September 22, 2023

WGA East cancels all NYC picketings for rest of week due to record unhealthy air quality – Update

UPDATE, 4:15 PM: With indoor and outdoor events, flights and more canceled throughout the Northeast due to the apocalyptic weather, the Writers Guild of America East has decided to pull the plug for the rest of the week as well.

The terrible air quality in New York City is due to smoke blown across the border from hundreds of wildfires in Canada.

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So, less than a day after ending Wednesday’s labor actions to protect the health of their members, the WGA East took to social media this afternoon to call off any Thursday or Friday picketing plans:

Conditions in NYC and the Tri-State area are expected to worsen Thursday morning before possibly improving over the weekend.

As one of many examples, tonight’s performance of Hamilton has gone dark less than two hours before it starts at 8 p.m. ET because so many cast members are sick.

With air visibly thickening throughout the day, NYC’s Air Quality Index reached a new high of 392 Wednesday afternoon local time. To put that in context, that later record shattered the “Hazardous” level record set just a few hours earlier in the day. was established. About 55 million people in the region are affected by the terrible air, which has placed NYC at or near the top of major cities with the worst air quality in the world.

As you can see here:

EARLY, 10:55 AM: Keep striking, but stay inside.

The thick smoke hanging over New York City has interrupted efforts by the high-profile Writers Guild of America East to shut down shows and take to the streets with pickets.

Now in its second month, the scribes’ public labor actions were canceled late last night by the guild leadership:

Making the health of their members their top priority, the WGA East leadership is currently considering how long they will keep pickets and Rapid Response teams off the streets, sources say. In the interest of safety, that WGA East, to be determined, may shut down for the rest of the week, I’m told.

The WGA East scheduled a Latine Salon Picket Day and a Bring Your Child to the Picket Day outside the Warner Bros Discovery offices on Park Avenue South for Thursday. Events that, in the interests of safety, are unlikely to occur if the current conditions in the five boroughs and the surrounding area remain the same.

With the National Weather Service issuing an Air Quality Red Alert this morning for the Big Apple and parts of the Tri-State area, this is the worst air the city has experienced in about 60 years. Airports in the region are blocked and people are advised to stay indoors unless they absolutely must go out in a mask, the unhealthy air blown down by more than 400 wildfires in Canada has essentially blanketed the Northeast.

The smoke smells like burning wood and is expected to persist over NYC for several more days, with conditions deteriorating further later today. New York this morning has the worst air quality of any major city in the world except Delhi, India, according to the EPA.

The WGA East, with about 4,000 members, has literally and figuratively opted for a strike team since the Guild announced its first strike in 15 years on May 2, after talks with the studios and streamers for a new contract fell through on May 1. WGA’s last contract expired at midnight on May 2.

Once the international butt of jokes for its smog and foul air, LA today is cool and cloudy but eminently breathable. That’s why there are WGA West pickets at all major studios and corporate headquarters in and around the City of Angels.

We will update this post as decisions are made by the WGA and more details emerge from the EPA.

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