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From Gas Stations to Restaurants: How The WGA Strike Will Hit The LA Economy

A woman wearing a green sweater and thin gold necklaces poses inside a restaurant with servers and baristas in the background.
Amber Dedman, who manages the Burbank restaurant Sotta, worries about having to cut back staff hours if the WGA strike stretches on.
(Josie Huang
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Down the street from the Walt Disney Co. headquarters in Burbank, where picketers showed up Tuesday for the first day of the WGA strike, Amber Dedman’s mind was whirring.

Dedman manages the Mediterranean restaurant Sotta, which she said draws about half its traffic from people who work at Disney or nearby Warner Bros. and come in for business meals or to tap away on their laptops.

“I just found out about the strike,” said Dedman as the lunch crowd started to arrive Tuesday for kebabs and salads. “I'm still calculating, in my mind, how we'll be able to fluctuate.”

The toll on businesses in the last strike

The last time writers went on strike, in 2007-08, the California economy lost an estimated $2.1 billion and 37,700 jobs, according to a Milken Institute study that found losses hitting industries ranging from transportation to hospitality, like restaurants.

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Dedman said she was considering what to tell her staff. If the strike lasts for months like the last one, she anticipates having to close during slower times between lunch and dinner, and to cut staff hours.

“I feel like we're reverting back to almost COVID times, where it was scary,” Dedman said. “And that's just something that I am fearful of.”

An economy intertwined with Hollywood

The effects of any strike in Hollywood are felt especially deeply in cities such as Burbank, where many work in the entertainment industry or have business dealings with it.

Tony Cornejo has run an auto repair shop and gas station down the street from Disney for 51 years. His employees work on cars owned by studio employees and businesses that service studios, such as caterers’ vans that acquire wear and tear during travel to location shoots.

“This town is going to suffer,” Cornejo said. Speaking for himself, “people don't buy the same amount of gas, you know? We won’t have the same traffic.”

An older man in an auto repair shop uniform stands in a body shop with a red car behind him.
Tony Cornejo, who owns a gas station and auto repair shop near the Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, has weathered two other WGA strikes.
(Josie Huang/LAist)

Cornejo said he’s agnostic about the writers’ strike, but Burbank event planner Peggy Phillips said she supports the WGA because members are not getting paid what they’re owed in residuals from streamers.

“And that's where the money comes in,” Phillips said. “If a show keeps getting streamed and streamed, [the writers] should be seeing more money.”

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Solidarity with writers, but concern about what's next

Phillips stands with the writers even though her firm can’t afford more losses. The pandemic pretty much shuttered her business, Dial M Productions, for two years, and she stands to lose out if Hollywood productions shut down as a result of the strike.

“If someone isn't buying what you're selling, then that trickles down,” Phillips said.

Cornejo said he’s not looking forward to a drawn-out strike. He’s been through two already: one in 1988 that stretched out for 153 days, and the 2007-08 walkout, which lasted 100 days.

“The [1988 strike] was terrible. A lot of people went bankrupt,” Cornejo said. “The [2007 strike] was not too bad.”

But his business weathered both strikes and Cornejo said he expects it will make it through this one too.

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