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Sesame Workshop writers threaten to strike as contract deadline nears

Contract negotiations expire on Friday.

Members of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) at US-based Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational content company behind long-running series Sesame Street, have threated to take strike action.

The members voted unanimously, with 100% participation, to go on strike if Sesame Workshop’s management does not agree to a new collective bargaining agreement before their current contract expires on Friday.

The writers are demanding industry standard annual raises, improvements to residuals and union coverage for Sesame Workshop’s animation and social media segments.

A 35-member bargaining unit began negotiations on February 13. If a deal is not reached, picketing will begin on April 24 outside Sesame Workshop’s offices in New York City.

In a statement, the WGA Sesame Workshop negotiating committee 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.”

WGAE 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.”

A spokesperson for Sesame Workshop responded: “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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