Business Affairs Exec: How to Truly ‘Preserve the Writers' Room’
A top suit's solutions to end the strike's impasse on mini-rooms and minimum staffing
A well-known senior business affairs exec, whose first piece for The Ankler was Confessions of a Business Affairs Exec, is back to write about solutions to the writers strike. This person is anonymous as they are not authorized to speak by their employer.
We’re now entering Week Three of the long-anticipated WGA/SAG-AFTRA Double-Strikepocalypse of 2023, and the only clear thing about this crisis is that there is no clear end in sight — no cooling in the white-hot emotional climate that pushed these work stoppages from likely to unavoidable, no clear articulation of when or under what conditions negotiations will resume, no discernible vision of what a final compromise might look like, and no mutually trusted figures with the gravitas and expertise to mediate the conflict to its conclusion.
So it’s going well.
I do not pretend to have all the answers. But I do think that ending these strikes finally requires shifting our collective focus from the problems to the solutions. That is, of course, true in the negotiating room, where deals are built out of solutions, not problems. But it’s also true in the public sphere, where most everyone would benefit from a little more confidence that there’s a resolution to this dispute that doesn’t involve burning one side or the other to the ground.1
Two weeks ago, I explored in this newsletter what power business affairs executives have (and don’t have) to drive industry policy and practice on major collective bargaining issues. I did so by tracing the backstory of the AMPTP and WGA’s standoff on mini-rooms. And I closed the piece by arguing that business affairs executives could play a critical role in crafting thoughtful, nuanced, and sustainable solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
The problem with building your argument around saving the writers’ room is that nobody but writers really cares about writers’ rooms… And the AMPTP, which has refused to bargain on the issue… to look past the form of the writers’ proposal and engage with its underlying substance.
But, as some critiques I’ve heard about my column have pointed out, I stopped short of actually offering any such solutions (despite being the nearest available business affairs executive).
So here I am to heed my own call and discuss:
The classic negotiating mistake made by the WGA
Why the WGA erred in adopting the preservation of the writers’ room as one of its core collective bargaining goals
Why the AMPTP is particularly resistant to the WGA’s proposals on the issue
How to reframe the debate to align the parties’ interests and set them down the path toward a deal
A few creative dealmaking tools that could help the warring sides reach an agreement (at least on this one issue)
Why tackle just a single issue relevant only to the WGA, and why this specific issue? Beyond the fact that no one person has the answers to everything, I hope to show how thoughtful, creative and empathetic dealmaking can potentially overcome even the most intractable-seeming impasses.