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Cloudy day as Sesame Street strike looms

Writers for Sesame Workshop, the producer of the children’s TV show Sesame Street, have unanimously voted to support a strike if a fair contract is not reached.

A group of writers began bargaining negotiations on 13 February, requesting industry-standard annual raises, improvements to residuals – royalties for repeats – and union coverage for Sesame Workshop’s animation and social media segments.

Members of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) at Sesame Workshop have unanimously voted to authorise a strike if a “fair new collective bargaining agreement” is not reached before their contract expires on 19 April.

If they fail to reach a deal, picketing would begin outside the Sesame Workshop’s offices in New York on 24 April.

Sesame Workshop is a global, not-for-profit organisation that produces Sesame Street, alongside other children’s TV shows such as Helpsters and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo.

It follows strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the US actors’ union the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) that brought Hollywood to a standstill and halted productions on film and television shows around the world.

The WGA action was resolved last September, as the union agreed to a deal with studio bosses after 146 days on the picket line, while SAG-AFTRA lasted a record 118 days.

Writers Guild of America East President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen – “No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street. Millions of parents and families around the world are going to have a lot of questions”

“The writers that Sesame Workshop hires are deeply committed to the work that we do,” the WGA Sesame Workshop negotiating committee said.

“Like the Workshop itself, we are mission-driven and child-focused, and we work hard at telling stories that contribute to the Workshop’s curricula inspired by heart, curiosity, community, kindness, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We are committed to working with Sesame Workshop to codify a fair contract for writers that embodies these values, and which allows the Workshop to continue to attract top-level talent who can artfully create stories that successfully balance entertainment, playfulness, and joy with education and enrichment.

“Our demands would be extremely meaningful for the affected writers, particularly those in animation who are currently being excluded from basic union benefits and protections like pension and healthcare.”

The committee added that it hoped for a “speedy and amicable resolution” to continue helping the next generation “grow smarter, stronger, and kinder”.

WGAE President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen said: “No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street.

“Millions of parents and families around the world are going to have a lot of questions.

“They might ask why the bosses at Sesame Workshop are ignoring their company’s own messages of kindness and fairness.”

A representative for Sesame Workshop has been contacted for comment.

Source: Press Association

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