‘No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street’ but that’s exactly what’s happening as writers unanimously vote for strike

Having a sunny day and sweeping the clouds away can be an increasingly difficult task without a signed contract. And behind Sesame Street’s eight-foot big bird, vampire who likes to count, or blue fuzzy thing that loves cookies are a group of humans writing their family-friendly whimsy. 

On Tuesday, the Writers Guild of America announced that the writers of Sesame Workshop, who produce the widely popular show “Sesame Street,” unanimously voted to strike. With the current contract set to expire on Friday, writers are looking to reach a new agreement. Negotiations began months ago, on Feb. 13, and as winter thaws writers still are left without a contract. The 35-member group is set to walk out and begin picketing a week later, on April 24, if “management fails to reach a deal with their unionized writers,” said a press release from the union.

It turns out even writers for primetime darlings are fighting for their basic needs. Unionized writers for “Sesame Street” are petitioning for a contract that includes annual raises by “industry standard” amounts, improvements to residuals, and union coverage for Sesame Workshop’s popular animation and social media segments, the WGA said in its 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,” 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.”

This comes on the heels of the successful WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in the summer of 2023 wherein those in the creative and entertainment industries demanded better pay in an era of minimal residuals in the streaming economy, as well as protections against being replaced by AI. Monitoring further usage of AI and creating a paid parental leave fund are also at stake with this new proposed Sesame Street contract, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Sesame Workshop did not respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.

Indeed, it seems as if unions are having a surge in popularity and power (despite membership standing at a multi-decade low). But recent successes by  established unions like the United Auto Workers and Teamsters, as well as workers’ general disenchantment with working conditions has appeared to inspire a more militant movement, if not a larger one. Major strike activity spiked by 280% in 2023, reaching its highest level in over two decades.

Sesame Street union members’ hands appear to be forced. “No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street,” WGAE President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen said in a statement. “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.”

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