Reflecting on the Writers’ Strike
Behind most great successes, someone is behind the scenes contributing in some way to that success. That work, though unseen, is integral to the performance, the new product, the speech, or the innovative procedure. In the beginning of May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike and, as most of you know, pulled basically the entire entertainment industry to a full stop. The talk shows and late-night shows were shut down and sitcoms slowed. The WGA labor union represents approximately 11,500 writers. Of course, this is not the first labor stoppage for the writers. A strike in November 2007 lasted more than 3 months before an agreement was reached. There are always two sides to a negotiation and, while I don't have all the details, my gut sides in this instance with the writers' union because I relate what the writers do to what we do as laboratory technicians. We are the ones who work mostly behind the scenes, and if we were to all unionize and strike, what would happen to our profession?
I am not advocating for us unionizing, although I am sure that it would be a topic to generate some extreme—and maybe even polarizing—viewpoints. Why do I make the comparison, then? It is our shared value as the backbones of our professions. Without the more than 40,000 strong dental technicians, the American dental profession would come to a staggering halt. Yes, I know that many people would rebut that offshore dental work would fill the gap, and I have no doubt that the movie and television industry could hire outside the US. Still, I am confident the 11,500 in the writers' union will be successful. I say this, in part, because of the support that they have received. In fact, the majority of people who are out of work without writers—the TV hosts and actors—support the writers' cause. This is fundamental.
Shifting to our profession, if we were to stop producing teeth, would our clinical partners stand with us while we halt their livelihoods? It is not exactly an apples-to-oranges comparison, but it is a personal question and I'm sure that there would be divided responses. The issue comes down to interpretation of value. At a recent dental event, I overheard one of my clinical partners speaking with the featured lecturer. The lecturer was telling her that there was no need for technicians anymore because he can produce his restorative work with today's technology. Her response reminded me of the actors I have seen defending the writers. She confidently cited the value she provides to her customers, which is largely created by her relationships with technicians. The value in her practice, she expressed, lies in the artistry and utilization of technology with which she treats every patient, supporting the integrity of her practice.
I believe that a majority of clinicians, like the actors who support their behind-the-scenes writers, would side with their technician partners. We are the backbone that supports the great successes—the writers, the technicians, the ones people don't see on the big screen. But our value lies in the work we do to support our partners' long-term vision. And that value is invaluable.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT