Sesame Street writers vote for strike if ‘fair deal’ is not reached

US

Sesame Street writers have unanimously voted to support strike action should a deal not be reached after two months of negotiations over pay and union coverage.

A group of writers for Sesame Workshop, the producer of the hit children’s TV show, began bargaining on 13 February ahead of their contract expiring on 19 April.

Picketing will begin outside the offices in New York next week if a “fair new collective bargaining agreement” is not made in time, they have said.

Sesame Workshop has said it is hopeful a deal will be reached before then, according to US media reports.

Sesame Street Muppet characters Count von Count, left, Elmo and Grover attend the Sesame Workshop annual benefit gala in New York in May 2023. Pic: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Image:
Count von Count (L) Elmo and Grover pictured at the Sesame Workshop annual benefit gala in May 2023. Pic: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The writers – members of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) – are requesting industry standard annual raises, improvements to residuals (payments when work is reused), and union coverage for the organisation’s animation and social media segments.

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.

If it goes ahead, the writers walkout would follow the months-long strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which brought Hollywood to a standstill in 2023.

‘Millions of parents are going to have questions’

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.”

Earlier this year, fan favourite character Elmo delivered a message to fans after being inundated with people saying they were struggling with life – with even US President Joe Biden joining the conversation. During the pandemic, the show broadcast a special to help children “feel connected in this time of uncertainty”.

The WGA Sesame Workshop negotiating committee said its writers are “deeply committed to the work that we do”, and “work hard at telling stories… inspired by heart, curiosity, community, kindness, diversity, equity, and inclusion”.

In a statement, it added: “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 said it hoped for a “speedy and amicable resolution” to continue helping the next generation “grow smarter, stronger and kinder”.

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Sky News has contacted Sesame Workshop for comment.

In a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline in the US, a spokesperson for Sesame Workshop said: “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.”

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