Ellen Stutzman, the Writers Guild of America West’s chief negotiator, was out early Monday morning taking part in the family-themed picket that drew big crowds of striking writers and their children — including a few furry family members — to the sidewalks outside Netflix headquarters at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue in Hollywood.
Stutzman’s presence at the location that has been one of the most heavily trafficked picketing sites was praised by WGA members who feel that guild leaders are going the extra mile to provide support and communication on the strike that began May 2. Stutzman, who brought her young son Mateo in a stroller, said the next steps in the process of coming to agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are self-evident.
“The next step is for the companies to recognize that the agenda we put on the table is the one that writers absolutely demand, and that they’ve got to address it,” Stutzman told Variety. “It’s really as simple as that. Saying ‘no’ to all these things is not going to get a deal.”
The AMPTP called off talks with the WGA late on May 1, saying the sides were to far apart to reach an agreement before the midnight contract expiration deadline. AMPTP negotiators are set to begin formal talks with the Directors Guild of America on Wednesday, which likely means the WGA will have to wait at least two weeks or more before trying again with the bargaining agent for Hollywood’s largest employers.
A week later, WGA leaders and guild members are still dismayed by the AMPTP’s tactic of telling the WGA they needed to take key contract demands off the table — including the asks for a minimum staffing guarantee on TV series and minimum duration of employment — before talks could continue. Stutzman said the WGA is willing to compromise but not cave on points that are crucial to workaday scribes.
“There’s room for negotiation on everything. That’s the expectation,” Stutzman said. “The problem is they just said no to everything. We of course expect to negotiate on all the points. We just can’t negotiate with someone who says ‘No’ to everything.”
In Stutzman view, the ball’s in AMPTP’s court — they need to reach out to the guild to restart the negotiations. “They told us that they don’t have any more moves to make if we’re not going to take key demands off the table,” she said.
The overwhelming drive that members have shown to support the guild has only reinforced the leadership’s resolve that they are fighting for the right issues.
“Writers want to preserve the television business that these companies have broken,” Stutzman said.
“It’s been clear writers care a lot about things like AI, the television business, how screenwriters work, streaming residuals,” she said. “And so (picketing) has just been an opportunity to have a lot more discussions with everyone about it because we can just tell them ‘Here’s where we are on everything.’ And so I think it’s just strengthened the membership and the resolve of the leadership. Writers really back this agenda, and that’s only going to become more clear as time goes on.”
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