outside support?

What can that outside support look like? Are there strike and hardship funds you want to bring up? Are there solidarity efforts that you’ve seen and experienced yourself that you want to lift up? Just anything you wanted to plug at the end here or highlight at the end here stressing to folks watching and listening that what they can do to support and why it’s so important that all of us do show that support for as long as it takes.

Bob Batz, Jr.:

You want to go Bethany first?

Bethany Anne Lind:

Sure. Well, thanks again for just doing this. This is wonderful. You mentioned the Entertainment Community Fund and you said you’ll have a link to that, which is great. That is for anyone in the entertainment industry who is affected by or who is not just affected, but who is in a bad place because of not working. That is one place you can donate. In Atlanta, we started a website called It’s a website of union members in the entertainment industry who offer other services. So a crew member who might know how to help you fix your roof, you can hire them and throw them some work at this point. So that is a mutual aid thing we’ve come up with here. And one thing I’ve mentioned on my own social media is the next time you watch something and something affects you, not who isn’t a star.

Maybe it’s the writing, maybe it’s how something was worded, or maybe it’s an actor who you don’t recognize, look them up and just send them a quick message of thanks or what it meant to you. I have gotten a few things like that where people went out of their way to just be like, “I really liked that little thing and that big thing that you did.” And it means so much because at the same time, there will be people who will just because you’re an actor and they think that you are famous, will throw insults at you or try to demean you, literally go out of their way to send you a message and I don’t know, just put some kindness into the world when you can and when you think of it.

Because it really is one of those things that helps the continuation of us being able to remember that what we do is important, the stories we tell are important. And so yeah, we’re not calling for boycotts yet, so that’s not on our plate. I’ve canceled most of my subscriptions because that’s a way I’m going to save a little money right now, but maybe you want to cancel something for a month and go see a play instead. That’s another idea.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Oh, yeah. And again, I just want to stress to everyone watching and listening that we do have links in the show notes for this live stream. So if you’re watching on YouTube and you click the description for this video, you will find links to the Pittsburgh Union Progress, the strike paper that Bob edits and that his coworkers are producing while they’re on strike. You can also donate through the Pittsburgh Union Progress to their strike fund. We also have links for the hardship fund for SAG-AFTRA members, as well as the Economic Community Fund that is for people who are being directly affected by not working at the moment.

I don’t want to say people who are being affected by the strike because again, the studios have pushed workers to strike. So they’re the ones who are responsible for the kind of economic hardship that people are facing right now, and they have the power to end it. But until they do, you can support them by donating through those links on the show description. And Bethany, I just wanted to ask you one more time if you could say the link for the Talent Supporting Talent website.

Bethany Anne Lind:

That’s it,

Maximillian Alvarez:


Bethany Anne Lind:

I’ll double check and get back to you after Bob, but I’ll make sure that’s the right one.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Okay, cool. And we will also make sure to add that link into the show description after this live stream finishes. All right, Bob, with the last few minutes that we’ve got, how can folks keep supporting you all and anything you want to say about why it’s important that we keep that support going?

Bob Batz, Jr.:

Well, thank you Max. And again, thank you. We do have a Pittsburgh Stryker fund. You could find that at We’ve got a donate link at the very top, and that goes to help all the news workers with car payments, rent, groceries, whatever it is that they might need. And we also have an advertising link on there. You can get an ad to support us for very, very cheap. I was trying to make Max a deal he could not refuse, but I’d like to get one of his many platforms on there. He could do it for very cheap because he knows the interim editor. But that’s just one way. I mean, we want people to read our publication. I’m going to send Bethany the local SAG-AFTRA story because I’m quite proud of that. In Pittsburgh, we are a smaller local union, even though we’re part of this global thing right now.

But some public officials and sources and other people have taken a solidarity pledge where they’re like, “We’ll talk to the Post Gazette once they negotiate contracts with their workers. In the meantime, we’re not going to do the interview.” And so that’s something our union has been asking for from the start. Some people have been stalwart in supporting that. And then that makes us at the Union Progress feel even more like we need to cover some of those stories if they’re not talking to the Post Gazette. And that’s high school coaches to the mayor of the city of Pittsburgh to US Congress people. And a lot of people have taken that pledge. We’re doing something new, relatively new. And you can find this on the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh social media online at as we’re not as big as SAG-AFTRA. So we’ve actually had some of our supporters help us with actions.

Besides rallies and those kinds of things, we had people help us call one of our owners, one of the twin millionaire, billionaires that own us and just say, try to get him on the phone to say anything, which is none of the owners of this company have said a thing. So we called them 100 times in the last two weeks and basically didn’t reach him most of the time. A couple of times we reached it, they’d made a joke out of answering it by the name of a Toledo, Ohio pizza place, which did not make any of us that happy and seemed to give us a little glimpse at to how serious they’re taking more than 100 people’s livelihoods out here. But we’re asking people to do that. We just launched today, we’re having supporters and friends help us, send him some postcards in the mail. He can’t hide from us.

He may not answer his phone or he might joke about it being a pizza place. We sent him a pizza too, by the way, and it was pretty disgusting one. [inaudible 01:08:21] got it. But yeah, there are opportunities to do that kind of stuff. The biggest thing I would say, and I think Bethany’s touched on this, Max always does, and I’ve learned it in almost a year now, support workers don’t cross anybody’s picket line. If Starbucks is on a one-day strike, get your coffee somewhere else. Learn what a picket line means, learn what bargaining is. A lot of us go on strike and we don’t know how this stuff works, but it’s clear that a lot of the public doesn’t know how this stuff works. Even in the middle of hot strike summer or hot labor summer, there’s a lot of people that don’t even know how it works.

So just like everything else, like democracy, get informed, watch programs like this, read these kind of outlets, wander down to an Atlanta SAG-AFTRA rally because you’re sure to learn stuff, and you’re sure to find out that these actors are just like you talking about all the same shit that you’re talking about at your job and your work. And I would love to see, there’s things I care about more than my own situation. And I think that’s another thing about being on strike, Bethany’s the same way, but I hope that out of hot strike summer, there comes some education. People know how this stuff works and why a union matters and why you don’t cross a picket line ever. And those are some of the things that I think have gotten lost. The Starbucks workers here, they’re a lot younger than I am, but they’ve been all in.

They’re leaders in their own companies. Their workers fight in the bigger labor pictures fight, and they’re learning as they go, but it’s not rocket science to know why. You don’t need a really long test to know if something’s right or not. I think you can pretty much pretty quickly get to that answer and then you can do things to support it. And as Bethany said, put some kindness in the world. When I’m not working so hard being on strike, I cannot wait to go support some other worker’s efforts because anytime someone retweet something, calls us, reads a story, sends us $10, I mean, it’s the smallest kindness can really help with this, and we appreciate every single one. So that’s all I got.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Hell yeah, man. I mean, I think that’s all that needs to be said. I mean, for everyone watching and listening, please take Bob and Bethany’s words to heart. Show kindness and solidarity, however you can. As we always say here at The Real News, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something, even if it’s sending a postcard, even if it’s reaching out to an actor or a journalist or an auto worker whose account that you see, hospitality workers.

I mean, just take that extra second to make the connection and to send your love and solidarity and to show and vocalize your support for your fellow worker and don’t ever, ever, ever cross a fucking picket line. And with that, I want to thank once again the great Bob Batz Jr. who has been on strike at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette since October of 2022, and the great Bethany Anne Lind, the SAG-AFTRA actor who has been on strike since July of 2023. Bob, Bethany, thank you both so much for taking the time to join us on this live stream. I really appreciate it. And we are all sending all of our love and solidarity to you and to your coworkers here from Baltimore.

Bob Batz, Jr.:

Thank you, Max. Thank you Bethany, and good luck with your struggle, Bethany. We’re all watching, so we’re still watching you just differently than maybe we wish we were. So yeah.

Bethany Anne Lind:

Yes, thank you so much. Thanks for doing this, Max.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And thank you all for watching. Thank you for caring. Please take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Again, we are going to be doing these worker solidarity live streams more consistently every other week. So please watch this space, like and subscribe to our channel here at The Real News Network. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss any of our other reports, because we got a lot more coming in text, podcast and video form. We are here to the bitter end, and we are going to keep supporting our fellow workers from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and SAG-AFTRA to United Auto Workers, hospitality workers, and beyond. Please join us in this struggle. Thank you for watching. Solidarity forever.

Thank you so much for watching The Real News Network, where we lift up the voices, stories and struggles that you care about most, and we need your help to keep doing this work. So please tap your screen now, subscribe and donate to The Real News Network. Solidarity forever.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
Follow: @maximillian_alv