Neil Gaiman was wearing a version of a black T-shirt Almost every day for the past 36 years. Then, on a mild Tuesday in May, he decided to make an important wardrobe change.
“I’m wearing the first red T-shirt I’ve worn since 1987 because I’m a member of the WGA,” said Mr. Gaiman, bestselling author of “The Sandman” and “Coraline.” announce From a picket line in New York. “I am on strike.” His tomato-red T-shirt, which featured an illustration of a raised fist holding a pencil, announced that it was time for writers to put their pencils down—albeit in block letters, and with an obscene choice for good measure.
Across New York and Los Angeles, T-shirts supporting creative labor unions are almost everywhere you look. On the subway, in line at the grocery store and at the coffee shop, creators and their allies in both cities are eager to wear support for hits on their craft sleeves.
The Writers Guild of America, a labor union representing 11,500 screenwriters, went on strike in early May after failing to reach an agreement with Hollywood producers on details of a new contract, including compensation for work on streaming services and the use of artificial intelligence. When the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA decided to go on strike last week, the feud took on new dimensions. As the demonstrations approached their 13th week, an urgent need arose: clean shirts.
“When you’re catching a sit-in several days a week in your WGA jersey, you don’t have to be geeky about it, but washing becomes urgent said Josh Gundelman, a writer and comedian who lives in New York. “Anywhere you can get extra WGA jerseys, it becomes an interesting topic on the picket line, just from a practical point of view.”
Writers’ Guild members get two shirts when they sign up for the picket, and the weather in both cities was sweltering, meaning picketers couldn’t wear the same shirts several days in a row without doing laundry. (“Even though we’re working a short week, I want to assure everyone that my WGA blue jersey still smells like it’s been soaked,” said writer Mike Royce. he said on Twitter.)
To meet this need, online retailers immediately began to appear, selling t-shirts with various WGA logos and there is no clear information on where the proceeds from these t-shirts end up.
Enter WGAStrikeShirts.com. The online shop, run by a screenwriter and Writers Guild member of 12 years named Tripper Clancy, sells WGA and SAG-AFTRA batting paraphernalia including hats, tank tops and Mr. Gaiman pens under a T-shirt. Since its inception on May 5, the site has sold more than $100,000 in merchandise, according to Mr. Clancy, with 100 percent of net proceeds going to Entertainment Community FundIt is a charitable foundation that supports performers, artists and those in the entertainment industry.
Bestsellers include A Plain white shirt black lettering saying, “Pay the writers, actors, crew, haulers, and whoever else makes you all the money” and a black T-shirt with a red “solidarity fist” denoting the unions involved in the strike.
As the strike continued, unionized merchandise began trending toward the widespread New Yorker tote bags. Since WGAStrikeShirts began selling clothing, actors like Ike Barinholtz and Tatiana Maslany and filmmakers like Nick Stoller have been spotted sporting message shirts. Jason Sudeikis recently showed up in support of the New York strike in a “Writers Guild on Strike” baseball cap, and the black SAG-AFTRA jerseys given to members were also a popular choice for the picket line: Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, and Christian Slater have all appeared in their jerseys recently. This week, due to the sweltering heat, SAG-AFTRA began distributing white T-shirts that immediately took Mandy Moore, Vanessa Hudgens, and others to the streets.
Personal style has always been a means of expressing political or social affiliation, but what one wears to the picket line is particularly important: by wearing matching union clothing, workers become a visual representation of the solidarity they are trying to express.
“Especially with a strike or any kind of solidarity event, you want to have a visual impact and show strength in numbers,” said Sarah Tatiana Bernstein, a professor of fashion and cultural studies who co-founded Dismantle magazine. Clothes often express individuality and express your personality. In this case, it’s more about expressing your community and your collective strength rather than your individuality.”
Professor Bernstein said that fashion has always been a cornerstone of political expression, particularly when it comes to union action. She referred to the 1937 supermarket strikes in New York City, in which Woolworth workers wore their uniforms while sitting at work, and also to the French Revolution, during which slogans were put up. stitched They wear expensive jackets to signify solidarity with the revolutionaries. She said the slogan T-shirts worn on the picket lines in this summer’s strikes were a contemporary extension of those practices.
However, knowing exactly where to buy shirts that support labor movements can be a bit of a conundrum, especially when it comes to second-hand shopping. Vintage union shirts have long been a favorite among fashionistas, but many secondhand sellers have become wary of selling them for fear of being accused of making money from a cause they weren’t a part of.
“Selling old NYC union goods, specifically unionization, is a sensitive topic with union workers,” said Kevin Fallon, owner of the popular online store Fantasy Explosion, which recently opened a location in Brooklyn.
He added, “In the past I’ve had DMs and emails telling me to stop selling them because they were afraid of job site impersonators and stolen guts, so I’m trying not to sell NYCF stuff anymore.”
For the team responsible for WGAStrikeShirts, transparency is key. The store prominently advertises that it is run by members of the WGA, and proceeds go to the Support Fund. And although not every shirt is created in a syndicated store, it is screen printed on one screen, and all financials are disclosed in Twitter topic Per month.
Wearing union goods aligned with picket lines and beyond helped create a sense of solidarity among writers often working alone. The best thing about wearing them, Mr. Clancy said, is that you “bring people out of the woodwork saying, ‘I support you, and I stand with you. ‘” You can also be asked questions like, “Why do you union strike?” Why don’t you guys make a deal with the studio? “
“Every time that happens,” he said, “it gives you an opportunity to explain.”