Writers Guild of America members and supporters walk the picket line in support of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike at Universal Studios Hollywood on July 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gilbert Flores for Variety/Variety via Getty Images)

Universal says the pruning of trees along the pickets was not intended to displace the protesters

Things are heating up between the studios, the actors and the writers, figuratively and literally.

A minor controversy started over the pickets when a viral tweet from a WGA member protesting outside the Universal lot in Los Angeles noted that the studio cut down roadside trees near the demonstrations, all when temperatures hit the 30s. degrees in Burbank.

Expirationwho first reported on the controversy, even spoke to a WGA insider outside Universal who called the tree trimming “very suspicious,” wondering why branches were cut off the side of the road near the studio gate and not on the other.

When reached for comment by IndieWire, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said the cut is done every year for safety reasons and that the studio is working to offer things like pop-up tents and water to protesters as additional accommodations. Update: WGA and SAG-AFTRA have now filed a union complaint against Universal over the matter, per DAY.

“We understand that the safety cut of Ficus trees we did on Barham Blvd. created unwanted challenges for protesters, that was not our intention,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “In partnership with licensed arborists, we pruned these trees every year at this time of year to ensure the canopies are light before the high wind season. We support the WGA and SAG’s right to demonstrate and are working to provide shaded cover. We continue to communicate openly with union leaders across loco to work together during this period”.

While SAG-AFTRA has just begun formally picketing studios, this isn’t the first time the WGA has challenged security conditions outside the Universal lot in Los Angeles. Last month the WGA filed a petition for a pedestrian lane after NBCUniversal began a previously scheduled construction project a week after the strike that made some gates inaccessible to walking protesters. The spokesman said talks were underway with the city to add a so-called “K-Rail” of barriers.