Latine Writers Front WGA East Rally Outside NBC Studios: “Enough – We Need A Path Forward”

With music thumping and marchers dancing, the mood was upbeat at the Latine Salon picket staged Wednesday by members of the Writers Guild of America outside NBC Studios in Manhattan. But the collective’s main speaker wanted to be clear on something. 

“This is a really, really tough time for all of us,” Kathleen Bedoya, co-creator of the former Hulu series East Los High, told about 60 striking film and television writers and their supporters as they marched at Rockefeller Center in the late morning and afternoon. 

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In the ninth week of a strike that began on May 2, Bedoya led a picket that doubled as a protest over wages and working conditions and a plea for more diversity in an industry where writers and producers of color are making inroads but, Bedoya said, not enough. 

Bedoya is co-chair of the Latine Salon within the Writers Guild of America East, a membership or affinity group within the union that she helped to establish during the pandemic. 

East Los High, about a group of Latine teens in Los Angeles, ran for four seasons on Hulu from 2013-17. “It was something that I want all [Latine] writers to be able to have the opportunity to do,” Bedoya said of her experience producing the show, “and to get paid for it — and to get paid well for it.”

She added: “We are tired of being second-class citizens in this country. We have so much talent out there. There are so many of us that want to write, that want to tell our stories. … We deserve to be telling them, and we deserve to be able to pay our mortgages and pay our rents and to have a long career doing this.”

In an interview with Deadline before she addressed the rally, Bedoya said her career is on hold.

“I mean, you see us out here, and we have music playing and we have this energy,” she said, “but I don’t think what people realize is how difficult this is on our income, on our opportunities. … I have let go of opportunities that I really wanted to pursue because of the strike.”

Bedoya said she’s in a two-income household — but in New York City, an expensive place to live, and she has children including a son in college. “For us to have to let go of all income during this time is a real challenge,” she said of striking writers. “But we’re willing to do it because we know it’s so important.”

The importance of the strike was another point Bedoya hit on in her speech at the rally: “It’s a really critical moment in the history of television for us to stand up and say yeah, basta — enough. We need a path forward.”

Prior to the strike, she said, the television landscape was both promising and frustrating — progressing and regressing in fits and starts for Latines breaking into the business in the streaming era. After East Los High debuted, she said there was an “uptick” in programming with Latine casts and creators. “We started seeing more stories being told … and we were excited about that,” she said.

But the advances seemed short-lived. “We get cut off,” Bedoya said. “We start great shows that get canceled, and it’s very, very discouraging because there are so many amazing Latine writers, on the East Coast and on the West Coast, that want to be a part of this and have stores to tell that are awesome stories to tell, and they have the talent to tell them, but there are so few avenues for us to do that.

“We started to see an opening on the streamers,” she continued, “but then we realized just weren’t getting paid the way that others were and that we are in this constant cycle of being ‘less-than’ as streaming writers. And not just us but others writers of color, other writers who are not represented.”

Promoting greater Latine representation in the industry is work that Bedoya said she hopes to continue doing after the strike ends. In the meantime, she said, the solidarity is what helps her cope with the loss of income and work prospects during an open-ended strike.

“It’s painful right now, and one of the ways that we keep going is by showing up to the rallies, to the pickets, because we see each other,” she said. “It gives us energy, and it gives us hope that this will end soon.”

While those strikers rallied in Manhattan, the Writers Guild also sent picketers to Silvercup Studios in Queens, where American Horror Story has continued production despite protests and despite some workers refusing to cross picket lines. 

About a dozen demonstrators in all were stationed near entrances on both sides of the hangar-sized tan brick building late on Wednesday afternoon — a contingent working the last of three strike shifts at Silvercup as part of a continuous picket line that started at 7 a.m. and was scheduled to continue until 5 p.m. 

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