SAG-AFTRA, WGA File Labor Complaints Against NBCUniversal Over Blocked Sidewalks

The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against NBCUniversal, accusing the studio of blocking pedestrian access to one of its main gates to interfere with picket lines.

In the complaints, the writers and actors’ guilds accuse the studio of blocking access to sidewalks next to its Lankershim Blvd. gate with fences erected for a construction project adjacent to the street.

In doing so, the WGA says NBCUniversal has “forc[ed] picketers to patrol in busy streets with significant car traffic where two picketers have already been struck by a car and by refusing to provide K-rail barriers to establish pedestrian walkways for picketers to use after Los Angeles Police Department advised the employer weeks ago in the interest of public safety to do so.”

In the process, WGA alleges, the studio has “interfered with, coerced, and restrained employees” from taking part in legally protected strike actions.

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“We strongly believe that the company has fulfilled our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] and we will cooperate with respect to any inquiries by the National Labor Relations Board on this issue,” NBCUniversal said in a statement. “While we understand the timing of our multi-year construction project has created challenges for demonstrators, we continue to work with public agencies to increase access.”

In addition to the labor complaint, which was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, members of WGA and SAG-AFTRA have shared pictures on social media of significantly trimmed trees next to the studio boundaries on Barham Blvd., leading to accusations that the studio deliberately trimmed the trees to reduce available shade to picketers amidst 95-degree temperatures in the San Fernando Valley that are expected to continue through the week if not longer.

In a statement to TheWrap, the Los Angeles Department of Public Works said that its urban forestry division did not issue any permits for tree trimming along Barham Blvd.

“StreetsLA will issue a Notice to Comply to the property owner at 3801 Barham Blvd. This is standard practice for when work occurs in the public right-of-way without permission,” the statement read, noting that the forestry division “will also coordinate with StreetsLA’s Investigation and Enforcement Division (IED) to confirm if this case warrants the issuance of an administrative citation or an administrative hearing.”

In a statement, NBCUniversal says that the tree trimming created “unintended challenges for demonstrators,” but that reducing shade for picketers “was not our intention.”

“In partnership with licensed arborists, we have pruned these trees annually at this time of year to ensure that the canopies are light ahead of the high wind season,” the statement read, “We support the WGA and SAG’s right to demonstrate, and are working to provide some shade coverage. We continue to openly communicate with the labor leaders on-site to work together during this time.”

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