United Auto Workers (UAW) have continued to ramp up their strike against the Big Three automakers (Ford, GM, and Stellantis) over the past month, with 8,700 workers at Ford’s immensely profitable Kentucky Truck Plant joining the 25,000 workers already on strike at assembly plants and parts distribution centers across the country earlier this month. Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA strikers continue to hold the line after the Writers Guild of America concluded their strike, even as negotiations with the Hollywood studios have stalled. In TRNN’s latest Worker Solidarity Livestream, we take you to the frontlines of struggle and hear directly from striking workers themselves. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez speaks with Marcie Pedraza, an electrician at Ford Chicago Assembly Plant and member of UAW Local 551, and Diany Rodriguez, a rank-and-file SAG-AFTRA member.
Studio Production: Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
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. Listen, I know there is a lot going on in the world right now and things are getting very dark very quickly, and my heart is truly overcome with grief as I imagine yours are too. Amid all of the madness going on in the world, our small but dedicated team here at The Real News will continue with our work to cover as many stories and struggles as we possibly can. And to that end, today we are bringing you more coverage of the working class rebellion that continues to spread to workplaces and industries across the United States. Over the past month, United Auto Workers have continued to ramp up their strike at the big three auto companies, that’s Ford, GM and Stellantis, calling workers at more plants to hit the picket line.
As Keith Brower Brown recently reported at Labor Notes, “Every Friday for the past four weeks, big three CEOs have waited fearfully for UAW President Shawn Fain to announce which plants will strike next. But without warning, on Wednesday, October 11th, the union threw a haymaker. Within 10 minutes, the UAW would be shutting down the vast Kentucky Truck Plant. This plant on 500 acres outside of Louisville is one of Ford’s most profitable, cranking out full-size SUVs and the Super Duty line of commercial trucks. These 8,700 strikers joined the 25,000 already walking the lines at assembly plants and parts distribution centers across the country in the union’s escalating standup strike.” At the same time, less than two weeks ago, the US experienced the largest healthcare workers strike in our history, although you may not have heard about it, when 75,000 workers with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions went on a three-day strike against the healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente. And that strike led to workers winning a new contract that aims to address staffing shortages with raises that will amount to 21% in wage increases over the next four years to help retain current workers.
And as of this month, October, workers at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, whom we’ve interviewed multiple times here at The Real News, have been on strike and holding the line for a full year, all while the newspaper’s owners continue to stall and refuse to bargain in good faith with their employees. At the same time, while the Writer’s Guild of America have reached a deal with the Hollywood Studios, SAG-AFTRA actors remain on strike and continue to hold the line while negotiations have stalled with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or the AMPTP. At the same time as that, hospitality workers in Southern California have been on strike for months, and 50,000 of their brothers and sisters with Culinary Workers Union Local 226 are prepared to strike and shut down the iconic Las Vegas Strip to get a fair contract, while their hotel casino giant employers like MGM Resorts International, Caesar’s Entertainment and Win Encore Resorts rake in record profits. Sound familiar? And we’re just scratching the surface here.
We also have over 1,300 healthcare workers at PeaceHealth in the Pacific Northwest who are preparing to strike this coming Monday, October 23rd, after Peace Health reportedly walked away from the bargaining table this week. The workers are members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017. PeaceHealth has threatened to take the drastic step of cutting health insurance for these striking workers if their strike lasts into November, and they’re reportedly offering scab workers $8,000 a week, which is twice as much as healthcare workers are currently asking for. As we always do here at The Real News, we’re going to take y’all to the front lines of struggle so that you can hear firsthand from the folks who are fighting these fights, about what they’re fighting for, why it’s important, and what we can all do to help. And I am truly honored to be joined on the livestream today by two working class warriors.
We hope a third will be joining us, but right now on the stream, we’ve got the amazing Marcie Pedraza, a union electrician at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant and member of UAW Local 551. We’re also joined by Diany Rodriguez, a rank-and-file SAG-AFTRA member, and also a driver, eater, and cat lover. And we hope to be joined later on the stream by Jonathan Baker, the executive president of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017. Marcie, Diany, thank you so much for joining me today on The Real News Network, I really appreciate it.
Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Same, thanks for having me.
Well, it’s always great to see you both. It’s really exciting for me, and I hope for our audience as well, because I’ve had the honor of interviewing each of you on separate occasions. Marcie, we did a great big interview before the strike with you and two of your fellow union siblings at different plants. So that was a great podcast we did. I highly recommend folks go check that out if you really want to know what this strike is about. But I got to interview Marcie for that a couple months ago. And I’ve had the honor of interviewing Diany for my Art of Class War segment on breaking points early in the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began this summer. And so I think it’s really important, really cool and really special that we now have you both on the same call, because one of the overarching goals of these worker-solidarity livestreams is to break down the barriers that our bosses, our media, our politicians, and even ourselves put up that prevent us from building bonds of solidarity across industries, across different types of workers and across worker struggles. We need to recognize that we are all working people, we are all fighting for a just and dignified life. The SAG-AFTRA actors, UAW workers, healthcare workers, grad students, strippers, newspaper workers, we all need to fight for ourselves and fight for one another.
So it’s really exciting to have you all on the call. And again, we hope that Jonathan will be able to join us. But either way, I want to just start by giving you all the floor and giving us about five, six minutes each to really just introduce or reintroduce yourselves to the good Real News viewers. So tell us a little bit about yourself, the kind of work that you were doing up until these strikes. And then yeah, just refresh our memories of what led y’all in SAG-AFTRA and the United Auto Workers to take this fateful step and hit the picket line and go on strike. What are these strikes really about? What are the key issues that you want folks watching to remember up top about where these strikes all started and what they’re about? So Diany, why don’t we start with you if that’s okay, and then Marcie, we’ll go to you after.
Sure. Thanks again, Max for having me on. Can you hear me?
I can, but go ahead and speak up a little bit if you can.
I get that all the time. Okay. Yes, so I am Diany Rodriguez. It’s difficult because of the strike to talk specifically about what I was doing before the strike, but I was on two seasons of a network show that I will not name. And sadly enough, and funny enough, my most recent project that I was really proud of dropped literally at the same time and date that we started this strike. So I can’t mention it either, but it’s super fun, and if you IMDB me… What’s funny about the lovely timing of this podcast is that we just had another SAG rally here in Atlanta on Monday night, I believe. So we got a refresher on everything that has gone down over this, I don’t know, hot-labor summer into fair-wage fall, I guess we can call it.
Honestly, I’m not in dire straits. Again, working on a network contract, my residuals have helped carry me through. I am quickly running through my savings, but a big thing that has been important to me to hit is that a lot of my friends, my close acquaintances, people that… I make the joke that I for the last two seasons have been on a show where I was basically a shadow in the background behind the main character. So you can’t really recognize me on site, but I have friends who folks who are maybe not in the industry would think are straight up celebrities, very easily recognizable on site, who are currently working at Trader Joe’s. No shame to Trader Joe’s, I think it’s an amazing job and the benefits are amazing, but there’s been a narrative going on right now that this is the Hollywood elite, and that, “We’re trying to buy our third house, why don’t we just get back to work?”
But the thought that we would be smoked out, or the thought that we could be waited out until we lose our homes, the AMPTP never realized, or I don’t think has put together the fact that we’ve always been jobbers, that we’ve always had multiple gigs in order to make ends meet because we are not all millionaires, only what, 5% of us are millionaires, this guy’s not a millionaire. But the thing that really brought it home to me was that there are people that you would recognize from blockbuster shows on Netflix or on Hulu, that were series regulars that you could recognize onsite, who are going to be taking care of your children, who are going to be bagging your groceries, who are going to be serving your fries. Again, no shame to any of that stuff, but there’s a real disconnect when you’re asking the people who are propping up the business that we as consumers, as humans who love to be entertained, and there’s no shame in loving to be entertained, there’s a real disconnect when you’re asking those people who are making billionaires another set of billions to not even be able to afford their rent. There’s a real disconnect there, and I know that it’s hard to get people on board when they think that we’re all the Hollywood elite, but I guarantee you we are not.
And at our meeting, there was one really beautiful testimonial from a young lady who has been in the union, she said 20 years, and she’s now a single mom because a couple of months ago she lost her husband who was also in the union, who was also a contributing breadwinner. And with the ongoing unwillingness of the AMPTP to come back to the table, because it’s not a SAG strike, it’s an AMPTP work stoppage is what it is. And she lost her husband, she lost his contributions to the pension, she lost his other salary in the home. And now because of the ongoing AMPTP work stoppage, she’s not even making residuals. She’s not able to get money in residuals or get money from pension. And what’s happening now is the actors fund and all of these extra things that we are all putting money into in order to prop ourselves up, it’s a bit gatekeepy. So whereas a lot of us aren’t on our last leg, like I have two or three or four months rent, it would be nice to be able to get to some of that money before I’m one month’s rent, before it’s in dire straits. So now we’re all facing that.
And now the AMPTP has once again refused to come to the bargaining table. It’s not us, it is them. We are here, we are ready, we are willing. And it’s not just us here in Atlanta specifically, it’s Starbucks, it’s Delta, it’s United Airlines, it’s Whole Foods. We have a lot of folks out here in the world who are marching and picketing for fair and equitable wages. Again, not our third, fourth houses, the ability to be able to maybe just have one job, or hell, two jobs, that’d be super great. And I’m sure Marcie and I will echo, I hope, that I want everybody to strike. I want everybody to make fair wages. I’m out there with everybody, not just with SAG. I was with WGA, I’ve attendance of Starbucks strikes. I want everybody to make a fair wage. And I know that it’s difficult to think of actors or people in the industry as blue collar workers, but most of us, we are. So the hope is that with this and with other times that we get out and work and we talk and we put a face on the fight that hopefully it starts to soften some hearts.
Hell yeah. In the next round, I want to circle back to some of what you said, Diany, because I think that was really important, about reframing this not necessarily as a SAG-AFTRA strike, but as an AMPTP lockout, and what you’re hearing from or not hearing from the AMPTP, that is the studio bosses, the folks behind the massive companies, because it’s not just the Hollywood studios anymore, it’s massive tech companies like Apple, like Amazon. We got a whole lot of issues to dig into deeper here, but I’m curious in the next round to talk a little more about those specifics, and also what it’s been like since the Writer’s Guild of America concluded their strike. And my sense is that the AMPTP is essentially hoping that after that everyone will forget about SAG-AFTRA and the pressure will ramp up and y’all will be pressured into accepting a subpar contract. But before we get there, Marcie, I wanted to toss it to you and ask you, for folks who maybe haven’t listened to that podcast we did, if you could introduce yourself to the livestream viewers, tell us a bit about the work you were doing up until the strike, and take a few minutes to remind us what this strike is really about and what’s been going on in Chicago these past few weeks.
Yeah, I’m on strike right now, actually. Again, my name is Marcie Pedraza, I’ve been a union electrician for 24 years, and actually been in the UAW for 10 years, been very active in my union on various committees. I’m also a environmental justice activist on the southeast side of Chicago where I’m from, where aside from fighting toxic polluters in our neighborhood, we were trying to… Well, first as a member of UAWD, Unite All Workers for Democracy, we were trying to get Shawn Fain elected, and then that happened. Then getting ready for this contract campaign, which is the first time in a long time that we’re seeing all these demands from the membership, that we’re fighting for a record contract. As you can see in my background, record profits equal a record contract. Auto workers have given up so much 15 years ago in concessions to the big three. So we’re just fighting for our what’s owed back to us, wage increases, cost-of-living allowance, the end of the tier system. We want pensions, because if you’re hired before 2007, you have a pension. I was hired after, I don’t have a pension.
So things like the right to strike, plant closures, the fight for a 32-hour work week, and the fight for a just transition to electric vehicles just to name a few. And so this is our, for the big three, 34 days into the strike. For me, it’s my 20th day, and I’m just coming to you live from the picket line. I did my strike duty this morning, that’s why I’m probably a little flush, I was by the barrel fires all night. It’s pretty cold in Chicago at right now. And there’s six assembly plants currently on strike, 38 parts distribution centers, for about 34,000 members on strike right now for the big three of UAW. And that could increase at any day. Like you said, the last week’s, I call it the sneak-attack strike for Kentucky Truck Plant, which happened on Wednesday night, because our president Fain said, “Well, why wait until Friday to give them time to come up with these last-minute offers?” And Ford wasn’t budging, and basically gave them the same offer from two weeks ago, and they didn’t even want to meet them face to face in the beginning. So he just got up and said, “You lost Kentucky Truck Plant.” And that was pretty gangster in my opinion.
Yeah, [inaudible 00:19:26] can I ask, how did you and the homies across UAW respond when you heard that news?
I mean, I was just at a meeting at the hall with, we were hosting some auto workers from Brazil who came to town just to show solidarity, three workers, two from GM, one from Embraer, which is an aerospace manufacturer. And we had just had a meeting at the hall. And as soon as that was done, my phone was blowing up, I saw the Twitter announcement, then it went away, then it came back. And that was crazy. Even when we found out in Chicago, I wasn’t working at the time, but I was thinking the day before, it was my weekend, I’m like, “Well, I could be on strike next week, or could be going back to work.” I mean, it was a shock, it’s exciting, it’s stressful. And that really did throw them for a loop, because they’re thinking, “Oh, they haven’t until Friday.” So these live updates that are on Facebook and YouTube. But no, he’s just like, “All right, well, now everybody’s on call or on notice.” And there’s what, a quarter million workers on strike right now across the country, and that number’s just going up every day. So it’s good to see, I’m also calling for a general strike, let’s shut them down because we’re fed up. And as far as the progress or what little progress has been made, I think as far as Ford, cost-of-living allowance, they’re offering to come back, which is great.
As many know, that inflation’s has gone up the last four years 20%. My raises have only gone up 6%. CEO’s raises have gone up 40%. I mean, our wages are going backwards, and we’ve given up so much. And it’s just time for us to be able to even afford the products we make. I have a 10-year-old Jeep, which I love, and I was fortunate to get when I worked at Belvidere Assembly Plant, I used my, at the time Chrysler discount, but I don’t know if I could afford a new car right now. I’m hoping that my Jeep lasts a little longer, especially being on strike. And then the announcement from GM to put the electric vehicle, the battery plants under the master agreement. I mean, that’s huge, because that wasn’t seen as possible before all this, because of the big three and their joint ventures, having these plants in right to work to work for less states, or in the South, or they wouldn’t have to be under UAW.
But just hearing that, for me as an environmentalist, that was huge, it brought me to tears, because just to see what’s possible, and hopefully Ford and Stellantis will follow suit with that, but I think what they’re probably stuck on is pensions and benefits for retirees. They claim to have no money or they’re being stretched thin, but really, we’re the ones that are being stretched for being able to afford anything these days. And I’m just so glad about the transparency from our international leadership so far. I mean, the last couple contracts that I’ve heard of, they would start one company at a time, and we didn’t really hear anything about what was going on in negotiations until, they would extend the contract, because as always, the companies wait until the last minute. And then they would say eventually, “Okay, we’re doing an extension. Here’s a tentative agreement, you should vote for it.”
And I was always told, “Don’t accept the first offer.” So we would vote no. Generally in Chicago, we always vote yes to strike, no to the first tentative agreement, but usually they would pass and we would take whatever little scraps they would give us, and that was it. But this time around, with our first-time-elected president and international leadership, we’ve gotten live updates, and we’re constantly getting information, which is refreshing. And also, it’s just keeping everybody informed. Some folks, I know before we were called out to strike, we were ready, we’re doing practice pickets and all that stuff. And it was just exciting to get the call, and we’re ready, we’re committed, we’re still standing strong, even in the rain and the cold. So yeah, it’s just been great to see the community come together, not just the membership, but local businesses, other unions and things like that. So the solidarity has just been awesome throughout all this.
Hell yeah. And I just want to quickly follow up on that, because I remember maybe the last time that we spoke, I think you and I were on the Katie Halper show, shout out to Katie, and we were sort of talking about this once the strike began last month. I know there was a lot of skepticism from folks around the country about the standup strike strategy. If folks recall, we covered this in a past livestream that we did with fellow UAW workers and retirees. I spoke to Austin Gore, who is at the Toledo plant on strike there. I spoke to the great Martha Gravatt, AUW retiree. That was a couple of weeks ago, you guys should go back and check that out, but we addressed this then as well. I understand why people were maybe concerned with the standup strike strategy. To refresh folks’ memory, that means that instead of calling all auto workers at all three of the big three automakers out to the picket line at once, what the UAW has been doing is they began by taking a historic step, by having workers at all three of the big three automakers go on strike at once. That’s never happened before in the history of the UAW.
So Ford, GM and Stellantis workers are all on strike right now, but not all of that workforce is on strike right now. It started with three plants that were called to strike first in the middle of last month. And then that has given the UAW the ability to constantly threaten at the bargaining table that if the companies don’t come back with better offers, they can always call more plants out to strike, and they can ramp up that pressure, they can hurt the companies more economically, they can preserve the strike fund a little bit as these things continued to unfold. But Marcie, I just wanted to get a temperature check from you on that. Would you say after about a month of the standup strike strategy, that it appears to be working? Are fellow UAW members confident in this strategy after seeing the past month of action?
Oh yeah. I mean, I’ve trusted the process since the beginning, because like I said, it’s been refreshing just to get these updates. And it’s interesting to see these companies, it’s keeping them on their toes, it’s keeping them guessing. And I think it’s great that now we flipped the tables and now they’re fighting each other. We’re pitting them against each other, they’re trying to see who’s going to come up with the best tentative agreement first. Whereas before, one company went at a time, one company would go first, and last time it was GM. And when their tentative agreement came out, the other two companies said, “Well, we don’t have to do anything better than that. We could just do that bare minimum, maybe little tweaks here and there.” But now they’re all running around with chickens with their heads cut off like, “Well, what if we give this? And then we’ll be first and then we’ll look good.”
So yeah, it’s been a very interesting to say the least, and just, I don’t know. It’s just I’m hearing different things from people. Of course, some people don’t like it, they’re confused or whatever like, “Why are the streams always late?” Well, that’s because on Fridays when we would give the live updates, one of the companies was, “Hey, wait, wait, I got another offer right here.” It wasn’t technical difficulties, it was the companies trying to get something in the last minute to save a plant from going on strike. So now with the whole at-any-moment strategy, I think that’s just even more effective.
Yeah, it’s nice to see the bosses on the back foot for once.
And yeah, there does seem to be quite a bit of confusion on the company side as they try to adjust to this strategy. So it’s a really critical moment that we’re living through. And of course, we’re going to keep staying on this and talking to folks like Marcie throughout this strike and even after, so that you all out there can hear firsthand about what’s going on and what’s working, what’s not. But I think, like you said, Marcie, I was blown away, because I remember interviewing striking GM workers in 2019. I remember interviewing workers at iconic plants like Lordstown, Ohio, Oshawa, Canada, Hamtramckin Michigan. And the way that they spoke about the union, the companies, the sense of hope was just night and day compared to what I’m hearing from workers now. People are fired up, there’s faith in the union leadership, there is a fighting spirit that we’re hearing from folks across the big three automakers, and we’re hearing reports from non-union auto workers at places like Nissan and whatnot who are really watching this struggle closely.
So it’s something that I think is going to have ripple effects for months and years to come. But I was thinking about all of this as I was watching UAW President Shawn Fain wearing an Eat The Rich T-shirt, announcing that at GM, the battery plants were going to be coming under the master agreement. And that was such a historic moment, the very fact that the companies that had just dug their heels in and refused to allow this EV transition and the jobs that we’re going to result from that, and we need that transition, but they’ve been trying to use it as an excuse to lower the floor for the incoming workforce that’s going to be working on those EVs, the batteries, and have those standards be way less, the pay be way less. And so for the UAW to put the companies on the back foot, to open up the possibility of bringing those EV and battery plants under the master agreement is a seismic historic development. I just really want to impress that upon people watching and listening.
But I want to go back around the table here and sort of talk about that deeper timeline that y’all both mentioned, because Diany, I think when you and I first did our interview on breaking points a few months back, you said something to this effect, where you said the days when the workaday actor, the workaday artist could make a living doing that work are gone. And you mentioned that in the beginning, it’s like, “Yeah, people see Hollywood and they identify actors as part of the elite.” We all assume that y’all must just be swimming in piles of money like Scrooge McDuck, but what you and other actors and writers have been telling us all year is like, “No, we can’t even afford to only do this job. We all have multiple jobs.” The changes over time in the industry have led to residuals going down, you can’t rely on that as much. The explosion of streaming services has been a radical change in the industry that has meant massive profits for the companies and diminishing take-home pay for writers and actors. Now they want to use AI to basically capture y’all’s images and not use human actors in the future.
So this is a really critical moment for you all at SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America. But again, I think the thing that drives me crazy, I feel like a Twilight Zone character who’s caught in this time loop, because I feel like even though we think of Hollywood actors and writers in a different category of worker from auto workers, railroad workers, so on and so forth, the thing that drives me crazy is, I talk to workers from all these different industries every week, and we’re all talking about the same thing, it’s just happening in different industries. When I spoke to Matt Seevers, a bartender at the Bellagio with the Culinary Workers Union in Vegas who were prepared to go on strike, what he was describing is essentially what you guys are describing, take-home pay’s going down, profits at these hotel casinos are through the roof, they’ve been cutting staff, they’ve been piling more work onto fewer workers. I’m hearing this from Chipotle workers, Dollar Store workers, railroad workers, auto workers, it’s nuts.
So I want to go back to that and toss it to both of you and ask if we could talk about just what those changes have meant for workers in these industries over the past couple decades. Let’s give a deeper texture to what y’all have been experiencing as workers in these industries that is coming to a head in these strikes, from streaming services to, Marcie, you mentioned the Great Recession and the concessions that the UAW workers took then to keep the auto industries from going belly up. Just give us more of a sense of how you have seen the industry change over these past few years and decades, and what that has translated to for workers in those industries. Yeah, Diany, go for it.
Okay. Sorry, Marcie. I was like, “Marcie, you, me, you?” What’s funny, and I think I mentioned this last time, that I wasn’t a very good union member before we started this negotiation. I am in many unions, and all of them, I accidentally joined, because I live in Georgia, a right-to-work state. And I was Taft-Hartley’d into the theatrical union, I was Taft-Hartley’d into SAG-AFTRA, which means basically if you do too much work in a union state or a union contract, you have to join the union. So that’s how I have joined all of my unions. So this has been so eye-opening because I, and want to use real numbers just so that people can get a sense of how things have changed. I just started doing this job, I would say at most 15 years ago, really for real, not just hobbyist, it was my profession.
I have heard stories from people at that meeting on Monday, somebody said, “Yes, I’ve been in the union for 35 years. And I remember, not even 20 years ago, 15 years ago, you could do two national commercials a year, and that would be enough to be able to make your mortgage payment, to be able to…” Because as I said last time on the podcast, and this is a thing that a lot of people don’t understand about the regular blue collar, not in the upper 4.5% of SAG-AFTRA, most of the work that we do is unpaid. So what you see, if you see me in a movie or TV show, is generally about a month worth of work. And that’s going in maybe 12, 13, 14, 15-hour days of a month’s worth of work, not working weekends, unless they decide to change the rules on you, then you do work the weekends, but you don’t get to decide that.
And the fact that somebody said, “Maybe 15 years ago we could do two national commercials.” And I’m talking not even the progressive woman. I’m talking just one commercial that you can see, that it’s not a recognizable face, and it’s not even a recognizable item, it’s just a national commercial, you could use that to float yourself while you’re doing the vast majority of your work, which is unpaid. I’m talking, sitting down, trying to memorize 13 pages worth of media for an audition that you may or may not see anything from. I’m talking getting headshots, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on headshots, on makeup for auditions, on PR teams, on hair and makeup teams, for doing media, for the things that you are promoting that you had to spend a vast majority of your time doing unpaid for the billionaires who also aren’t necessarily paying you to market their product that you happen to be in. That has been a huge thing that has changed a lot of lives. And if you’re making it your business to be in the know in this specific strike, the SAG-AFTRA, the WGA, the DGA strike, then you’ve seen some of the, for example, God, some of the Orange is the New Black people, don’t go watch it, but some of the Orange is the New Black cast members showing their residuals checks of 1 cent, of 10 cents, meanwhile Netflix billionaires are giving themselves raises.
It’s insane, it’s hard for me to put into words, people that, again, if you’re not in the industry, you would automatically equate with being celebrities simply because you’d be able to identify their faces, if you see them in a restaurant, you want their autograph, showing you how little they make doing a job where they are considered celebrities. Not only that, but because they’re only being paid, what a lot of people don’t understand is that we are only paid for the weeks we work, and then we are hoping to be paid these residuals. And the residuals don’t start until the first airing. So you’re just making that money off that first check, and then you’re hoping to make another job, or just not spending that money, or spending it as anti-liberally as you can in the hopes that basically eight to 10 months after the first airing you’ll make another check based on how many people watch it.
But what people don’t understand is, because of these new contracts, these new contracts that have taken place over the last decade, and they have completely changed the landscape, and a lot of people don’t understand. So there are these things called new media contracts, which were originally made so that YouTubers could make money off their content, something that cost maybe $1,000 to make. We wanted to change these contracts so that they could make some money off of subscribers, off of people who were tuning into YouTube to see these things that were made off like shoestring budgets, so that they could hire people and weren’t expected to pay in the same amount into health and pension, for example, because they couldn’t afford it, because it was new media and we didn’t know what it would do.
And now Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and Apple, these people that own the entire content pipeline, these people who have somehow been allowed to create a monopoly, they write it, they produce it, they cast it, then they distribute it, they have illegal monopolies that they have somehow been able to create these new fake contracts, because these contracts that we were giving to YouTube content creators, that we were giving to Tubi content creators, to people who were really interested in creating art that may or may not make money. And other artists were like, “Yeah, okay, we’ll jump on the bandwagon and hopefully we will all make money on the backend.” You have these billionaires using these same contracts, and they’re now unwilling to renegotiate these contracts. These same people are making these billions of dollars of money, and these people who just want to create art or play make believe or end gender empathy, all these reasons that people go into the arts, or all these reasons that people go into media and production, now we’re trapped.
We’re trapped because we’re not only not able to make the weekly salary that we were able to make five years ago. And I say that because even the salaries have changed. Somebody, again at the meeting that we were talking about, there’s specific contract language in our contracts, things like a guest artist or a series regular. A series regular is the person that you see weekly on a show, they’re in the opening credits, their first name is there, they’re on all the posters, they’re in all the marketing. A series regular contract was a huge, huge deal. To get a series regular contract was basically to assure yourself you would be able to make your rent for a year, and that’s it, just a year. And it’s a big, huge deal because it means not that you’ve made it, it literally just means, “Maybe I won’t have to have my second job for a year.” That’s all that it means. That’s really all that it means.
Now you can’t even do that. For example, like I was telling you, some of the Orange is the New Black cast members, because they’re under a new media contract, they were making, and I know this sounds like a lot, but let’s just use my specific numbers. I was in a huge, huge network television show, it’s top three across the world, across the world, I was in the ninth and 10th season, I was making a little under $10,000 a week. That’s a shit-ton of money to people that aren’t used to making $10,000 a week. Now, I need to reiterate, that’s only the weeks I was working. 22 episodes a year, that’s the season of this specific show. For my first season, I was in 20 of 22 episodes. So I was making about $10,000 a week.
Now we’re talking NBCUniversal, NBCUniversal, who also has Universal Studios, because we forget about the other streams of money that they make, that these billionaires make, that we don’t make. I don’t have a theme park that I’m making money off of. I don’t have plushies or children’s toys, I’m not making any of that money, but these billionaires are making all those extra streams of money. So Diany is making a little under $10,000 a week. She is also paying her rent in Atlanta, which is $1,400 a week. She is also, because these billionaires make the rules, I had to live in New York for eight months of the year, or I had to make the decision of whether I wanted to fly back and forth. That’s all on my dime. So I’m paying to either fly myself back and forth, or eventually I knew I couldn’t afford it because it’s $500 a pop for me to fly back from Atlanta. I decided it was too expensive for me to fly myself back and forth. So I ended up having to get an apartment. NBCUniversal is not paying for that.
I’m now paying my $1,400 a month for my apartment, because my gentleman caller lives here as well, and my cat lives here as well, and my gentleman caller is a full-time student. So I’m paying all of his living expenses and all of my bills in Atlanta, that’s $1,400 a month, plus gas, plus electric. $2,200 a month is the cheapest apartment that I found in New York. I was paying $2,200 a month, plus my MTA card, because they’re not paying me to get to and from sets. Now we’re talking, I’m not just working in New York, I’m working in New Jersey, I’m working in DC, wherever they need me to go for filming, I have to pay myself, I have to pay to get there, I have to pay my rent, I have to pay my water, my bills there.
I was in the arrears, I didn’t even break even, I had to dip into my savings, because like I said, I’m paying my living expenses, my rent. I’m paying for myself to work for a billion-dollar company. I have to pay to get myself to set. I have to pay to get myself to my apartment. If you’ve ever lived in New York, you know how stiflingly frustrating and nearly impossible it feels to just live there. Not only that, but I’m also still auditioning, and I have to pay for those auditions. So I’m also putting in these 13, 14, 15-hour days on set, and having to figure out how to film my auditions on set. I’m having to ask famous people, because I’m nobody, but I’m having to ask the famous people that I’m on set with, “Hey, can you read these lines for me?” Or I have to pay somebody with a company to be able to, “Hey, would you be willing to learn these lines, and let me pay you $50 an hour to film me?” And that’s just one thing.
So then all of a sudden, this under $10,000 a week, and you’re thinking… So do the math, I’m paying $1,400 of my apartment here, plus living expenses. I’m paying $2,200 to live in a 450-square-foot apartment where I get out of my bed and I’m in my kitchen. So that’s what we’re dealing with, and I’m having to pay that rent. And I’m also having to pay to do these auditions because I’m having to pay somebody to film them for me. Not only that, but I’m also having to split my check, because I’m paying 15% of my check, that’s my gross pay, not my net pay, not what I take home, because I’m not taking home $10,000 a week, I’m taking home about $6,500 a week, 15% of my gross pay goes to my manager, 10% of my gross pay goes to my agent, 10% of my gross pay goes to my attorney, because now when you start to make that kind of money, you have to have somebody who’s on your side negotiating for you. And then because I’m not being paid by NBCUniversal to market their product that I happen to be in, I’m paying 10% of my gross pay to my PR company.
I didn’t do that math, but that’s 30 to 40% of that $6,500 that I’m making, I didn’t make money. Literally like I did not make money. So the goal is that you make money in residuals. So hopefully you’re not destitute, and hopefully you’ve found something else in the time that you’ve filmed it, and you’re no longer making that money, you are only making money while you’re there on set filming it. Then you have to wait eight months after the initial airing and hope that there were a lot of people that watched it, and you have to hope that you’ve made it and you’re not homeless. After eight months after it airs, you’re hoping you make these big residuals. I was very lucky, my first season of my first episode, I waited the eight months, I managed to not become destitute because I did not make money on a huge, huge, huge, TV show, my first residual drop was $20,000. And that was the happiest moment of my life because I’ve never made that kind of money, and, “Awesome, I’m able to pay out my team, I’m able to make my rent, that’s awesome.” That’s Diany’s story.
Now, let’s go back and talk about the people who were on Orange is The New Black. Remember how I told you that I didn’t even break even because I’m paying my money here in Atlanta. Also, we have to pay union dues. We have to pay union dues once a year, but we also have to pay working dues. It was the scariest time of my life working on a huge television show where one or two people in the world recognized me, because I couldn’t afford to live. I simply couldn’t afford it, I was living off of my savings. Now, let’s talk about the Orange is the New Black women, they did not make a $20,000 influx of money after eight months of their initial airing, because the new media contract allows that. They’re not paying you based on viewership, they’re paying you based on what you made just weekly. And if they weren’t making a little under $10,000 like Diany was making, let’s say they were making scale, which is $1,900. Let’s say they were a guest star, they were making under $2,000 a week.
So Netflix made it so that they can pay you based on that salary, not based on how much they’re making off of it. So they’re paying you based on that $2,000. So that meant that they were getting $800 for the first initial residual check. That’s the influx that you’re going to get after the first initial airing. After that, Netflix made it and the new media contract made it so that then it’s a huge percentage jump. Again, still not based on how much Netflix made on that money, or how much marketing they’ve made. Then it’s based on, “Okay, so now viewership has dropped.” Which means the next residual drop, which again, you’re not going to feel that for another couple of months after the initial airing. So we’re talking two years after the time that that has dropped and it’s made these billions of dollars, they still can’t afford to live. They still are just trying to make that $2,000, that initial $2,000, and then that $800.
Eventually, And we’re talking by the second season of Orange is the New Black, they’re trying to live off of stuff that they have, pennies. And you can go on the internet, you can see them putting their residuals check on the internet, and it’s 1 cent, 20 cents, 10 cents. Meanwhile, because the residual structure of the CEOs wasn’t renegotiated in these new media contracts, they’re still making those hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars, but we are making significantly less. That’s why they were able to post these million-dollar profits, because they’re posting it on the backs of the people who are taking pay cuts. And I’m saying taking pay cuts, and these aren’t voluntary pay cuts, this is the new structure of these contracts that they have made. And we only even get to renegotiate them every three years. And we’re trying to renegotiate it, and they’re not coming to the table.
So the thing that’s the hardest to see, that’s happening right now, like I said, a lot of my friends are working at Trader Joe’s, are working at Starbucks. Again, no shame in that game. That’s wonderful, those jobs need to be done. I love those jobs, it’s wonderful. And those are the jobs that are floating us in this last decade when we couldn’t afford to make these living wages, these jobs have floated us, but it’s crazy to me right now to see people… So media is still dropping, we’re still getting movies, we’re still getting new shows dropping on Hulu, on Apple, we’re still getting new shows dropping. But things that would conceivably have been the biggest thing we’ve ever done in our careers, for example, this new Marvel joint, or this new Apple joint, that shit is still coming out, that shit is still on our streamers, people are still watching that shit. But not only has the AMPTP made it so that we can’t work, so that we can’t make money and help flood our incomes in our chosen profession, they’re still making money off of that, and we are still making the pittance because we cannot renegotiate these contracts.
It is the most unbelievable, immoral, unthinkable, I can’t even think of the words, to see people that honestly just want to… And I said this last time, I was like, “People could consider us elite.” And I get it, I get it, accountants aren’t famous, auto workers aren’t famous, they’re not on billboards, but the disconnect between regular human Americans who don’t look at us as blue collar workers, thinking that because we are famous, our income is commensurate with the amount of fame we have or don’t have, it’s a really hard uphill battle to fight. And then when you’re here on the front lines, especially in a market like Atlanta where you feel fully hamstringed, because there are no production companies here. So those of us here that went through the strike captain training and things like that, we feel so helpless because we can’t even be on picket lines because there are no offices here. So we’re just here holding rallies and trying to keep our brothers and sisters out there in solidarity, trying to let them know that we support them, trying to do something that feels like it matters, but genuinely, honestly, feeling like we are not part of the fight, like we cannot help our brothers and sisters. I can’t help the UAW, I can’t help Starbucks here. I can attend their rallies, but when you’re this famous and you’re getting… Not me, I mean SAG-AFTRA.
When you’re this famous and people feel like you’re getting all the attention, because the AMPTP controls the media. That is not a thing that we control, that is a thing that the corporate overlords control. When you feel this small and this useless or this unnecessary, because we aren’t auto workers, we aren’t nurses, it’s this tiny microcosm of, “Well, fuck, who thinks I’m important? Or who thinks that we’re worthy and we’re necessary?” There’s a very specific thing that’s happening, and it’s been happening over the last four or five months, like, “Who can we help? How can we help? And how can we convince people that we matter and that we’re necessary? And how can we convince people, even in our own industry? How can we convince the UAW that we are here for them, that we are not just famous, rich people? How can we convince people when all the media coverage is on us?
And the people that are hurting are not just us, it’s IATSE, it’s the teamsters, it’s the hair and makeup unions. It’s, “How do we convince people not only that we matter, but that we’re here for you? The landscape has changed so much in these past decades, and right now we are at a tipping point, and we’re at a tipping point with these other unions, “How can we convince people that we matter?” This has all happened over the last decade or so. So when you ask me how the landscape has changed, I will say that the landscape has changed so much so that we are at a point where now these people, who people think are famous and rich, not only are being made to feel that they don’t matter, they can’t afford their livelihoods, and they can’t even seemingly convince other of our brothers and sisters and humans in the unions that we’re here for them. It’s a very fun game.
Well, and I want us to end by talking about how we can correct that. And we’ve got Marcie on, so let’s talk about how we can better support one another and keep these fights going. And we will go over a little bit, but Marcie, I wanted to make sure that you had time to also give us that background here. But just letting folks of the livestream know we’re at about an hour now, we’re going to need to go over, but I want to give Marcie time to answer that question as well. And I want us to round out by talking about where things stand now and what we can all do to support each other. But yeah, Marcie, I guess give us your version of this, because again, I don’t want to compare apples to oranges, there are substantive differences in these industries, but so much of what we’re hearing, it’s echoes of each other, right?
So what Diany was describing about the transition to streaming services is similar to the transition to EVs, and the ways that the auto companies are using this new, necessary technological development that’s going to change the industry, they’re using it as an excuse to undercut workers in the industry and take all the profits for themselves, put people under shittier contracts, hire a bunch of temp workers after 2007. So it’s this perpetual race to the bottom. So give us a little snapshot there of how you’ve seen the industry change over the past decade or so and how that’s coming to a head here in the strike.
Yeah, first of all, I want to say, Diany, I know we just met virtually, but you are somebody goddammit, we’re all important in this. We don’t have to be celebrities or on a billboard, we’re the ones who are creating wealth for these billionaires. So thank you for everything you do. And another note, I love TV. I fucking love TV and movies, so you’re my happy place, my safe space, my rest and self-care when I get a break, if I ever get a break, besides from working in my community, or at work, or being a full-time mom in a one parent household, that’s my joy. So thank you, you are important and essential. So as far as us, same stories. I also wanted to add too, that my first union was Screen Actors Guild, because when I was in the USC Trojan Marching Band, Fight On, we did movies and commercials, and the first thing we had to do was sign that union card.
And I was proud to do it, being a fourth generation union worker, I always knew the importance of unions. And at a young age, as a young adult, I saw the inequities and how CEOs’ pay were skyrocketing, and working people’s wages were just at an all-time low, and the disparities between the upper class and the working class. And I’m just like, “Finally, thank God, people are waking up.” And I think not just in this past year, but I would say maybe even 11 years ago with the Chicago Teachers Union and Karen Lewis and her leadership, the teacher strike sparked a revolution in strikes of teachers and other workers. And especially since the pandemic, we’re realizing that we’re all essential. You know what? I had a two-month layoff, or we were laid off because of parts during the first couple months of the pandemic, but then we all went back to work. Ford was like, “Oh, we made some PPE. Go back to work, you’ll be fine.” No hazard pay, no increased benefits or anything, just, “Go to work. Good luck, hope you don’t get sick and die, and hope you don’t bring it home to your families.” I was paying a small fortune in childcare because my daughter was doing remote learning, I didn’t get extra money for that. A couple stimulus checks, that came and went, because everything else was going up.
So yeah, we hear the same stories. We’re working long hours, forced overtime. Some workers are working seven days a week, 12 hour days, 90 days in a row. I mean, that’s just insane. And we’re given more and more, and companies are making billions off of our backs. And I’ve heard it too in your sector. I have friends who work in craft service, and IATSE, tech, gaffers, electricians, and they work some long-ass hours, man. I was like, “I don’t even know how I would schedule that with childcare and school pickup and dropoffs.” And shout out to everybody in that sector as well. So yeah, we’re all fed up, we’re all trying to get what we’re worth. And it’s about time that everybody across the board, I mean, I just remember hearing about, during the pandemic, with the Kellogg strike and John Deere and other strikes, and this is definitely having a trickle effect. And every day now, we see more and more people are walking out because we’re fed up. Casino workers, a few thousand in Detroit right now, some that are UAW, and pretty soon maybe 50,000 casino workers in Las Vegas ready to shut that down.
So these issues, we can all relate, we’re all feeling the dent in our pocketbooks, like, “Why can’t I afford to do this anymore? Why am I borrowing more? Why am I putting this on a credit card? And why am I not able to pay off these debts, or save, or go on vacation or anything, just enjoy life?” So yeah, I mean, it’s being felt everywhere. I remember when I was an apprentice over 20 years ago, an electrician, an old-timer would tell me, he would always complain, but it was great hearing his story, he’s like, “I remember when I started, a truck was a quarter of our pay. Now it’s half of our pay.” Fast-forward to now, a brand new truck is about a year’s worth of an auto worker’s pay. So you have to really think hard if you’re going to buy a brand new truck or car even. So that’s just one example of the situation that’s being felt all across the board.
So just to go on to this last point that you were talking about, Max, how we can help each other. We can, I think just from showing support, join a picket line, give us a honk, drop off food supplies. We’re in constant need of firewood as these nights get colder. And it’s just great seeing the solidarity, like I said, not just locally, but from around the world. What happens here, not just the auto workers strike, it’s going to affect workers across the country and across the world. Just from hearing from my Brazilian comrades south of the border, when the big three started the tier system, they started that then there too. So whatever we win, they hope to win as well. Our fight is their fight and vice versa.
Hell yeah, I think that’s beautifully and powerfully put from both of you. And I do want to make the final turn here and end on that note, but it’s just, again, we’ve gone over this in the podcast that I recorded with Marcie and two of her union siblings, the all-UAW worker solidarity livestream that we did right here on The Real News a couple of weeks back, but it bears repeating that also these auto companies are making record profits as well, just like the hotels and casinos in Vegas, just like Hollywood studios, just like so many of these companies and their Wall Street-backed in investors and shareholders that have essentially figured out that they can squeeze workers and put us all in this perpetual race to the bottom that Marcie described, that, “We can cut operating costs, we can again pile more work onto fewer workers. We can try to automate what we can automate with AI or what have you, even if it means a diminishing quality of product for the consumer. It’s just cutting our operating costs so that we can siphon all of that excess out into the pockets of our executives and our shareholders.”
This is a vampiric takeover of our society, where these just blood-sucking executives and shareholders are taking everything off the backs of workers, they’re screwing over their consumers, because another thing I want to mention here is that, and we got into this more with past interviews we did with WGA and SAG-AFTRA folks, is when the studios say, “Oh, we’re going to use AI to create new content.” What they are admitting to you, the consumer, is like, “The content’s not going to be good, it’s just going to be cheap. That’s why we want it. We’re going to give you whatever slop that we can crank out as long as the cost is low. And if we have that monopoly on the means of creation that Diany was talking about, where else are you going to go for your content?”
So you’re going to just sit back, you’re going to watch it, you’re going to put up with things like crappy, or less-than-quality series that was pumped out in a short amount of time, the writers, the actors were paid little for it, but it was turned around quickly. Or you’re going to see stuff like we’re seeing now, series that you’re super invested in get canceled after a single season and then taken off Netflix or Hulu or whatnot so that the companies can write it off on their taxes. They don’t give a shit about you or me as consumers, nor do they give a shit about their workers, they only care about profit.
That’s exactly what the railroad workers were telling us all last year. The railroad companies led by their Wall Street shareholders have been cutting their workforce year after year after year, driving their workers into the ground, workers are quitting in record numbers, they’re dying on the job. And at the same time, the shippers who have to use the railroads are off because the rail companies are also jacking up prices on them, just like Hollywood casinos and hotels, even though they are having fewer guest reservations than they did this time in 2019, they are charging 40% more for each booking than they did just a few short years ago. So again, I hope I’m communicating this well, because as you guys can tell, I’m frustrated and fired up, but this is a thing that has taken hold all across the board.
This is why healthcare workers are going on strike at Kaiser Permanente and beyond, because these corporate conglomerates that have been buying up all the different independent hospitals and bringing them under the umbrella of these other healthcare oligopolies, they’re doing the same thing, they’re piling more patients onto fewer healthcare workers, they’re not paying them enough to keep up with the cost of living. And so we have a massive slow-motion crisis in the healthcare industry. Every healthcare worker I’ve talked to is burnt out, they are exhausted, they are thinking of leaving the industry, they’re worried that they can’t give the quality of care they’ve been trained to give to their patients because they have too many patients and not enough people and they’re not getting paid enough. So this is what the race to the bottom looks like, and this is why we need to stop with the bullshit and stop saying like, “Oh, the SAG-AFTRA actors, they don’t count, they’re not as working class as the auto workers, so we’re not going to support them. Oh, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette workers who have been on strike for over a year now, they’re not as blue collar as the railroad workers, so we’re not going to support them.”
That is just what the bosses want, I cannot stress that enough, you are doing their work for them and you are undercutting your fellow worker by allowing yourself to convince yourself that some workers are more worthy of your solidarity than others. And so I hope, if nothing else, that what comes out of these livestreams, what comes out of you hearing directly from workers like Diany and Marcie is that we are all working people. As the great speech in the movie Matewan put it, there are two kinds of people in this world, people who work and people who don’t. You work, Diany, Marcie work, they don’t. The AMPTP, they don’t work. The CEOs of Stellantis and Ford and GM, they don’t fucking work. They don’t earn $29 million a year like GM’s CEO Mary Barra does, there’s no way you could do enough work to earn that much money. You only get it by exploiting, by extracting, by all this crap.
All right, sorry, I’m going off on a rant here. I just really wanted to stress to people that I don’t want to be looking in the comments of this video and seeing like, “Oh, screw the SAG-AFTRA workers, but support for the UAW members.” If that’s your mentality, then congratulations, you’ve played yourself and you’ve screwed over the movement. So in my opinion, get out of the way if that’s how you’re going to be, because we need people to be showing up for these workers for as long as it takes until we win. And that’s what I want to end on here. I wanted to ask just with a few minutes, we don’t have long, but I want to go to Diany then Marcie and ask where things stand now with the SAG-AFTRA and UAW strikes, and what can folks out there watching do to support y’all right now?
Fuck yeah. Where we stand right now is that we are in a standstill, the AMPTP has left the negotiating table, and we don’t control when they come back. So we may be in this into 2024 and beyond, so we’ll see. And also, I don’t mean to victimize SAG-AFTRA, I appreciate solidarity from everyone, and we give everyone else solidarity as well. And I think another place that we are right now, which is very exciting actually, I think this round of negotiations and AMPTP work stoppages has led to things that I don’t know a lot of people have realized, animators are starting to unionize now as well. Disney animators are unionizing. It’s insane to me that the animation industry was one of the last bastions of unionized workers. So they were like, “Oh, let’s dip our toes in the water.” And I’m all for it.
Our production assistants, PAs are now trying to join IATSE, and they have successfully gotten enough membership together so that they can form a charter to join the IATSE union. And that’s a wonderful development that I think is wonderful for right now. We’re in a standstill as far as strike-wise. As far as how people can support, I would say talk about it, normalize talking about it, normalize talking about workers’ rights, normalize talking about equity. But honestly, what I think is a big thing that we can all do is join a union. Right now is a huge time, if you are a pre-SAG member out there right now or SAG-eligible, join the union. If you’re one of those people in the comments who loves to troll, and y’all don’t understand, Diany has a tough skin, I do not care what you post in the comments. So post it, because then you’ll post it, it’ll get out of your system, and then you’ll give yourself time to think, because if you think we should just get back to work, or you think we should just get back to work because we have a job and we’re inconveniencing you, I would challenge you to unionize at your workplace, because instead of pinning ourselves against each other, look how much you can get done by collectively bargaining in your own self-interests.
Another way that we can do it, and again, I said this on the last podcast, the unions have not called for this, but we’re not making money off the residuals off streamers anyways. So if you’re feeling like you have a lovely little bug up your butt, cut ties with your streamers. Let’s let the CEO start feeling that. And again, because all these people have these other streams of revenue that the regular workers don’t have, I don’t know if the auto industry is calling for this, but things for us, if you cut ties with streamers, if you stop going to Disney World, because Bob Iger is still making money off of that, that we are not, stop going to Disney World. Do what you can to take care of you and yours. And if we stop being as consumer heavy, because I know in our deepest fear, in our deepest desires, we would all love to be millionaires. Sure, that’s awesome. That’s a thing that keeps everyone else from being in solidarity with the modern worker, they want to be millionaires. So if we stop making other people feel like they have the means to become millionaires, it starts to equalize, and then people start to feel like they’re losing their power.
So stop giving millionaires their money and start hoarding it for yourself. If we stop being as consumer heavy, then we can start concentrating more on ourselves, on the worker, and we can start to equalize. Cut ties with those streamers. It’s hard to tell people, but start to be more in solidarity. Go out, attend a march. Go on the internet, look where these workers are going, look what they’re unionizing, look where they’re picking. Attend a march, talk to them when you attend a march, look at them and see how they are. Like Marcie, they’re family members, they have kids in schools, they attend meetings, they’re community members. Talk to them, see how they matter, just like you, start to try to, I want everybody to start to change their perspective on this stuff. We’re all workers, and we are all working and fighting for the modern-day worker.
So start to think of yourself as a modern-day worker. That’s the best thing I can tell people to do moving forward. Don’t separate yourself from the plight of the modern-day worker. Think of yourself as a modern-day worker, and think about how you want to fight for yourself in your best interest, and start to look at us as people who are fighting and working in your best interests, because we are. We are not against you, we are for you. And it’s your job out there in the world to find out how you can be for yourself, and therefore for us, as opposed to for them, because I promise you, those billionaires, those millionaires, those corporate CEOs that are making money off of your back, they are not for you.
Hell yeah. All right, Marcie, what do you got? [inaudible 01:18:17].
What she said. Yeah, I can reiterate what she said. Yeah, just organize the world, join a union, form a union in your workplace. Don’t get me started on these trolls on TikTok, I try not to read them, because a lot of us, this has taken a toll on our physical and mental health, just being a worker, just trying to survive. So some of the comments are just ridiculous. And then some of these people, they have jobs too, besides being an influencer or whatever, but I don’t want to be mad at them, I don’t want to hate, but I wonder how much better their lives would be if they were to just talk to people face to face and get our stories, and we could share stories, and like, “Well, yeah, your job sounds pretty shitty too. Maybe you should be fighting for more money.”
The first thing they want to say is like, “Oh, the cost of cars are going to go up.” Like anything, like in the fight for 15, which now should be the fight for 25, “The cost of burgers are going to go up.” They’re going to raise the cost of this anyway. The labor costs on a car is only four to 5% of the vehicle. So no matter what, they’ve been price gouging these vehicles for years. No wonder why most of us can’t afford the products we make. So organize your workforce, organize in your community, find something you’re passionate about. I seem to keep busy with the environmental justice movement, especially being in a sacrifice zone where we experience environmental racism. We’re fighting for a better planet, because what is the good of a job if you don’t have a planet to work on? And we deserve clean air, water, and land and a safe workplace. These green jobs should be union jobs. We’re fighting for new green schools. We’re fighting to get the lead service lines replaced, because in Chicago we have the highest amount of lead service lines in the country.
Just get out there and find a cause that you’re passionate about, be involved in your community, talk to people, come to the picket lines, hear our stories. I mean, I’m fortunate, Chicago is a union town, we get a lot of support from other unions. I know a lot of teachers’ unions just because I’m involved in my daughter’s school and the neighborhood. We have nurses coming, other trades, people come and join in the picket lines. So it’s just been great seeing that. And if we can just be human to each other and not fighting, then maybe we’ll have a shot at this, maybe we can win and defeat these greedy bosses and the greedy corporations, because otherwise they’re still just going to have us on a string doing what they want us to do, is fight each other, and fight for our own living wage.
Hell yeah. I think that is beautifully, powerfully put by both of you. As we say all the time here at The Real News, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And so please, to all of you watching and listening out there, do something, all of it matters. That is the great Marcie Pedraza, a union electrician at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, and a member of UAW Local 551. And the great Diany Rodriguez, a rank-and-file SAG-AFTRA member, and also a driver, eater, and cat lover. Marcie, Diany, thank you both so much for joining us today on The Real News Network, I really, really appreciate it. And solidarity from Baltimore.
Thank you. Solidarity forever.
To all of you watching, this is Maximillian Alvarez signing off. Before you go, please head on over to the real news.com/support, or click the fundraiser on this livestream itself so that you can support our work, so we can keep bringing y’all more important coverage and conversations just like this, because we got a lot more that we got to cover. In the meantime, take care of yourselves, take care of each other, solidarity forever.