Meet the brand new chief negotiator for Writers Guild of America
In the spring of 2017, throughout tense contract negotiations with the Writers Guild of America, about 60 negotiators gathered on the Sherman Oaks workplaces of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The union didn’t just like the studios’ proposal on streaming residuals and turned to analysis guru Ellen Stutzman to clarify why it could be dangerous for writers.
During her presentation on the bargaining desk, Stutzman methodically laid out her union’s place. The rebuttal was so convincing, it’s nonetheless remembered by her colleagues.
“It’s a roomful of notetakers, who just don’t want to look you in the eye and don’t have any interest in engaging with you, but she was impactful,” recalled Patric M. Verrone, a member of the union’s negotiating committee and a former guild president. “After seeing her make the presentation, it was as if she was born to do that sort of thing.”
The vote of confidence in Stuzman comes two weeks after the guild introduced that she would stand in for the WGA’s chief negotiator, David Young, who was stepping down for well being causes.
The information surprised many in Hollywood. Young, a firebrand union chief who is understood for his aggressive negotiating model, led the union throughout its earlier strike in 2007-08. And some puzzled whether or not his exit would depart the WGA with no sturdy chief prematurely of essential — and possibly contentious — negotiations set to start on Monday.
Colleagues describe Stutzman as extra low-key and fewer combative than Young, however say she is an efficient negotiator who performed an essential function within the WGA’s high-profile and profitable marketing campaign to curb practices by expertise brokers deemed dangerous to writers.
“Ellen is smart, tough and suffers no fools, she will do what is right for the membership based on what our needs are,” stated one longtime WGA member who declined to be named as a result of they weren’t approved to remark.
In an interview Monday, Stutzman acknowledged the strain forward.
“We do have a big agenda this year. We’ve got a lot of issues that have been simmering for some period of time, and it’s on me and the negotiating committee to deliver for the members so that’s a challenge in every negotiation,” Stutzman instructed The Times.
She stated she isn’t planning a change in negotiating techniques or technique.
“We go into negotiations with the backing of our members and that’s what ultimately gives the [negotiating] committee power and is the only thing that companies respond to, so I don’t see it as a big change,” she stated.
Many guild members and leaders have expressed assist for Stutzman and her staff.
“I actually felt a great degree of comfort in knowing that she would be stepping up to be the lead negotiator,” stated Marc Guggenheim, showrunner for TV sequence “Eli Stone” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” “She’s very, very smart. She really cares about writers. Her command of the issues historically has always been incredibly strong.”
A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Stutzman, 40, has labored with the WGA for 17 years.
After she graduated in 2004, Stutzman labored as a researcher and organizer for the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
She joined the Writers Guild of America West in 2006 as a analysis analyst. While employed on the union, Stutzman studied to acquire a grasp’s diploma from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Stutzman climbed the ranks on the union and in 2018 was tapped as assistant government director. She oversaw company, contracts, authorized and analysis and public coverage departments of the union.
“She’s adept at discussing both big-picture industry trends and the minutiae of [minimum basic agreement] contract language,” stated John August, a former board member and present negotiating committee member. “There’s not a person better qualified on the planet to take this role.”
August cited the essential function that Stutzman performed within the final three bargaining rounds in addition to the WGA’s fierce struggle with expertise businesses over packaging charges and affiliated productions.
During that marketing campaign, Stutzman was recognized for educating members about company financing, together with the function of personal fairness investments in that enterprise.
“Very few writers are going to be familiar with how private equity works, so it was important for her to explain what returns private equity investors were looking for when buying into agencies,” August stated.
Thousands of writers “fired” their brokers in 2019 to protest packaging charges and different practices. At one level, Young engaged in a confrontation with William Morris Endeavor companion Rick Rosen, who accused Young of threatening him, a declare he denied.
Stutzman took a distinct strategy.
“When we were in the room negotiating with the agencies, she was polite but direct about why we felt their ownership structure represented an unbridgeable conflict of interest,” August stated.
Ultimately the WGA gained that struggle, with businesses agreeing to ditch packaging charges for assembling initiatives, and to cut back their possession stakes in affiliated productions to not more than 20%.
In latest weeks, Stutzman and different guild leaders have been assembly with members to debate bargaining priorities. On Feb. 23 at Universal City’s Sheraton lodge, Stutzman gave a presentation to writers, with negotiating committee co-Chair Chris Keyser, about proposals the union deliberate to current to studios.
“She’s very patient, very engaged,” stated one guild captain who attended the assembly however was not approved to remark.
Stutzman stands out for her deep information, stated Verrone, citing her shows in 2014 to members of Congress over the union’s opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner merger.
“She’s certainly the best-briefed [person in the room] and has the facts and figures at her fingertips, which I always found invaluable,” Verrone stated. “She’s been behind the scenes of almost every one of our battles in the last 17 years.”