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September 25, 2023
What A Day
Pickets Down

In This Episode

  • The Writers Guild of America late Sunday evening announced a tentative agreement with the major studios. The Guild has said that it got most of what it wanted, including increased pay for writers on streaming content, minimum staffing requirements for TV shows, and guarantees from the studios over the use of artificial intelligence. We’re joined by WGA member Vicky Luu to talk about her reaction to the deal and more.
  • And in headlines: the shooter who killed 23 people in a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 has been ordered to pay over $5 million to the victims and their families, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said he won’t resign after being charged with bribery, and Governors Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis are going head-to-head on the debate stage in November.


Show Notes:


Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee.




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Tuesday, September 26th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What a Day where we are just pointing out that amid the Taylor Swift rumors, she has not dated another American since back in 2012. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We ran this by the fact checkers, so don’t at us. Also, she probably is on to something there. Okay. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez says he won’t resign after being charged with bribery. Plus, Governors Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis are inexplicably going head to head on the debate stage in November. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Huh yi yi yi yi. But first, we’ve all seen them over the past few months, the witty picket signs, the digs against entertainment executives on social media, and most importantly, the widespread calls since May to support striking Hollywood writers. And as we told you on yesterday’s show, the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents them, finally announced a tentative agreement with the major studios. The deal is the result of five days of marathon negotiations between the two sides after previous talks deadlocked back in early August and as of Monday evening as we sat down to record this episode, we still don’t have the full details about what’s in the agreement, though we could learn more as soon as today when the union is expected to finalize it before presenting it to its members. They will ultimately decide whether to accept or reject the terms of the three year contract. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The guild has said that it got most of what it wanted, including increased pay for writers on streaming content, minimum staffing requirements for TV shows and guarantees from the studios over the use of artificial intelligence. In the meantime, striking writers from L.A. to New York all seem to breathe a collective sigh of relief, because after 146 long days, picketing has been officially suspended. And while the strike gave us some great one liners and a chance to see the power of collective bargaining, it certainly came at a cost. Many writers had to steel themselves for the uncertainty and pressure, financial and otherwise that comes with being out of work without a clear end in sight. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. And so we wanted to hear from one of them ourselves. Vicky Luu has been a card carrying member of the Writers Guild since 2014. Her credits include work on NBC’s Superstore and most recently, Apple TV’s Loot. We caught up with her from her home in Los Angeles, and she told us that she and her colleagues finally felt a glimmer of hope going into the weekend. 


Vicky Luu: I think as soon as we knew negotiations were starting again, the rumor that was going about was this might be it. This might be the last couple of times that they’re going to sit down with each other. Everything seems positive, [laugh] positive in the sense that everyone is sort of at their wit’s end. It’s getting to a point where we all need to just get back to work. Even on the AMPTP side, it’s like, you know, they’re not winning this and we’re not giving up. So there’s just a sense of something’s going to happen during these negotiations. And that was sort of the feel of everything that was going on, which was positive. So even the meeting on Saturday, we were like, okay, they never done a weekend meeting. This is great. You know, this is progress. This is different from what we’re usually experiencing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, we’ve heard of so many stories of folks being kind of impacted by the strike in so many different ways, just in terms of their livelihood. What were some of the challenges or experiences that you faced during the strike? How did it impact you and your family personally? 


Vicky Luu: I will start off by saying I I think I was in a pretty good place when the strike started. We sort of saw the writing on the wall a little bit, so we did start to prepare to save up and just prepare ourselves. And I’ve been working for a while, so I was in a decent place to stop working. That being said, you know, we did feel that impact in our household. You know, I fairly recently purchased a home and then even more recently had a kid with my wife. So we have a new baby. So all those things are just culminating in things that require a steady flow of income. I don’t think the stopping of work was jarring so much as how long it has gone on. And so we started to really start to see those effects just really starting to tighten our belts, starting to worry a little bit. Earlier on having the conversations of do I have any other marketable skills other than being a writer? Am I just supposed to look for another career. Is there anything else that I can be doing just to have another set of income? My wife, you know, wanted to take off more time to sort of be a stay at home mom. And we had another conversation about her going back to work earlier than anticipated. We have this new baby that we want to give a home for. And looking at my baby being like I’m a provider, am I going to be able to provide for this new baby, this new life that I’ve brought into the world? So all that is really scary. There are those moments where it just felt a little dark and a little like, how long is this going to last for? And also, my mom was not helpful. She reacts. I try to keep calm and my mom like voices the things that very audibly that I’m aware of but try not to like, let that voice get to me where she’s just like, you’re not working, you’re not making money. It’s your it’s going to be really hard. And I’m like, no I know all of, I’m aware of all these things thank you. It just caused that like simmering tension in the household. I will say. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. I mean this strike went on for 146 days. That is nearly five months. 


Vicky Luu: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: During which no one was getting their paychecks. So how did you and your colleagues keep going? Because I imagine, you know, after you hit maybe even like month one, you’re like, oh, God, I’m like, [laughter] starting to feel this. This doesn’t feel so good. 


Vicky Luu: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What kept you motivated throughout this length of time? 


Vicky Luu: You know, having just said the stress that we went through in my household. At the same time, my confidence in the leadership of WGA and the confidence of the strike never wavered. My resolve never wavered despite being stressed and scared and worried. I was never angry at the strike. I was never like, why isn’t this over? There was just such a resolve within the WGA. We just knew that things needed to change. It was it was the power of the the strength of a union. Because personally, people are going through things, but we can see the bigger picture. For me at least, I can only speak for myself. I’ve been in broadcasting, I’ve been in streaming, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the the negatives of where our industry was going. And I knew that yeah things need to change. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was our conversation with WGA member Vicky Luu. Of course, the Actors Union SAG-AFTRA is still on strike that has now been going on for 75 days. SAG-AFTRA and the studios haven’t talked in two months, so it could be some time before things get back to normal for Hollywood. As always, we’ll keep an eye on how that shakes out. But in the meantime, that is the latest for now. [music break] 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The self-proclaimed white supremacist who killed 23 people in a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 has been ordered to pay over $5 million dollars to the victims and their families. That is according to court documents filed yesterday. The 25 year old gunman was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences back in July after he pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges for the racist rampage, which is one of the deadliest attacks against Latinos in modern U.S. history. He specifically traveled to El Paso to target Mexican people and immigrants. As for the more than $5 million dollars that he’s been ordered to pay up, it is unclear when victims can hope to see that restitution. And it’s unlikely that he has the money or the assets to cover that amount. In the meantime, the shooter still faces a separate state trial in Texas, and prosecutors there are seeking the death penalty. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Ukrainian military officials said yesterday that the leader of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, was among the 34 officers killed last week in a missile strike in Crimea. Ukraine Special Operations forces, which shared the update, added that more than 100 people had also been wounded. But the claim about Sokolov hasn’t been independently verified and Ukraine hasn’t provided any evidence. However, if confirmed, Sokolov’s death would be a huge loss for the Russian Navy. The attack happened on Friday when Ukraine said it struck the Black Sea fleet’s headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, where senior members of Russia’s Navy were meeting. As for Russia, its defense ministry initially said one person was killed but later said that person was missing. And as of our record time at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, Russia has not yet commented on Ukraine’s claims. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And back in this country, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez spoke out for the first time since he was indicted on federal corruption charges last week and insisted yesterday that he will remain in office. 


[clip of Bob Menendez] I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be the New Jersey’s senior senator. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. I don’t know [laughter] what gives you the confidence and what gives you the faith there, but uh good for you, sir. Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes in exchange for helping to enrich three New Jersey businessmen and using his position in the Senate to secretly aid the Egyptian government. Menendez has already temporarily stepped down as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, though some of his Democratic colleagues have urged him to resign. I mean, clearly the man is doing a lot of foreign relations. No contest there. He is up for reelection next year, but he hasn’t explicitly said whether or not he’ll seek another term. If he does, he already has a primary challenger, another New Jersey Democrat, Representative Andy Kim, recently announced that he plans to run for Menendez’s Senate seat, saying in part that, quote, “New Jersey deserves better.” And listen, there are a lot of things to say about New Jersey, but that’s that’s the truth. That just is. [laughter] I won’t be saying any of them on this show. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, the showdown that absolutely no one asked for. Fox News announced yesterday it will host the first and hopefully last primetime debate between California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Why does this make any sense? I don’t know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why? Why? If you’re drawing a blank, too, you’re not alone. Don’t worry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So the matchup, which is set for November 30th, is unusual considering that they’re not running for the same office, though both leaders have gone out of their way over the past year to troll each other on social media. DeSantis even tried to take the opening jab with a video posted shortly after the announcement, insinuating that Newsom’s policies are driving people out of the Golden State, which, you know, is kind of rich for a guy who brags about kidnapping people to score political points. You know, he’s been shipping people from Florida to California to Martha’s Vineyard and various other places. So he knows a lot about driving people out of a state. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: As far as why Newsom agreed to this sideshow in the first place, a spokesperson for the Democratic governor told the Los Angeles Times that he agreed to it as long as it doesn’t look like WWE Smackdown. So no cheering section, no hype videos and none of that. But the cringe doesn’t end there. A former Republican strategist also told The Times that the move on DeSantis’s part reads as, quote, “pure desperation.” According to a national poll from Emerson College, support for Desantis’s presidential campaign currently sits at just 12%. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, uh this is just really comical. This makes no sense that this event is happening. I don’t know why Governor Newsom agreed to this. Ron DeSantis. Sure. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, I won’t attempt to try and make sense of how that man thinks. But Gavin Newsom, why are you going on Fox News? Why do you think this is a good idea? This is a grown up version of the Elon Musk Mark Zuckerberg cage match, which actually I would have watched because that sounded entertaining, but this [laughter] does not sound entertaining. This sounds like two nerds fighting. Two nerds, actually, I should say, with jobs, that they should be doing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Pretty big jobs, pretty big states. A lot of people depending on them to be using a lot of their energy for work. So, yeah, this is rather confusing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. I also feel like Newsom doesn’t win anything out of doing this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right? If anybody gains something, potentially it’s Ron DeSantis, right? Because he can try to prove, you know, how bold he is in his bigotry. You know, and I’m sure Fox News viewers will– 


Priyanka Aribindi: –could eat that up. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –will like that. And it might improve his current polling numbers. But like, this makes no sense for Newsom. But here we are nonetheless. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You know that bullshit criticism that people would like give Democrats every now and then who are running for office. There’ll be like, this isn’t presidential, like this random thing that you’ve done. This is the least presidential shit I have actually ever seen. You are debating a random man who is not even competing for the same office as you. Why? It does reek of desperation and we will not comment on what it reeks of from Gavin Newsom. [laughter] I don’t know. I don’t know. And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. High five the writers in your life and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just Bob Menendez’s search history like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


[spoken together] And go get him Gavin. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t want to sound like I’m encouraging this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m about to say, maybe don’t go get him actually.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, stay home. Stay home. Please. [laughing] But I will say like if they did make it a little more like WWE. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I would watch that. I would watch. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.