WGA To Picket Leno, O’Brien, Kimmel

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Saying it is a “difficult and painful decision,” the striking Writers Guild of America plans to picket outside the studios of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien when they return to the air Wednesday night without their writers, the union said Tuesday.

“Our picket will not be of the hosts themselves but the companies for which their shows are produced,” WGA East president Michael Winship said in a letter to members Tuesday.

The WGA said it will commence picketing of Leno and Kimmel’s studios in Los Angeles, and O’Brien in New York, Jan. 2.

 “Our purpose is to continue awareness of our strike and the media conglomerates against which we strike, and to encourage performers, politicians and others to honor our picket line and not appear as guests on these struck programs,” Winship wrote. “Nothing at all personal or defamatory is intended and we will take all measures to make sure the public and press are aware of our motives and issues.”

Last week, the WGA struck its own deal with David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, which means both Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson will return to CBS today with their writers. Robin Williams is slated to appear on Letterman’s show, while GOP presidential candidate will be Leno’s first guest back tonight on NBC.

 “Worldwide Pants accepted the very same proposals, including new media, that the Guilds were prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on Dec. 7,” Winship wrote. “As we said Friday, it demonstrates our eagerness to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously, a fair and reasonable deal can be quickly reached.”

Winship noted that Leno, O’Brien and Kimmel are all members of the guild and have been supportive of the strike and their writing staffs.

“For that we truly are grateful,” Winship wrote. “Nonetheless, they are coming back without writers and without a new guild contract, forced back on the air by companies that refuse to sit at the table and bargain with us. We cannot let that pass … We know that some believe this to be unfair and will be unhappy, but we are taking into consideration our overall strategy and the needs of all 10,500 of our members currently on strike.”

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