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October 10, 2023

Top negotiator for Hollywood writers traces steps that led to a deal with studios

S3 E4 39 MINS

The Writers Guild of America struck a deal recently with Hollywood studios, ending one of the longest strikes in the union’s history.

Ellen Stutzman, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, was the union’s chief negotiator in the talks. In her most extensive interview yet, she talks to senior producer Laura Rosbrow-Telem about the negotiations.

The Negotiators is a collaboration between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy.

Full transcript

 

Note: We encourage you to listen to the audio if you are able, as it includes emotion not captured by the transcript. Please check the corresponding audio before using any quotes.

 

[SUSPENSEFUL INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC]

 

JENN WILLIAMS, HOST:
Hey everyone. Welcome to The Negotiators, a production of Doha Debates and Foreign Policy. I’m your host, Jenn Williams. Today, we’re featuring a particularly timely episode on an issue that’s been in the news a lot lately. In May of this year, more than 11,000 Hollywood writers went on strike, demanding better pay and a host of other improvements in their contract. The strike was one of the longest in the history of the Writers Guild of America. It went on for 146 days and included grueling negotiations. At some point, more than 100,000 actors joined the strike, making it a labor dispute of truly exceptional proportions.

 

UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN:

What progress you can make really is about the power you have, and in a labor negotiation, which is really about power, it’s: what are your members willing to fight for, and are they willing to go on strike? Because that’s the ultimate exercise in worker power, is to walk off the job.

 

JENN: That’s Ellen Stutzman. She’s an assistant executive director for the Writers Guild of America, and she served as the union’s chief negotiator. Stutzman is our guest on the show this week. She and the rest of the negotiators wanted improvements in five key areas: writers’ pay, minimum numbers of TV writers in so-called writers’ rooms, higher fees for film scripts, residual payments for shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and new protections around the use of artificial intelligence, or AI. For the first 100 days of the strike, the group representing the studios refused to negotiate, but the two sides finally announced an agreement on September 24th.

 

CLIP OF KELLY RIPA SPEAKING:

The Writers Guild’s negotiating committee told union members, quote, “We can say with great pride that this deal is exceptional with meaningful gains and protection.”

 

JENN: The three-year deal amounts to a compromise between the two sides, but the writers made gains in all of their demands. Stutzman had a compelling strategy for conducting the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. It was so compelling in fact that it has become the basis for the negotiations that are taking place right now between the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG AFTRA, and the major studios. This interview, conducted by our senior producer Laura Rosbrow-Telem, is the most extensive one that Stutzman has given since the deal was reached. Oh, and one more thing. You’ll hear the name Carol Lombardini. She was on the other side of the negotiating table for much of the time. Lombardini is the president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, AMPTP. OK. Laura takes it from here.

 

LAURA ROSBROW-TELEM:

So before we begin talking about the strike itself and the negotiations, I’m just curious, how did you get into this business? How did this become a big thing for you?

 

ELLEN STUTZMAN: Well, I just identify with class struggle, kind of, workers’ rights, wanting to do something that has, you know, some meaning and positive effect, versus, you know, having a corporate job, I suppose. So it just always appealed to me. I’ve been working for unions for almost 20 years now, and I went to Cornell. There’s an industrial and labor relations school there, which has a long tradition of promoting collective bargaining. That’s why the, the university exists, and it has this very strong labor program. And from there, I took classes on organizing and bargaining and research, and wanted to get into the labor movement. And after graduating, I worked for SEIU, which is a union that represents healthcare workers, among other workers. And then after some time there, I, I went over to the Writers Guild.

 

LAURA: OK. And bring me to these talks you were having with Carol Lombardini back in March and April. What were they like?

 

ELLEN: So bargaining prior to the strike, and in every cycle, we usually schedule about two weeks of negotiations where she represents a committee of the eight major studios and streamers. They each have labor relations executives who sit at the table. We bring staff and we have a bargaining committee of about 30 writers, both from the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East. And we all meet in the AMPTP’s headquarters in, in Sherman Oaks. And you exchange proposals across the table. You talk about your issues, you try and make progress in moving things forward. In this negotiation, the Writer’s Guild had come with a big, you know, agenda, in part driven by the changes in the business over the last number of years with the rise of streaming. And so we, we had a, a big agenda that the companies didn’t really want to engage in, which is basically how we ended up on strike.

 

LAURA: And what’s Carol Lombardini specifically like to negotiate with?

 

ELLEN: Well, she’s a very skilled negotiator. She’s been doing this work in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for about 40 years. She was around from the founding of it in the 80s. And her job—she negotiates every major contract in this industry. So that’s what she does. She’s a very skilled negotiator. She comes in, you know, with—the companies have some proposals, and she has some idea of what she’s willing to, to give you in a negotiation. And in the beginning of our negotiation, and this is sort of common every time, that they ask you—she and the companies—you know, what are your one or two or three issues that are the priorities that you want to address in this negotiation? And for the Writers Guild this time, it was not one or two or three things. It was a longer list of proposals across each of our work areas, from writers who make feature films, television writers, writers who make comedy variety shows like your late-night shows or quiz and audience programs, as well as artificial intelligence.

 

And so, you know, the initial round of bargaining was the AMPTP asking us to identify our issues and us telling them, “Well, it’s really all of them.” 

 

LAURA: Hm.

 

ELLEN: That is something that they’re not used to. And because our membership, they had been through a lot and really were interested in a contract that made some major achievements, you know, we were able to stick to that bargaining agenda and say, “We’re not going to drop proposals here.” Our committee, which represents the membership, understood that this is not a deal we could accept. And that’s how they took a vote to call a strike.

 

LAURA: I’m just curious, I mean, this list—was that unusual this year, or is that kind of your strategy after every one of these three-year agreements expires?

 

ELLEN: So, I think there’s usually a relatively long list in every negotiation. What progress you can make really is about the power you have. And in a labor negotiation, which is really about power, it’s: what are your members willing to fight for, and are they willing to go on strike? Because that’s the ultimate exercise in worker power, is to walk off the job. So, in prior negotiations, like in 2020, we thought that was going to be a contentious negotiation, and then COVID happened. And there was no possibility of having a really contentious negotiation, because you couldn’t call a strike when the entire world is shut down. 

 

LAURA: Mm.

 

ELLEN: So, oftentimes you get into these negotiations, particularly when you don’t have the ability to call a strike, where you do have to drop issues and you don’t get things that workers should get, but you just don’t have the power to do it. In this instance, because writers were so determined and resolved in this negotiation, our committee understood that, no, we’re not going to drop proposals. We’re going to go on strike and withhold our labor until the companies engage.

 

LAURA: And I’m just curious from a technical perspective: were there votes? Were there polls within the Writers Guild membership about the strike? Like, “OK, if they don’t meet all these demands, we’re willing to go on strike.” And you knew beforehand that, you know, say, 80, 90% of the membership was willing to strike.

 

ELLEN: Yes. So the first thing the Writers Guild does, in every contract cycle, is we actually have a vote on a pattern of demands. So our committee establishes, here are the top-line areas where we want to make gains in, and writers vote on that pattern of demands. It’s pretty pro forma, because it’s a list of things that everyone wants. But that’s the first vote. Then if it looks like we might need the ability to call a strike, we do take a strike authorization vote. And the Guild did that in April. And what the strike authorization vote does is it gives the leadership the ability to call a strike if they don’t think the deal is acceptable at expiration. So it doesn’t specify, oh, you have to get X, Y or Z. It’s just delegating to the leadership that they have the ability to call a strike. And so our members voted, and almost—I want to say 98% voted in favor of calling the strike should it become necessary.

 

LAURA: OK. So there’s overwhelming support amongst the Guild membership, but still, a decision to strike is a huge gamble. It puts people’s livelihoods at risk. So I’m curious, can you talk a bit about the stress for you surrounding that decision?

 

ELLEN: It’s a responsibility. But in the entertainment industry, the Writers Guild has a long history of engaging in strikes. And over the past 80 years, strikes—either by the Screen Actors Guild or the Writers Guild—are what established some of the bedrock benefits in the industry, like portable pension, health residuals, jurisdiction over the internet. And so it’s, it’s just a long history of being willing to engage in those actions in order to, to win, you know, important agreements.

 

LAURA: During this early part of the strike, what was your communication like with AMPTP? Was there any communication at all?

 

ELLEN: There was no communication for—we didn’t engage in bargaining for 102 days. 

 

LAURA: Hmm.

 

ELLEN: That’s shocking. It should be shocking to people. But the reason that happened is because in the entertainment industry, the companies are all united in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, they’re all together, and the unions have historically been less aligned. And so the companies engage in pattern bargaining, where they choose the union to make a deal with, and then they try to pattern it to every other union. So in this negotiation, when the Writers Guild didn’t make a deal and went on strike, the AMPTP then went into negotiations with the Directors Guild.

 

LAURA: Right.

 

ELLEN: And they made a deal with the Directors Guild at the—by the beginning of June, which they then hoped to pattern to SAG-AFTRA. And they thought SAG-AFTRA would make a deal, and then they would come back to the Writers Guild and say, “OK, here’s the deal, take it or leave it.” SAG-AFTRA going on strike threw that for a loop. But they didn’t intend to talk to us until they had wrapped up those two agreements.

 

LAURA: I’m curious, after the directors made that agreement, were you like, “Oh no.” Was that kind of like the low point for you?

 

ELLEN: Not really. We expected them to reach an agreement, and really, there were so many writer-specific issues that we were addressing in this negotiation—be it how television writers worked, certain things for screenwriters, our artificial intelligence concerns—that we knew an agreement with the Directors Guild could not address our issues.

 

LAURA: Mm-hmm. So you’ve told other outlets that the real turning point was when the actors went on strike in July. Talk to me about how that impacted your negotiations.

 

ELLEN: Well, it takes a bargaining cycle where the companies are trying to make deals with three unions and they fail with two. And I think it just becomes so much more apparent to everyone that the problem is not the Writers Guild, which is often how we are portrayed, but it’s the companies. That you’ve got, you know, writers and actors out together talking about how the business has changed in ways that really affect them, that make it hard to make a living, while these companies have made billions of dollars in profit off of their work. And the last time that Writers Guild and SAG went on strike was 1960. So the AMPTP didn’t exist. It has never faced a double strike. It’s just a historic event.

 

JENN: The second major turning point happened when the four heads of the major studios showed up in the negotiation room, not just Carol Lombardini. But how did they get the studio heads there? Find out after the break. 

 

[LIVELY INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC]

 

JENN: Welcome back to The Negotiators, a production of Doha Debates and Foreign Policy. I’m Jenn Williams. Before the break, Writers Guild chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman was explaining how the power of both the writers’ strike and the actors’ strike put pressure on the studios to really negotiate. But the studios’ chief negotiator, Carol Lombardini, was a pretty hard person to bargain with. Behind the scenes. Ellen Stutzman’s co-chair Chris Keyser was talking to many of the studio heads. Keyser is also a TV writer, and he has deep relationships with them. The studio heads who attended these negotiations in August and September were Bob Iger from Disney, Ted Sarandos from Netflix, Donna Langley from NBC Universal and David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery. OK, back to Laura Rosbrow-Telem.

 

LAURA: So my understanding is that beyond the strikes, and the leverage that the strikes brought to this whole process, that another big turning point was when the heads of the studios were in the room negotiating with you as well, not just Carol Lombardini. And my understanding is that part of why they were in that room was because of behind-the-scenes conversations that your co-chair Chris Keyser was having with them. Can you tell me about that, and what exactly he conveyed to them that convinced them to be in the negotiating room with you?

 

ELLEN: Well, I don’t know that he convinced them to be in the negotiating room. I think it got to the point where those companies wanted the strikes to end and they had to get involved. I mean, they are the individuals who run these companies where writers work, and they just realized that the process that the AMPTP engages in is not producing the outcome of the strike ending. So the AMPTP did come back to us in August with new proposals where they moved and started to address some of our issues, and then they didn’t really want to bargain anymore. And they did bring those four executives into a room to meet with us in August. And at the time, those executives basically told us, “Well, you should take this August 11th offer, and that’s what you should make a deal on.” And it simply wasn’t acceptable to writers. So they were engaged in the process then, and we continued to strike through September, but there had been communication between our co-chairs and these executives and myself throughout, you know, from when SAG went on strike, and they were just indicating that they wanted to make a deal, and had continued to say that and finally got to the point where they were ready to get in a room and do what it takes to end the strike.

 

LAURA: What would you say is your negotiation style? What’s, like, the Ellen Stutzman negotiation style versus other kinds of negotiators?

 

ELLEN: I’m just pretty cool. It’s just about, “Here’s what needs to be addressed.” And my style is based on, I’m negotiating with the backing of the membership. And so I’m just here to get the deal that they want. And in my view, it’s all just very matter-of-fact, and you are just pushing the companies to agree to the terms that you need. So it’s just a very rational back-and-forth where you say, “These are the proposals, these are the things I need. Here’s why they make sense.” And you push the companies to, to engage.

 

LAURA: And would you say that you’re particularly persuasive?

 

ELLEN: You know, the thing about labor negotiations is … persuasion is, is a small part of it. It’s not unimportant, because the proposals that you make have to make sense, and they have to be addressing a real issue. You can’t just make something up. But the persuasion is the writer power. You know, it’s—the, the people on the other side of the table are making the calculation of, “I need to get people back to work.” [CHUCKLES]

 

LAURA: Right.

 

ELLEN: So that’s, that’s the—that’s the persuasion. I think it’s always helpful that you have issues and proposals that are real. They are not made up. They address real issues. And at a certain point, especially when you have writers out on strike for four and a half months, I think the companies accept that, “OK, these are real issues we have to address.” But it’s not so much, in a labor negotiation, you know, the arguments of the negotiator. It’s really the power of the members.

 

LAURA: Yeah, I think what you’re trying to say is it’s the resolve of the membership to just keep striking until they get what they want.

 

ELLEN: A hundred percent. And at certain points in a negotiation, you know—and we just had to tell them, “What you’re offering, the membership will not take.” And the companies, in August, they even decided—after they had this failed meeting with us—to release, you know, the terms of their August offer to the membership. I think because they thought that the membership would say to the committee, “OK, take that deal.” And it blew up in their face. The membership trounced it. And so it gave us the power to say, “You really have to understand, you know, we’re not making it up when we’re saying the members need this. You have to do more.” When the company executives got involved, and really moved and, and addressed our issues and were engaging in a, in a real negotiation, you know, it became more apparent, like, yes, we should be able to reach an agreement. But it was mostly just because of the change in behavior on their side.

 

LAURA: So now let’s move to the main week of negotiations that started Wednesday, September 20th. So I’d just love to hear from you about these negotiations in some detail.

 

ELLEN: Sure. Those discussions started, actually, with writers talking a fair amount, just to speak directly to these executives about what are the writers’ issues, what are we trying to solve in this negotiation, and speaking directly to them. And then in response, the companies had come prepared to move, to give us counter proposals on a lot of the key issues, like two-step deals for screenwriters, a residual in success for streaming, more safeguards on television writers’ rooms. And it was at that point, when the companies finally moved and, and really began to address our issues, that we understood: this is a negotiation where they are serious, they want to make a deal. And then we just talked through the issues and tried to, you know, reach agreement where we could, or you counter back and forth, and it’s kind of an ongoing dialogue to get to what’s an acceptable agreement on a specific issue. And we did that over three days in person, and then over the weekend by Zoom and by phone, just trying to wrap up.

 

LAURA: And, you know, just put me in the room. So, you know, when you’re saying you held to your position, just, they would say, “OK, we’ll agree to two-step deals”? So meaning, we’ll pay screenwriters for, for example, second drafts, which typically wasn’t happening? And they say, “OK, we’ll do that for some writers, but not all screenwriters.” And then you, Ellen, just say, “No, I’m not going to agree to that. I’m not going to agree until it’s for everyone.” And then they kind of go into a breakout room and they come back and they say, “OK, fine”? I mean, is that sort of how it goes?

 

ELLEN: Yeah, it’s a little bit like that, over time. You know, they made a proposal in August that was too narrow; we continued to tell them, “No, it needs to apply to all these writers. It can’t just be only the first writer, and it can’t be only on this type of project,” and you just hold to that and continue to advocate for your position. And then at a certain point, they came in and said, “OK,” you know, “we can accept your proposal on that.” And, and that’s as you go through the list of issues that are still open between the parties, and, you know, you have to make concessions too. But yes, at a certain point they just said, “OK, we’ll accept that proposal.”

 

LAURA: And from what I read, it seems like—you know, say, with a writers’ room, you had proposed six, they had proposed three, you came up with a kind of tiered structure that kind of met in the middle with writers’ pay. You met somewhere in the middle with screenwriters’ fees. You added this new thing about second-draft scripts, them getting compensated for … but I’m really curious about the residuals, because the residuals were streaming, it didn’t exist before this kind of deal, and this is pretty game-changing. Tell me how those negotiations went, and how did you come to this kind of performance metric?

 

ELLEN: Yeah. It’s pretty interesting, because before we went on strike, that was a proposal that every time we talked about it in the room with the AMPTP, they just flat-out refused and said, “This is not something we’ve ever put in a collective bargaining agreement,” which is not accurate. Just to say, as a bit of background on the industry, writers and actors and directors have shared in the success of their programs through residuals since the 60s. It’s like a bedrock principle. And in streaming, because the companies keep the content on their own platform and don’t distribute it elsewhere, they don’t share in the success on the platform. They get a fixed residual, they get paid annually, and it declines over time, but there’s no upside. And that, that’s a principle that, you know, we said, well, has always been a part of these agreements, and has been cut out in streaming. And they were very opposed to doing that. So my understanding is the companies then began to work on what would be an acceptable proposal to them. Our proposal—we call it tiered fixed, and it was basically a residual that scaled up based on number of views. 

 

LAURA: Mm-hmm.

 

ELLEN: What the companies came back with is a —they call it performance bonus, performance metric bonus, where it’s … a residual is paid to shows that reach 20% of the domestic subscribers of a service over the first 90 days of the program’s availability. And in a way, what they proposed, and we ended up agreeing to, is a little bit more egalitarian because it means you just have to get—if you’re Paramount+, you have a smaller subscriber base than Netflix, you have to reach 20% of a smaller amount. Whereas our view-based residual obviously would cost Netflix a lot more because they have so many subscribers.

 

LAURA: Mm-hmm.

 

ELLEN: But just getting them to do something here, you know, is the big victory. And they’ve also—we will get the data too, so we will see how this plays out over the next contract cycle and then assess what changes need to be made.

 

LAURA: And this performance-based 20% proposal from the studios, was that their, kind of, initial offer on September 20th?

 

ELLEN: That was. That was what they came in with. That was their proposal. And the refinement that we made was, they had set it up as a one-time bonus, and we had proposed that you should get the payment if you reach 20% in subsequent years. And they agreed to that. Because I think it’s important, the idea that if you continue to be a successful program, you should continue to get this bonus payment. It’s not a one-time thing.

 

LAURA: Mm-hmm. But it sounds like this is for, like, a real top-tier kind of level of performance. And that was the compromise.

 

ELLEN: In terms of the numbers that they gave us, of what number of original series written by Guild members and original movies made for these platforms, it’s something like 25 to 30% of our members’ work would reach that metric. So I think that’s pretty good. We’d like it to be higher; we certainly would’ve preferred 10% of the viewers. But it’s a good start, and it will reward, you know, the top quarter of performing programs in a year.

 

LAURA: OK. So now I want to get to Thursday night. A number of news outlets reported that there was a Thursday night surprise, which is that you allegedly tried to also include SAG, and negotiating with SAG—the actors’ union—with your deal. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and why you decided to do that?

 

ELLEN: So that didn’t happen.

 

LAURA: That didn’t happen! OK, that’s just wrong. 

 

ELLEN: No, I—yes. So a feature of labor negotiations in the entertainment industry is there is so much scrutiny and attention on it, and so many parties outside of bargaining, be it—we have all these trades that cover the industry, or agents and managers and lawyers and people who sometimes have a vested interest in the strike ending sooner than it should. So it was reported that somehow, on Thursday night, either we made new demands or that my predecessor, David Young, was involved and telling people. And none, none of that happened. 

 

LAURA: Huh.

 

ELLEN: We hadn’t made any new proposals. We were all continuing to discuss the existing issues that were on the table, including things that needed to happen in television. So it was all manufactured, because when we left for the night—and look, it’s tough bargaining, trying to get a deal, but everyone had said, “OK, see you tomorrow.”

 

LAURA: Hm. So tell me, I’m curious: what’s going through your head during these days? Was there any moment in particular where you’re like, “Oh no, they said something that really surprised me,” or, “Oh, I could have done better?” Or did you just keep your cool? Like, what was going through your head during these talks?

 

ELLEN: That’s a good question. I think at that point, you know, when I understood the companies were moving to address our issues … what it really comes down to is extracting as much as you can. Trying to figure out what is their bottom line, and how can you, you know, make the deal, where can you push to get what you need? And so it’s just a matter of doing that, and having a sense of how many moves do you have left, and what are the little things that you can wrap up.

 

LAURA: AI. I’m very curious about the discussions on AI. I understand that that was one of the last sticking points. And I’m curious if that was one of those last sticking points, just because it’s also new, so it’s like, people just don’t know what they’re doing. Or if it was one of the last sticking points because it’s perhaps the most dangerous thing that’s going to impact the future of writers. Or a combination of both.

 

ELLEN: There was a piece of artificial intelligence that was the, the last item, and that was about training. And I think it’s because it’s a bit unknown, that’s what became difficult. I’ll tell you, so, artificial intelligence—when we engaged in negotiations before the strike, the companies wouldn’t talk about it at all. People were very concerned that the companies wouldn’t engage, and rightly so. I think a lot of workers are very concerned about what AI is going to mean for their jobs.

 

LAURA: Sure. Yeah.

 

ELLEN: When we came back in August, the companies had a comprehensive response to us on artificial intelligence, and we had heard that they understood it was a mistake to not have talked to us about AI. And when they came back to us, they essentially agreed with what our proposals were on artificial intelligence and how it would be treated in the writing of scripts, which is basically to say it doesn’t affect a writer’s credit or compensation. It can’t write, it can’t rewrite, it’s not treated as source material, which has important implications for writers’ credits and rights. And so we were mostly able to get agreement on that part of it. What they can do in terms of training, with scripts that our members have already written, was the more difficult part, because, I think, it is not known. We’re not ready to negotiate about what a writer’s credits or compensation should be because they don’t quite know what they’re going to do. And so we had said they need to come to the Guild for consent and essentially to negotiate over terms, and they couldn’t agree to that. So where we ended up is just reserving both parties’ legal rights during the term of the MBA. So if the companies, they use writers’ scripts to train an AI that then has some commercial purpose, we reserve our right to either bring an arbitration claim or a legal claim or demand to bargain over it. And in all likelihood, we’ll, we’ll probably be addressing it in the next negotiation. Because it’s just such an unknown area where the copyright issues are not resolved. And, and so that, that was—it was tricky to, to get the parties to agree on something at the end.

 

LAURA: Mm-hmm. And tell me: the moment that the deal, the tentative deal, was reached, where were you? Like, put me in the room. What did you say? What were you feeling?

 

ELLEN: So, when the deal was actually reached, it was Sunday afternoon, evening, and I was giving my son a bath. And we were doing back-and-forth over the phone. So on Saturday, the companies were working, and then they had given us a counter proposal. And then on Sunday, I had gone back, and we were just doing phone calls back and forth, myself and Carol, on issues. How you terminate the strike, some of those particulars, and wrapping up language and all of that. And I was finally able to call her on Sunday evening to tell her, “OK, we’re agreed on all these terms.” I was—my son was taking a bath, and I was doing double duty as a working mom.

 

LAURA (LAUGHS): How old’s your son?

 

ELLEN: He’s two. He’ll be three soon. [CHUCKLES]

 

LAURA: Mine’s four. I can relate to that very much. How did he react?

 

ELLEN: He didn’t care. [CHUCKLES] He was, he was probably just arguing with me about not wanting to get out of the bath.

 

LAURA: He’s doing his own negotiation with you? 

 

ELLEN: Oh, yes. That’s constant, as you probably know. [CHUCKLES]

 

LAURA: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. And how are you feeling about the deal?

 

ELLEN: I’m feeling really good about it. I think we got so many things that writers have wanted for a long time, and now. And, you know, we take a breather for a minute, and then we, as staff, figure out all the things we need to do to make sure that the companies implement all of these new provisions and we enforce them. And it’s kind of like the work is never done. That’s immediately what we all start thinking about. We think about how do we tell members about this? How do we make sure the companies are following the rules? And so it sort of never ends.

 

LAURA: Yeah, the whole implementation phase. The accountability phase. Right?

 

ELLEN: Exactly. Making sure that all writers get to experience all the gains that they just fought for.

 

LAURA: Well, I think that’s a really good note to end on. Ellen Stutzman, thank you so much for your time.

 

ELLEN: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

 

JENN: You just heard from Ellen Stutzman, chief negotiator of the Writer’s Guild of America, which struck a groundbreaking deal recently with Hollywood studios. 

 

Now, one data point from the deal that tells us a lot about the art of negotiation has to do with the raise that the writers are expected to get out of the deal. The Guild initially proposed a raise that would’ve cost the studios about 430 million dollars a year. The studios countered with an offer back in April valued at 85 million dollars a year. Now, under the agreement, the studios will spend about 233 million dollars a year in additional pay for the writers. So basically, they met in the middle.

 

The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy. Our production team includes Rob Sachs, Ashley Westerman, Rosie Julin, Claudia Teti, Japhet Weeks, Jigar Mehta, Amjad Atallah and Dan Ephron. Laura Rosbrow-Telem is the show’s senior producer. Thanks to Nelufar Hedayat, Govinda Clayton and James Wolley for helping create the show. 

 

Foreign Policy is a magazine of news and ideas from around the world, and we encourage you to subscribe. Just go to foreignpolicy.com/subscribe. Doha Debates is a production of Qatar Foundation, where the most urgent issues of our time are discussed and debated. Tune in at dohadebates.com. Special thanks to Cooper Mall, who recorded Ellen Stutzman’s audio. 

 

Next time on the podcast, we hear from a former aide to Kofi Annan about his efforts to negotiate the end to a political crisis in Kenya.

 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:

We were whisked off to an Air Force aircraft and flown to an undisclosed location.

 

JENN: That’s next time, on The Negotiators. I’m Jenn Williams.

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