Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

SAG Strikers, and Trees, Have Found Some Unexpected Allies

A few days ago, Universal Pictures took another step in its villain arc by having a row of trees severely cut back on Barham Blvd., where SAG and WGA members were picketing. The ficus trees, which shaded striking actors and writers as they picketed, had almost all their foliage removed during the heat wave that’s been pounding Los Angeles. Now, progressive members of the L.A. City Council and the city government are fighting back.

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On Tuesday, Universal admitted to pruning the trees but denied that it had anything to do with striking workers. The studio released the following statement to Deadline:

We understand that the safety tree trimming of the Ficus trees we did on Barham Blvd. has created unintended challenges for demonstrators, that 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. 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.

However, strikers called BS on the statement, pointing out that the trees haven’t been pruned in previous years. Plus, as many people online pointed out, cutting back foliage so severely—especially in the summer—can damage or even kill the tree, leaving its bark vulnerable to scorching in high temperatures. In the past, unsanctioned trimming has led to hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to shade trees. In that light, Universal’s claim that they worked with licensed arborists for the good of the trees seems highly dubious. The situation led to the hashtag #treelaw trending on Twitter.

Now, L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia has launched an investigation into Universal’s tree trimming. Mejia was elected City Controller in 2022, after running an unprecedented campaign that criticized excessive funding for the L.A. Police Department.

Mejia announced the investigation yesterday on Twitter, and followed up today with the announcement that Universal hadn’t received the permit required to prune the trees.

Mejia then announced that the city’s Bureau of Street Services and its Urban Forestry Division will now issue a notice to comply to Universal, possibly citing and fining the studio for the pruning.

Although Mejia states that the administrative citation fee that Universal’s facing starts at $250, it’s currently unclear how much Universal would have to pay if they’re cited.

Mejia was soon joined by another popular figure in Los Angeles city politics: City Councillor Nithya Raman, who has worked extensively on the L.A. housing crisis. Raman also tweeted the Bureau of Street Services’ statement.

Although it’ll be satisfying if Universal has to hand a chunk of change over to the city of L.A., this incident also highlights how far studios are willing to go to avoid paying their actors and writers a fair wage. The sooner the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers caves and agrees to SAG-AFTRA and the WGA’s demands, the better.

(featured image: Disney+)


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Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>