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December 31, 2008

Writers’ strike hits local economy

1Burbank and Glendale, two cities whose businesses are reliant to a large extent on the film industry, were shaken early this year by a costly, 100-day work stoppage at the hands of the Writers Guild of America.

The strike, which ended Feb. 27 and featured numerous demonstrations at area production companies, resulted in increased residual payments for new media projects and established a new system for the union to calculate how much writers will receive from recurring new media projects.


But as officials worked to hammer out a deal, the local economy and its studio production workforce took a hit as local job and aid centers in Burbank and Glendale reported increased demand from out-of-work writers and production crew members.

Economists said writers lost more than $256 million in wages, while below-the-line workers — those not in the union but involved in media production — lost more than $444 million.

The strike cost Los Angeles County more than $2.5 billion.

During the strike, out-of-work writers flocked to NBC, Warner Bros. and other production companies, holding regular demonstrations with some help from high-profile celebrities and politicians.

Then-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards flashed his union credentials during a visit to NBC in November, when actress Sarah Silverman joined the fray chanting slogans and waving signs.

Meanwhile, out-of-work production personnel demonstrated outside union headquarters in Burbank in January, pleading with writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to strike a deal.

Some found work in ancillary businesses, while others tapped into personal savings to get them through the rough patch without a regular income.

Business in each city appeared to return to normal after a deal was reached in February, with restaurants, media permits and hotel bookings all at pre-strike levels, officials said.

“All the signs are positive and everybody’s raring to go,” said Gary Olson, president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

Airport curfew begins to take shape

2The Burbank-Glendale- Pasadena Airport Authority, after years of debate and studies, announced in March it had completed its first iteration of a mandatory curfew that would halt all late-night and early-morning flights at the airport.

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