Editors note: One in a series of stories marking the 100th day of the WGA strike.
Over the last 100 days, thousands of WGA members took to the streets of major American cities to show solidarity in their pursuit for a fair deal with the major studios. Over that time, striking writers have had to navigate the weather — including, rain, heat and smoke from the Canadian wild fires — issues of physical and mental fatigue, as well as some studios making it damn-near difficult to picket.
There have been unforeseen obstacles and dangers too — who could have predicted that a producer would slam his car breaks within a few feet of striking writers? Or that an unknown employee would order trees to be trimmed right where picketers march?
Here are five incidents or controversies that picketers have had to deal with since May 2.
Not long after the WGA hit the picket lines, an electronic sign went up outside of Warner Bros warning drivers that excessive horn use violates Section 27001 of the California Vehicle Code. The law enforces “reasonably necessary” horn-blowing to insure safe operation of other vehicles. Otherwise, “the horn shall not otherwise be used, except as a theft alarm system.” Eventually, a similar sign was posted outside of Disney, which has heard its fair share of loud horns. While the cacophony has tried the nerves of neighbors like this one who wrote a column for Deadline, Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony (who also happens to be a member of SAG-AFTRA) encouraged motorists to continue leaning into their steering wheels. “We’re still honking in Burbank,” he told Deadline’s Rosy Cordero. “If you are near picket lines anywhere, make sure you honk.”
Radford’s so-called neutral gate
After the WGA strike began, writers wanting to picket Radford Studios were relegated to the tiny Colfax Avenue gate because Hackman Capital Partners — which owns the 55-acre property — declared the four gates on Radford Avenue as neutral territory, meaning only tenants could use those entrances. That led to long and sweaty picketing days on Colfax, where the gate is only frequented by delivery workers and audience members for The Talk. After THR put a spotlight on the growing controversy, Hackman finally relented and opened the Radford gates.
Picketing outside the studio’s main gates on Lankershim Boulevard was hampered early on because of an ongoing, three-year renovation project that left the sidewalks blocked. According to a petition filed by the WGA, the Labor Relations Unit of the Los Angeles Police Department inspected the construction on June 6 and recommended the creation of a pedestrian lane of “K-Rail” barriers from River Road to Universal Hollywood Drive. But change was slow in coming, partly because of the multiple agencies involved and how a lane of traffic had already been taken up by construction. After union members delivered a petition to NBCU with more than 26,000 signatures demanding the safety measures, a special lane was finally created. On August 4, with the lane officially open, thousands descended upon Universal City for the mother of all picket days.
No one expected to be talking about leaves on trees when they hit the picket lines in May, but that’s exactly what happened outside of NBCUniversal when a row of previously bushy Ficus trees on Barham Boulevard were inexplicably pruned over a hot weekend. After Deadline broke the story about how Gate 8 protesters were suddenly without shade, the studio released a statement saying that while they didn’t mean to create “unintended challenges for demonstrators,” they prune the trees annually “to ensure that the canopies are light ahead of the high wind season.” Within days, Los Angeles City Controller Kenneth Mejia jumped into the fray via Twitter (now X) by saying the Bureau of Street Services is responsible for maintaining the city’s 700,000-plus trees in the public right-of-way, not NBCU. Eventually, the city figured out the studio didn’t pull a permit, so it was slapped with a $250 fine. Funny: NBCUniversal probably would have paid $100,000 to get out out of the spotlight.
‘BMF’ picket line
A day of picketing the set of the Starz/Lionsgate series BMF in Atlanta turned dangerous for WGA writers Brian Egeston and Gabriel Alejandro Garza. In a series of tweets last June, Egeston claimed that BMF line producer Ian Woolf, driving an SUV, pointed the vehicle at him “as though it were a weapon and slammed the brakes within six feet of writers.” Egeston’s account was corroborated by Garza, a strike captain, who said he was standing next to Egeston when the alleged incident happened and described it in a lengthy statement on Twitter. Garza claimed that he and Egeston were on a public sidewalk, not impeding traffic, when Woolf allegedly hit the accelerator and then the brake as “he was looking directly at us the entire time and kept the vehicle pointed at us.”