Home Entertainment ‘Sesame Street’ Writers Approve WGA Strike Authorization Vote as Contract Expiration Looms

‘Sesame Street’ Writers Approve WGA Strike Authorization Vote as Contract Expiration Looms

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Writers employed by “Sesame Street” producer Sesame Workshop have voted unanimously to support a strike authorization vote from the Writers Guild of America as the April 19 expiration of the current contract approaches.

The 35 writers represented by the union have been in negotiations with the production company behind “Sesame Street” and other children’s programs since February. If the sides can’t reach a deal by April 19, picketing will begin outside Sesame Workshop’s Manhattan headquarters on April 24, the WGA said Tuesday.

“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,” the union’s Sesame Workshop negotiating committee said in a statement. “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.”

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit organization, which means it’s in an unusual position of facing a strike threat. WGA East president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen acknowledged the awkwardness of the situation.

“No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street,” said Takeuchi Cullen. “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.”

“Sesame Street” is one of television’s landmark series, having been a staple of the airwaves since 1969. The series aired on PBS for nearly 50 years, until HBO struck a deal with Sesame Workshop. That agreement called for HBO to fund the production of new episodes that premiered on HBO but eventually were made available on free TV via PBS. At present, Sesame Workshop has a deal to produce new episodes of “Sesame Street” for HBO’s streamer sibling Max. But the show’s fate as of next year and beyond is still uncertain.

Sesame Workshop’s other shows include animated series “Bea’s Block,” “Esme and Roy” and “Mecha Builders” — all produced for Max.