News & Events

Remembering the 30th Anniversary March on Washington at the 60th

A Participant Who Stood Out Then and Stands Out Today
Written and Photographed by Photojournalist Earl Dotter

SEE BELOW for a PDF of Earl’s story and photos.

In DC, “Barbie” inside, SAG-AFTRA outside

(7/20/23) WASHINGTON—Movie moguls curry favor with Congress via exclusive showings for lawmakers and staff, promoted by the Motion Picture Association of America. But had the attendees at the exclusive showing of “Barbie” looked out MPAA’s glass windows on July 20, they would have seen a second show: SAG-AFTRA members.

More than 100 people, mostly SAG-AFTRA members but also from other unions, gathered in a peaceful line around the MPAA building, careful not to block the entrances, holding signs of solidarity and distributing literature about why the movie studios, TV moguls and streaming video firms had forced them out on strike. Their reception included solidarity honks.

In a word, the bosses don’t want to pay the performers for their time, effort and money. And the other funding they used to survive on, residuals—pay for your voice and body showing up on reruns—has dried up, thanks to streaming video.

The result, performers said, is they can’t afford even studio-offered health insurance, because they must earn at least $26,400 a year to get it—and most don’t.

But there’s another big deal in the talks, which forced the union to strike a week before: Artificial intelligence. That lets studio producers shoot the body image of a performer in a day or less, record their voice, then create a zombie that can substitute for real people—forever. 

“I don’t really survive,” said TV and film actor Rob Olausen. “They had one movie and one day’s shooting downtown” of his AI image. He won’t get a penny beyond the day’s pay. “It’s one day” of performing, even in a small role, “not 20.” 

Added stage, film and TV performer Keith Flippen: “Our labor is not just our images, but our patterns of behavior, which are ours and ours alone.” Studio use of them forever, without paying him is “zombie acting.” 

The result? The performer scrapes by, and the moguls make millions, as they will with “Barbie,” filmed before the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers forced the strike. Meanwhile, Bob Iger, head of a big AMPTP firm, Disney, just signed a two-year contract for $27 million per annum, for example.

But as the public thinks of movie, TV and stage stars making millions, too, people should realize they’re a small minority of SAG-AFTRA members. Their colleagues in the Writers Guild of America, whom AMPTP has also forced to strike over most of the same issues, also are nowhere near the top of the pay scale.

“As a dresser, I dress the performers,” says Wendy Snow, who’s a member of both unions and the Theatrical and Stage Employees, too. “If they’re not there” she says of the performers, “I’m not there, the crew isn’t there. If we don’t have writers, the performers don’t have anything to say. There’s nobody there to feed them. There’s nobody to do their makeup.” 

And all those people, Snow said, don’t get paid, either. Meanwhile the studios make millions. Just ask “Barbie.”

– Mark Gruenberg, PAI News; photo by Chris Garlock

Evening With Labor

LHF gives in-person congratulations to AFL-CIO President, Liz Shuler at the 43rd annual “Evening with Labor” held November 12th. LHF executive director, Elise Bryant and LHF Board Treasurer, Kimmon Williams attended the events and LHF Board chair, Saul Schniderman received the Josh Williams Award.

Joe Uehlein Biography

Joe Uehlein: Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future, and Founding President of the Labor Heritage foundation. Joe is the former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department and former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns. Joe spent over 40 years doing organizing, bargaining, and strategic campaign work in the labor movement, while also living his life at the confluence of art and activism, and deeply immersed in the environmental movement and especially the climate change movement. Joe also served as the Secretary to the North American Coordinating Committee of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, and Mine Workers unions (ICEM). Joe also served on the United Nations commission on global warming from its inception in 1988 through the Kyoto Accords in 1997 until 2003.  Joe is a founding board member of Ceres (Coalition for Environmentally responsible Economies), and served on the Ceres board for 23 years.  Joe is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and served as a senior strategic advisor to the Blue Green Alliance for five years.  Joe is a current board member of USCAN, the US Climate Action Network.  In the early 1970’s he worked in an aluminum mill in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of the United Steelworkers of America, and then on heavy and highway construction projects in Central Pennsylvania as a member of the Laborer’s International Union of North America.  He also serves on the advisory board of the Future of Music Coalition. Joe is a musician, and a 53-year member of the American Federation of Musicians. Joe was the organizer of the first ever AFL-CIO Arts & Activism Award, and assisted in the Organizing of the Tell Us The Truth Tour in 2003.

Joe was a chief architect of the famous Ravenswood Campaign, designed to track down and pressure Marc Rich, the largest metals trader in the world and fugitive from US justice, to end a vicious management lockout of the workers (union-busting) at an aluminum mill owned by Mr. Rich in Ravenswood, West Virginia. The campaign was waged on five continents in 22 countries for nearly two years. A complete victory resulted in the firing of management, and restored all locked-out workers to their jobs with a good union contract.

Joe was also a chief organizer of the labor component of the massive anti-corporate globalization demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle, WA on November 30, 1999. The WTO’s (World Trade Organization) first meeting on US soil could not be held due to the demonstrations – a great victory, and a powerful coming together of progressive forces who believe that globalization should serve humanity, not corporate interests.

Joe is also a musician and bandleader. The ULiNERS are a DC-based Americana roots rock band now celebrating 16 years together. The band plays a wide variety of Americana roots music with a strong specialty in songs that have something to say about the world around us (labor, environmentalism, human rights and social and economic justice). His deep interest in the culture of the working class, growing up in steel communities along the banks of the great Lake Erie, motivated him to help found the Labor Heritage Foundation (LHF) in 1980. The LHF is a working class arts organization dedicated to raising awareness of working class issues through the arts – using cultural tools, like art and music, to help with organizing, bargaining, mobilization and education, and union building. The LHF also maintains a network of artists whose art form has a working class thematic.

Hear The Movement

None of Us Are Free
From D.C. Labor Chorus:
written by Brenda Russell but made famous by Ray Charles

America’s Working Heroes
Words & Music by Rich Daniels & Victoria Shaw
© 2002 BigCitiMan Music (BMI) / Norma Desmond Music and Ruby Dooby Tunes (SESAC), admin. by Sony ATV, LLC.

We Were There
Words and Music by Bev Grant
Performed by Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Womens Chorus

A Union of People
Words & Music by Christopher Lay
© 2002 Ludicrous Lay Music Inc. (ASCAP)

Joe Hill Award

The Joe Hill Award honors leaders and artists who have contributed to the successful integration of arts and culture in the labor movement. Every year at the Great Labor Arts Exchange, the Labor Heritage Foundation gives the award to individuals based on their dedication, participation, and promotion of labor, labor arts, culture, organizing, and/or history.

The Labor Heritage Foundation has presented this annual lifetime achievement award for work in the field of labor culture since 1989.

Past Recipients

Julius Margolin:  1916-2009

Activist, Artist, Organizer, and Inspiration

Our hearts and spirits go out to the family and friends of our friend, hero, and champion Julius Margolin, our comrade in the struggle for equity and fairness for America’s working people, particularly, and to all of America and our global community. Peace and blessings, to George Mann his long time friend and collaborator (fellow conspirator in equality), the Margolin family, and all of us whose lives have been forever changed, challenged, and inspired because of his life.  He lives in spirit within each of us who know him…

“Even Now Don’t Mourn,  ORGANIZE…”

In Memory of Julius Margolin
by: Darryl! L.C. Moch

He has been a strong advocate for youth involvement in the movement to promote the next generation and wave of activists and fighters.  He was always an ardent supporter of the arts and culture of the labor movement.  He was the consummate creative organizer.  His light, love, energy, and spirit will be missed in the physical world but to be sure he will continue to fight on our behalf now and forever.He was a friend, and a leader, and will be missed. [To the tune of Joe Hill]“From New York City, DC and beyond In streets and union halls where workers and youth stand for what’s right, there you will find Morgolin there you will find Margolin. I dreamed I heard Julius sing out challenging the ‘right’ and wrongs says, ‘but Julius, they said your gone’ ‘I never died’ says he, ‘I never died’ says he.” Just then he reached out and touched my mouth with his pointed frail finger, he says “keep working, you do good work and we need you, don’t give up.” I said, through held back tears “You will never die, Julius, never die, my friend.” And with that he smiled and turned and walked away singing as he always did.”…Solidarity Forever, solidarity…” I watched as long as I could until there was just a faint glimmer, then I turned to go back and work, he’ll never die, because he lives through us.

The Julius Margolin Youth in Labor Scholarship

The Julius Margolin Youth in Labor Scholarship fund was created to help bring young union activists and artists to the Great Labor Arts Exchange/Conference on Creative Organizing and to the Western Workers labor Heritage Festival annually. We aim to award at least two scholarships up to $500.

Click here to download the scholarship application form