Two weeks into the writers’ strike, there is already at least one icon – and she’s not a writer. Lindsay Dougherty is a Teamsters boss who runs Local 399 in Los Angeles and is, among other things, director of Teamsters Motion Picture Division. She caught the attention of screenwriters when she appeared with other entertainment industry union leaders at the first major WGA membership meeting after the strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the association representing film and television studios, was called . Standing on the Shrine Auditorium stage, she told the crowd that the production’s vital Teamster trucks would not cross picket. And she sent a rousing message that resonated throughout Hollywood: “What I want to say to the studios is, if you guys wanna fool around, you’ll find out.”
Sitting under a photo of the late Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa in her North Hollywood office, Dougherty smiles when I ask her about that speech. “Fuck off and find out,” she repeats quietly. “I’m angry you know? It’s been great building that bond with writers over the past six months as I’ve realized that writers are struggling to make a living every day and that we share these issues together.”
The people she represents on Local 399 aren’t just truckers; These include casting directors, location managers, prop store employees and animal trainers. Some of them may feel that they have nothing in common with screenwriters and showrunners. “I think it’s important that we continue to say: we have to stick together. Because the studios are together. “They may disagree, but at the end of the day they have a message,” Dougherty says, tapping her desk with her black-painted fingernails. The studios collectively negotiate the AMPTP, allowing various entertainment industry unions and guilds to be played off against one another. “These companies will not do us any favors. Studios would rather lose billions of dollars starving an industry than make money for teaching (us) a lesson.”
Dougherty says she was in the room on the first day of negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP and it was very disillusioning: “I was so upset because deep down I knew the studios weren’t trying to cut a deal with.” of the WGA.” Writer…. I felt like[the studios]would do whatever they could to get to that point, which was to put the writers on strike.”
She believes the studios didn’t really sense how this strike — and the slowdown that led to it — would turn all of Hollywood upside down. “This affects not only the authors, but also all other unions and guilds. It affects my members. We have people who haven’t worked in months – their health care and their pensions will be impacted for many years to come, and of course their wallets, their families and the bills they have to pay.”
Raised in Detroit in a union family (her father, Pat Dougherty, was a Teamster boss), Dougherty recalls a childhood of union meetings, food drives and pickets. “I definitely drank the (Teamster) Kool-Aid a long time ago,” she jokes. But she also went to techno clubs as a minor and dreamed of leaving Detroit behind for Hollywood. That self-proclaimed “wild child” side is still visible, through the tattoos covering her arms and through her willingness (or perhaps determination) to upset the rich and powerful.
Even though she gets up at 5 a.m. every day to work out, “it still can’t contain my anger,” says Dougherty wryly. “I don’t mind saying the f-bomb because I’m pissed as fuck. It affects us all because they’re so hateful and greedy.” But the Teamsters’ refusal to cross WGA pickets helped stop filming all over the country, and writers are taking notes. They particularly note Dougherty, who has elicited respect (showrunner). DavidSimon tweeted: “I hear Detroit and Hoffa every time this lady speaks”), as well as signs and a T-shirt designed by the TV writer Dana Braziel Solovy with Dougherty as Rosie the Riveter with her take-no-prisoners quote: “I step on dicks.”
Dougherty speaks along Vanity Fair It’s about alerting the studios, dealing with physical threats, and finding unity between team stars and screenwriters.
Vanity Fair: I recently spoke to industry representatives Story, I’ve noticed class conflicts in Hollywood. Writers complain about actors being paid better and more privileged, while journalists, editors, and truckers wonder what the heck the writers are complaining about. Does that make it difficult to unite people?
Lindsay Dougherty: I think the companies did a really good job of dividing us. We hear it now, the authors will not support you! But what we really do teach our members is how important it is to stick together and how we can all help each other together. Because we all have strengths and weaknesses. Our strength is local. We are the hammer for your pencil. Local 399 has 6,500 members, but the political power and the strike funds and the things the Teamsters bring are important.
Teamster trucks refuse to cross the WGA pickets and this has held up many productions. Do you get reports when your members do not cross a picket line?
The picket policy that we use in most of our Teamster contracts gives us an opportunity not to exceed it and not be disciplined or terminated on that basis. Carters don’t cross pickets – it’s in our blood. But that was difficult to deal with. Essentially, because they’re the ones turning it off, it’s the drivers who feel the pressure. We are very conscious of this – we want to make sure they are comfortable, that they are not subject to retaliation, and that they understand that what they are doing is noble and honorable and actually serves the common good in the industry. We fight for the livelihood of all our members and for the future viability of their jobs.