SAG-AFTRA to Hold First Official Picket Line at Universal After Sidewalk Restoration

Friday picket lines at the Disney and Warner Bros. backlots have been canceled by the actors guild

duncan crabtree ireland picket line sag aftra
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (Getty Images)

SAG-AFTRA will hold its first official picket lines outside of the Universal lot this Friday morning and has called on members who have marched on picket lines at the nearby Disney and Warner Bros. lots to instead gather at the Comcast-owned studio.

“We have been fighting Universal for our right to picket safely, and they say they’ve fixed the sidewalks. We’re so excited to finally be able to picket at Universal,” SAG-AFTRA announced on its strike website. “All other pickets in the Valley — Warner Bros. and Disney — will be closed on Friday, Aug. 4, to ensure we show up #SAGAFTRAStrong!”

The picket lines will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, and members are being encouraged to take Metro Rail to the Universal City station to avoid parking issues.

While some SAG-AFTRA members have informally shown up at NBCUniversal since their guild’s strike began on July 14 to join picketers from the Writers Guild of America, the actors union has not officially announced a picket line until Friday over safety concerns regarding its main gate on Lankershim Blvd.

Last month, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board accusing NBCUniversal of infringing on their members’ legal right to hold picket lines by fencing off the sidewalk next to the lot on Lankershim for a construction project.

On Tuesday, fences next to the Lankershim studio gate were moved back to open up access to the sidewalks, with NBCUniversal saying that it will add “temporary walking paths and expanded shaded rest areas” while it waits for city approval to add hard barriers on Lankershim Blvd., a move that was recommended by the LAPD back in June.

NBCUniversal last month also erected a group of standing-room tents on sidewalks outside the studio after it trimmed trees that had been providing shade to picketers.

While SAG-AFTRA joins writers in front of Universal, WGA leaders are set to meet on Friday with AMPTP president Carol Lombardini over potentially resuming negotiations on a contract for the first time since May 1.

In a memo to its members, the WGA noted that similar talks occurred during the early days of the 2007 writers strike without any progress, and said that its goals for a new contract remain unchanged.

“Writers – screenwriters, Appendix A writers, episodic television writers, all writers – have marched together for 94 days now. We have struck to make writing a viable profession for all of us, now and in the future. We have not come all this way, and sacrificed this much, to half-save ourselves,” the memo read.

The studios countered the WGA statement with one of their own, saying they were only motivated by approaches that will end the strike.

“Tomorrow’s discussion with the WGA is to determine whether we have a willing
bargaining partner. The WGA Bargaining Committee’s rhetoric is unfortunate,” the AMPTP said. “This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry, and we take that very seriously. Our only playbook is getting people back to work.”