WGA/SAG File Federal Complaint Over Construction Outside NBCUniversal; City Controller Investigating Trimmed Ficus Trees

Treegate just became a thing.

City Controller Kenneth Mejia has vowed to look into the newly pruned Ficus trees outside of Universal’s Gate 8, after picketers drew attention to their thinned branches while marching in 90-degree-plus heat. Pine trees on the opposite side of Barham weren’t touched, and neither were a row of pepper trees behind the Universal fence near the production gate.

In a series of Tweets Tuesday, Mejia said his office is investigating what happened to the Ficuses on Burham Boulevard, which he said are “LA City managed street trees.” WGA picketers drew attention to their thinned out ranks on Monday. Universal owned up to trimming them but said in a statement it was done for “safety reasons” though it “has created unintended challenges for demonstrators, that was not our intention.”

“Trees are essential to providing Angelenos with significant environmental and public health benefits, especially during a heatwave,” Mejia said in a tweet. “Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA) is responsible for maintaining the City’s 700,000+ trees in the public right-of-way.”

He went on to say in a thread that “code enforcement for street trees (including the pruning or removal of trees without a permit) is the responsibility of the StreetsLA Investigation and Enforcement Division. Violations can result in code enforcement citations.”

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Separately, the fight over the studio’s construction on Lankershim Boulevard and its impact on the ongoing strike just got even bigger: The WGA and SAG-AFTRA today filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the lack of safe pathways available for union members to picket.

“Within the past six months, [NBCUniversal Media] has interfered with, coerced, and restrained employees in the exercise of their rights under Section 7 of the [National Labor Relations] Act,” the Writers Guild of America, West, said in its filing (read it here).

Said interference includes but is not limited to “interfering with lawful picketing activity by designating as picketing locations areas where the public sidewalks have been covered up with construction fencing, forcing 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.”

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In response, an NBCUniversal spokesperson released this statement today: “We are aware of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA complaints. 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. 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. We support the unions’ rights to demonstrate safely.”

The WGAW filing also cited “the egregious and flagrant nature of the employer’s illegal conduct and the irreparable harm, including the threat of bodily harm, caused by the above-mentioned violations of the Act.”

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