Sesame Workshop Writers Reach Deal, Avoid Strike

Writers Guild of America members employed by Sesame Workshop have reached a tentative contract agreement with management, averting a strike after negotiations stalled over compensation and union representation for the nonprofit's animation and social media staff.

The bargaining unit of 35 — which includes the writing staff of “Sesame Street” — and Sesame Workshop reached a new five-year contract on Friday, the day their previous agreement expired.

The new deal includes jurisdiction and minimum rates for animated and new media programming, artificial intelligence protections, paid parental leave benefits and improvements to streaming residuals, the WGA said.

“We are so proud to work for an organization that values ​​its writers, and we believe this new contract will have a positive impact on writers in the children's media landscape,” the bargaining unit's bargaining team said in a statement Friday.

“'S' really stands for solidarity. We are happy that we have a contract that allows Sesame to do what it does best: provide leadership.”

In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for Sesame Workshop said: “We value our writers and their important contributions to the creative process, which are integral to our ability to achieve our nonprofit mission.”

“This agreement is a testament to our commitment to our creative talent, and we appreciate the WGA's partnership in working with us to establish this new industry benchmark,” the spokesperson added.

On April 16, the bargaining unit voted unanimously to authorize a strike after two months of contract talks. The picketing is said to have begun outside Sesame Workshop's offices in New York City on Wednesday if workers and management could not resolve their labor dispute.

“The writers Sesame Workshop hires are deeply committed to the work we do,” the union's bargaining committee said in a statement earlier this week. “We hope for a quick and amicable resolution to these negotiations so that we can continue to do the work helping the next generation become smarter, stronger and kinder.”

“No one wants to see a picket line on Sesame Street,” said Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, president of the WGA East. “Millions of parents and families around the world will have many questions. They may wonder why Sesame Workshop's bosses are ignoring their company's own messages of kindness and honesty.”

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit organization behind the long-running children's television series “Sesame Street.” It also produces other children's programs, including “Bea's Block,” “Esme & Roy,” “Ghostwriter,” “Helpsters,” “Mecha Builders” and “The Not-Too-Late-Show with Elmo.”

The potential work stoppage was averted nearly seven months after the WGA and major Hollywood studios reached an agreement to end a 148-day writers' strike. That deal created bonuses for writers based on streaming data, minimum staffing requirements in TV writers' rooms and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

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