Writers Guild Pickets ‘The Talk’: “That Work Being Done Is Scabbing”

On the heels of a similar demonstration targeting The Drew Barrymore Show in New York on Monday, dozens of Writers Guild members turned up to picket a rehearsal show for The Talk on Wednesday morning in Studio City.

Around 50 WGA members set up near Radford Studio Center’s Radford Avenue gate, talking to audience members who had shown up, handing them leaflets that railed against the entertainment industry’s “unsustainable” business model, and WGA-emblazoned buttons. According to Writers Guild captains on site, the group had turned away two potential audience members by informing them that they would be crossing a picket line to enter the show.

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“The reality is that bringing a show back without your writers is an attempt to devalue our labor and devalue the work that we do,” argued WGA captain Chris Hazzard. “And there’s no way to make a show without writing. So whether that’s picking guests or talking about who’s going to speak when or doing pre-interviews to update your hosts about what the topic is going to be, all of that is writing. And so that work being done is scabbing and we will be out here with a picket sign until it stops.”

A source close to the show responded, “No one on staff will fill the writing position during the strike. We look forward to bringing back that writing position once the strike is resolved. Until that time, the hosts will be ad-libbing and sharing their own remarks, which is not writing under the WGA Agreement.”

Like fellow daytime talk shows The Drew Barrymore Show and The Jennifer Hudson Show, The Talk is resuming production without union writers amid the ongoing writers strike, even as last season it employed three WGA members. The Talk is currently targeting a Sept. 18 premiere. The show’s hosts, including Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, Amanda Kloots, Natalie Morales, Jerry O’Connell and Sheryl Underwood, are covered by a SAG-AFTRA contract — the Network Code agreement — that is currently active and not affected by that union’s simultaneous strike.

The return of these talk shows without union writers amid the WGA strike is “incredibly disappointing,” said David Slack, a former WGA West boardmember who attended the picket on Wednesday. “It doesn’t necessarily hurt our effort for what we’re doing, but all the strength that unions have, everything that unions have achieved — minimum wage, overtime pay, weekends — that’s all come from solidarity. And not just solidarity within the union, but solidarity across our society. So when people don’t show solidarity with unions, they are doing damage not just to their own reputations, but also to workers everywhere.”

Of The Talk, Slack added, “If there are writers [normally] on that show and they’re making that show without writers, somebody’s scabbing — and if somebody’s scabbing, we’re going to be here.”

The source close to the show added, “As previously mentioned and to be perfectly clear, no one on staff is performing writing duties during the strike. The hosts will be ad-libbing and preparing their own material for air, which is not writing under the WGA agreement.”

A picket had not previously been scheduled for this location due to the simultaneous SAG-AFTRA rally scheduled for Wednesday, but when the WGA got wind of the alleged Talk rehearsal, it quickly convened a small group, said WGA captain Josh Brown. “It was very last-minute, honestly,” he said. “We gathered whoever was able to and started picketing today, knowing that this was the day that we wouldn’t have picketers here because most of the membership was going to be at the [SAG] rally. “

Amid the picketing on Wednesday morning, WGA observers took a video and photos — shared with THR — of a black GMC Yukon with tinted windows entering a gate in an alley between Colfax Avenue and Radford Avenue. WGA captains said they believed the passenger (or passengers) was a high-profile performer or guest on the show, avoiding the picket line by entering through this alternate gate, which is usually padlocked shut and rarely used but remains an authorized entrance.

WGA members had been out on Radford Avenue as early as 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning in preparation for The Talk picket. As for how long they would remain on the sidewalk? “As long as we need to stay out here,” said assistant lot coordinator and strike captain Myles Warden. “It’ll be very obvious when the audience starts to clear out.”

Sept. 14, 7:37 a.m. Updated to include an additional comment from a source close to the show.

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