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Martinez Does Not Speak for Writers

April 24, 1988

A column by one Al Martinez (Times, March 31) purported to describe picket duty by members of the WGA, at present striking against management.

The impression that Martinez, a self-admitted weekend writer for television, speaks for the guild, must be corrected--an impression he leaves when he states that he was picketing to help "the Writers Guild of America in a strike against what we regard as scum."

Martinez is not "we." The men and women who negotiate for the guild may describe management as difficult, intransigent, stubborn, unfair and may throw in some rougher words, but not scum.

And when he gets down to describing the rank and file membership, he is snide, insulting, ageist, sexist and just plain nasty. He spares no one as he spews his venom on the peaceful, legally assembled picketers.

The young he dismisses as shorts-wearing, tennis-playing, perambulator-pushing, and "baby nursing in the scum shade of the struck building." Scum seems to hold an important place in Martinez's mind.

He does write, "I don't believe there was a drunk or spitter among them," but then it's less than a compliment since it was how he describes his own behavior during the newspaper strike in San Francisco.

But he keeps his venom-dipped little goodies for the older members, whom he sees as balding, middle-aged gentlemen who "reminisced about how great it was in the old days on the Ponderosa."

He makes fun of senior writers, accusing them of trying to get out of picketing by using such excuses as "old and incontinent," as one who "could not hold his water."

About the only ones who get away from his barbs--in fact he is downright kind to them--are the scabs. "Scabs," he actually writes, are burned at the stake, of course. But not until after fair trial by union militants.

I suggest Martinez do a little reading of labor history. Every gain by unions was obtained through the efforts of militants, of organizers. My own experience: it is only because of the WGA that I get residuals for my writing. My work on "Your Show of Shows," being pre-guild, is being shown, big money is being made, and I'm not getting penny one. Now, since WGA, I get residuals, help in paying medical bills and, being retired, a pension check.

Every one of these benefits was won through militancy and strikes. None of these substantial benefits would Martinez refuse.

In sum, Martinez simply does not represent the feeling of the picketers.

That actual feeling--shared by the striking writers, young and old alike--can be described with one word. It's a Polish word. Solidarnosc .

MEL TOLKIN

Beverly Hills

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