P is for Picket Line: Sesame Street Writers Vote to Authorize Strike

Published: April 16, 2024
Categories: News

The season of strikes is on the verge of hitting Sesame Street. Writers for Sesame Workshop voted unanimously to strike should a new deal be not be reached before the current one expires on April 19th.

In a statement, the Writers Guild of America East, which includes the 35 affected writers, said:

“The writers that Sesame Workshop hires are deeply committed to the work that we do. 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. We hope for a speedy and amicable resolution to these negotiations so that we can continue to do the work of helping the next generation grow smarter, stronger and kinder.”

Should a deal not be reached before the deadline, picket lines would be held outside the Sesame Workshop offices in New York City beginning Wednesday, April 24th.

WGA East President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen added, “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.”

The union is negotiating for annual salary raises in line with the rest of the industry, along with updated residual payments, and union coverage for Sesame Street‘s animated and social media segments. With the show relying more heavily on animation in future seasons, the guild aims to ensure that its members working on these sections are entitled to similar protections to what writers get for other parts of the show.

Sesame Workshop, in a statement to Deadline, shared optimism that a strike could be avoided, saying: “Our writers are integral members of our creative team, and we are engaged in good faith negotiations with the WGA. We’re still hopeful that we’ll come to an agreement in advance of the expiration.”

Now, it’ll likely come as no surprise that we here at ToughPigs have offered our support to the WGA in the past, and this situation is no exception. We recognize that Sesame Workshop facing an uncertain future due to the looming expiration of the current distribution deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, but that burden shouldn’t be taken out on the writers. The people who help bring this iconic show to life deserve to be fairly compensated for the work they do. Without them, would Big Bird have anything to do with the alphabet? Would Elmo say anything about Rocco? I doubt it. Grover would be as silent as Sully. The writers are a big part of why the show has survived this long, and they shouldn’t have to do their work worrying about how to pay the cookie bill.

Click here to wonder how high Snuffy can hold a picket sign on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Matthew Soberman – Matthew@ToughPigs.com

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