On Saturday, October 18, Tyler Perry's play The Marriage Counselor will arrive at Chicago's Arie Crown Theater. The comedian, who is well-known for his work on stage, television, and film, is a dedicated supporter of Barack Obama and has announced plans to make a film based on the relationship between the political candidate and his wife.
But Obama likely would not approve of Perry's latest activities.
Four of the seven staff writers of the TBS sitcom House of Payne recently began seeking labor representation. According to the WGA West, Perry warned the writers that they should "be careful about pushing the WGA deal or you could be replaced." When the writers (Lamont Ferrell, Teri Brown-Jackson, Christopher Moore, and head writer Kellie Griffin) continued to press the issue, they were promptly fired, according to the union.
In a statement issued by the WGA: "The House of Payne actors are covered under a Screen Actors Guild contract, and Mr. Perry, who has directed every single episode to date, is covered under a Directors Guild contract. However, House of Payne is one of the only scripted shows on TV that isn't covered under a WGA contract."
The WGA organized a picket outside the Saturday night opening of Perry's new Atlanta studio and issued a statement urging guests "not to cross our picket lines in a show of solidarity with fired writers." But that didn't go so well, as Oprah, Sidney Poitier, Whitney Houston and others showed up anyway.
Perry's lawyer insists that the firings were due to "the quality of their work" and were not related to the contract negotiations.
Meanwhile, unions have been part of the core of the Democratic Party, and Obama has spent substantial time trying to get the support of organized labor. In fact, Obama (along with Clinton and Edwards) refused to cross picket lines while the Writers Guild was on strike.
If Perry is the dedicated Barack supporter he says he is, it might do him well to save face and make a deal with the WGA.