On the West Coast, the chief negotiator for the striking Writers Guild of America, Ellen Stutzman, is more than a week into an existential battle between the 20,000 union members she represents and the movie and television studios that are, for now, not at the bargaining table.
On Wednesday in New York, her parents, Fred and Anne Stutzman, were marching in support of their daughter and her union cohorts. The Stutzmans, and an aunt, Mary Stutzman, walked a picket line outside Amazon’s offices in Manhattan in the middle of a throng of chanting, cowbell-banging fellow marchers.
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“Somebody has to represent the East Coast in her family,” Mary Stutzman said. “These guys traveled from Albany; I just came from uptown.”
Ellen Stutzman grew up in upstate New York and quickly found her future calling as a student at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations in Ithaca, Fred Stutzman said. After graduation, she moved to Southern California and was hired by a health care workers’ union as a research analyst. She stepped into a similar job with the WGA in 2006 and has been there with the writers union in different roles ever since.
Stutzman is credited, among other things, with helping to bring Hollywood’s powerful talent agencies to heel in a battle over business practices that saw thousands of WGA members fire their agents en masse.
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In February, she was named the union’s chief negotiator, succeeding David Young, who stepped down for health reasons. Young led the WGA through the last strike in 2007-08, when Stutzman was still a research analyst.
When the Stutzmans learned their daughter was taking over as chief negotiator, they told her, “You can do this,” Fred Stutzman told Deadline.
He cited her work on the dispute with talent agencies: “She fixed that up.”
“She was going to be an important part of this anyway,” Fred Stutzman said of her daughter’s expanded role in negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. “But she stepped up to it, and we’re very proud of her.”
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