The famous giant inflated rat was displayed near the NBC studios as about 40 people in Rockefeller Center shouted, "No contract, no shows!''
"The seven-word mantra is, 'When you get paid, we get paid,'' said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America East.
The contract between the 12,000-member Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producer expired on Halloween.
Talks that began this summer failed to produce much progress on the writers' key demands for a bigger slice of DVD profits and revenue from the distribution of films and TV shows over the Internet.
Writers and producers had gathered for negotiations Sunday at the request of a federal mediator. The two sides met for nearly 11 hours before East Coast members of the writers union announced on their Web site that the strike had begun for their 4,000 members.
The strike is the first walkout by writers since 1988. That work stoppage lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry more than $500 million!
The first casualty of the strike would be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment.
Daytime TV, including live talk shows such as "The View'' and soap operas, which typically tape about a week's worth of shows in advance, would be next to feel the impact.
The strike will not immediately impact production of movies or prime-time TV programs. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.
And if anyone out there is listening, I am not above being a "scab" writer. Email me. I'm available.