Striking Hollywood Writers Outraged over Universal Studios Trimming Trees that Gave Them Shade in Picket Line

Hollywood actors, writers and their supporters walk the picket line July 18, 2023 outside Disney Studios, in Burbank, California. Tens of thousands of Hollywood actors went on strike at midnight July 13, 2023, effectively bringing the giant movie and television business to a halt as they join writers in the …
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Hollywood writers are outraged over Universal Studios trimming trees that were providing them shade while they are on strike in the Writers Guild of America (WGA) picket line.

Chris Stephens, a comedian and TV writer who has been on strike, told the Washington Post that the trimming of the Ficus trees lining the sidewalk on Barham Boulevard — near the Universal Studios Lot — where writers have been picketing, “seemed like a deliberate move.”

Stephens added that the move was likely “to make things a little more uncomfortable for everybody, right when the pressure got turned up.”

Before the trees were trimmed, their once-leafy branches had cast shade that shielded strikers from the summer heat.

A spokesperson for NBCUniversal told the Washington Post that the company had, in fact, pruned the trees, but insisted it was not their “intention” to make writers uncomfortable while they are on strike, adding that the company has been pruning the trees for years.

“We understand that the safety tree trimming of the Ficus trees we did on Barham Blvd. has created unintended challenges for demonstrators,” the spokesperson said. “That was not our intention.”

Meanwhile, NBCUniversal has offered pop-up tents and water for strikers, the spokesperson added.

Eric Haywood, a member of the WGA Board of Directors who has been picketing in the area since Monday, feels differently, calling the company’s decision to trim the branches a union-busting tactic.

“You don’t trim or prune trees in mid-July in the middle of a heat wave,” Haywood told the Washington Post. “Those trees were butchered.”

Notably, the trees were pruned at a time when parts of central and southern California have been experiencing more heat.

The heat, and now lack of shade, are the not the only challenges writers face while on strike. Construction work in the area has also reportedly forced a picket line off the sidewalk and onto the road. Nonetheless, striking scribes have been determined to stay the course.

“We’re prepared to stay in this fight for as long as it takes,” Haywood said.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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