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    L.A. City Auditor Probes Tree Trimming at NBCUniversal During Strike – The Hollywood Reporter

    The boundary of NBCUniversal’s lot is now a flashpoint for the on-the-ground mistrust of Hollywood’s double strike. On July 18, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA filed mirrored complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging NBCUniversal had engaged in “illegal conduct” by having picketers march along blocks of Lankershim Blvd. sidewalk on the west end of its campus which were improperly obstructed by the studio’s ongoing campus construction work. The filings contend that the studio has ignored an advisory from the Los Angeles Police Department to establish concrete barriers for pedestrian safety.

    Hours after The Hollywood Reporter first publicized the Labor Board complaints (the studio says it will cooperate with any agency inquiries), L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia — an outspoken progressive who holds the municipal office that audits government agencies — tweeted that his department would be “investigating the tree trimming that occurred outside Universal Studios where workers, writers, and actors are exercising their right to picket.”

    The WGA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, SAG-AFTRA noted: “Suspiciously timed construction that has forced picketers into streets without proper safety rails, and now tree trimming eliminating shade during a record heatwave, has forced SAG-AFTRA to determine that it cannot safely send its members to picket at NBCUniversal.” The actors’ union added that, through the Labor Board and other means, it was working along with the Writers Guild “to remedy this egregious violation of our members’ rights.”

    Mejia appeared to have responded to recent social media outcry over the stretch of trees along a picketed stretch of Barham Blvd. having been pruned in the midst of summer, when pedestrian shade is most needed. (This section of the NBCUniversal lot is at the northeast corner of the campus; the soundstages of Warner Bros.’ own backlot are viewable down the road, past the L.A. River.)

    An NBCUniversal spokesperson referred to a statement provided to media prior to Mejia’s announcement: “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.”

    Typically, tree-trimming along public sidewalks is handled by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services. According to its Urban Forestry website, the current tree pruning cycle is approximately 15 years. THR has requested comment from the agency.

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