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'S' is for solidarity, not strike. 'Sesame Street' writers reach a deal

In this 2008 file photo, Big Bird reads to Connor Scott and Tiffany Jiao during a taping of <em>Sesame Street</em> in New York.
Mark Lennihan
In this 2008 file photo, Big Bird reads to Connor Scott and Tiffany Jiao during a taping of Sesame Street in New York.

Writers for Sesame Street have voted unanimously to authorize a strike if they are unable to reach an agreement on their new contract before Friday, the Writers Guild of America East announced Tuesday.

Thirty-five WGA union members are asking Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces the mainstay children's program, for "industry standard annual raises, improvements to residuals, and union coverage for Sesame Workshop's popular animation and social media segments," for the show's writers, WGA said.

"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 WGA Sesame Workshop Negotiating Committee said. "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."

The union and Sesame Workshop began negotiating a new contract for the writers in February. The contract expires Friday, and if a resolution is not reached, a strike would begin next Wednesday, WGA said.

The 35 unionized writers could start picketing outside Sesame Workshop's New York City office that same day.

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

In a statement emailed to NPR on Thursday morning, a Sesame Workshop spokesperson said "we're still hopeful that we'll come to an agreement in advance of the expiration."

"Our writers are integral members of our creative team, and we are engaged in good faith negotiations with the WGA," the statement said.

The 54th season of the show began in November and contains 35 weekly episodes.
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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.