Welcome to the National Writers Union

The National Writers Union UAW Local 1981 is the only labor union that represents freelance writers.

Now, more than ever, with the consolidation of power into the hands of ever-larger corporate entities and with the advent of technologies that facilitate the exploitation of a writer’s work, writers need an organization with the clout and know-how to protect our interests. One that will forge new rules for a new era.

Combining the strength of more than 1,200 members in our 13 chapters with the support of the United Automobile Workers, the NWU works to advance the economic and working conditions of all writers.  Our members also directly benefit from the many valuable services the Union offers—including grievance assistance, contract advice, and much more—while actively contributing to a growing movement of professional freelancers who have banded together to assert their collective power.

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Special Announcements

12/12/2014 - 5:08pm

GOODBYE & HELLO

By Larry Goldbetter

I’m sad to report that Akil Pinckney, the longest-serving NWU employee (14 years), is leaving us to pursue his acting career full time. Everyone of you has likely interacted with him at some point. Serving as our membership-and-benefits coordinator, as well as our bookkeeper, he’s always treated everyone with the utmost care, patience and respect. A decade ago, during the mayhem of embezzlement, followed by the administratorship, he provided consistency in the national office. In 2011, when we faced a serious leadership crisis, Akil was instrumental in helping us rebuild our financial database reports and seeing us through the storm. 

On a personal note, Akil and I comforted each other when each of our moms died, and we’ve shared a valued friendship in both good times and bad. Over the years, I hope I was half as helpful to him as he was to me. As we raise a glass to 2015, join me in a toast to Akil, who has served us well. We wish him everything he hopes for.

In recent weeks, we hired Marlena Fitzpatrick-Garcia as our new membership/office manager. In her last post, she served as Spanish language industry relations and organizing manager at Screen Actors Guild, now SAG-AFTRA. As you may have deduced, she is bilingual; that’s helped her play a significant role in membership recruitment and servicing, as well as office management and campaign development for SAG.

At Columbia University’s Media and Idea Lab, Marlena worked on a variety of digital projects and is versed in digital technology, social media, and our CiviCRM membership software. She also collaborated on literary events at the Bronx Writers Center. We anticipate a smooth transition from Akil to Marlena, and trust that she will make significant contributions in the coming year.

 


 

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12/12/2014 - 5:07pm

2014: A YEAR IN REVIEW

By Larry Goldbetter

Independent freelance writers continue to move from the margins to the mainstream. In fact, contingent workers will exceed 40 percent of the US workforce by 2020 as traditional full-time jobs with benefits become harder to find, according to an Intuit 2020 report. Our members are part of a growing wave of contingent, precarious workers—the precariat—who for the moment do not have collective bargaining, and are seeking alternate ways to win respect and financial security for our work.

Our main job is to build a fighting union that can represent all freelancers, in all genres, on all platforms.

WHERE DO WE STAND TODAY?

·   A new database is in place with streamlined operations to better serve our membership;

·   The new website will go live in early 2015. In redesigning it, we elicited input in developing a website wish list, especially from chapter and division chairs;

·    More than 300 members are currently enrolled in recurring dues payments that don’t lapse;

·   We issued more than 60, two-year International Federation of Journalists’ press passes/memberships in 2014;

·   We initiated the Spanish-language writers project;

·   We received the final payment for the most recent group of the Heart & Soul writers, totaling more than $127,000 in back payments in all;

·   We are developing new activists and leaders; a partial list includes:

o Amanda Wilson, DC: Website and social media

o Mauricio Niebla, NY: Spanish-language writers project

o Pamela K. Johnson, SoCal: NEC Sgt.-at-Arms and NWUsletter editor

o A larger 8-member NWU CAP committee

o Toni Good, Madison, WI: Forming a new chapter; attended Region 4 Women’s Conference

o Southeastern Michigan/Detroit Chapters: Took part in Netroots 2014 and marched against the water shutoffs

·   NWU member Jon Hoadley was just elected to the Michigan State Legislature from Kalamazoo, putting NWU in the middle of one of the major battles to derail the Right-to-Work (for Less) express.

·   We increased our social media presence to more than 1,750 Facebook “Likes” and greatly improved our Twitter presence;

·   We managed to significantly reduce spending despite rising fixed costs;

·   Social Justice Activism: We marched against the police murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and took part in the massive People’s Climate March;

·   We took in an additional $15,000 by providing 30 O-1 Visa Consultation letters

    All of this (and much more) adds up to an increase of about 200 members this year. And while all this is to the good, none of it is permanent. It’s still very fragile, and if we don’t fight even harder and smarter to keep moving forward, it can begin to slip away. We still have enormous challenges before us:

      -Google Books, Orphan Works, Copyright reform and the Amazon-Hachette struggle;

      -Establishing a base pay scale, with the help of many others, for those who write for for-profit online publishers.

      -And, as always, in building a community of writers who can help one another and advance together.

The challenges are great, but we’re in better shape to face them. On behalf of the National Executive Board, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

See you back on the barricades in 2015!

 


 

 

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12/12/2014 - 5:07pm

By Ann Hoffman

NWU now offers you help finding and using health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the extra support doesn’t cost you a penny more.*  The second Open Enrollment Period began in mid-November. For those of you who don’t have health insurance, you can now sign up for it. For those of you with coverage, now’s a good time to reevaluate your policy.                                            

 If you purchased insurance through the marketplaces last year, you’ve likely received your re-enrollment notice. Individual consumers in qualified plans have until Monday, December 15, to pick a new plan with coverage starting January 1, 2015. Otherwise, you’ll be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan, which could cost you more than in 2014. It pays to shop around to get the best deal for next year.  

NWU has joined the AFL-CIO’s Working America Health Care and Union Plus to help you access and evaluate the best plan for you under Obamacare. A broker will help you shop around, but he or she will not EARN a commission based on the policy you choose. The broker will also be able to tell you if you qualify for subsidies or tax credits.  

If your current plan is the best option, you can renew it. If you find a better plan , you can sign up for it. Either way, if you go through the Working America Health Care program to sign up, you will get additional support at no cost to you*. A medical can help answer questions about your coverage, recommend treatment options; suggest doctors/specialists and more and help negot MEDICAL BILLS.

Remember, the Affordable Health Care act is the law; you must have health insurance coverage or risk paying a fine: (In 2015, you’ll pay the higher of these two amounts: 2 percent of your yearly household income. Or $325 per person for the year, and $162.50 per child under 18. The maximum penalty per family is $975, according to https://www.healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/fee-for-not-being-covered/)

Find out more about getting health insurance through the NWU at (855)-698-8627 or WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org/NWU.

* Unfortunately, Working America Health Care is not available in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont or West Virginia.

Ann Hoffman is the first vice president of the NWU.

NOTE: THE NWU SUPPORTS SINGLE-PAYER MEDICARE FOR ALL AS THE BEST PRESCRIPTION FOR FREELANCERS AND EMPLOYEES.  IF YOU WANT TO HELP NWU FIGHT FOR SINGLE PAYER IN CONGRESS AND IN THE STATES, EMAIL KEITH BAGWELL, NWU CAP COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, AT KBAGWELL50@GMAIL.COM.

ALSO, THE NWU CONTINUES TO OFFER GROUP DENTAL AND VISION COVERAGE THROUGH CIGNA AND VSP.  NWU MEMBERS ALSO MAY OBTAIN A FREE PRESCRIPTION-DRUG DISCOUNT CARD FROM THE NATIONAL OFFICE. HTTP://NWU.ORG/DENTAL-AND-VISION-INSURANCE

 


 

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12/05/2014 - 5:19pm

By: Garrett Buhl Robinson

Over the last two years, I’ve spent nearly every day sitting on the sidewalk selling my books. I researched the laws and regulations; registered myself as an independent business; and then set up my stand with a little sign extending the invitation: “Meet the Author.” Though shelf space is minimal, I’ve got the best showroom in the world: the bustling streets of Manhattan, where the square footage is immeasurable, and the foot traffic endless.

Originally from Alabama, I lived out West for nearly two decades. At various locations in Oregon, California and Alaska, I worked numerous jobs. They ranged from construction to food service, and from furniture sales to salmon canning. All the while, I wrote and studied independently.

The impetus to launch my own bookstore in New York City began...

Some years ago, after I turned 40 and realized that if I planned to move to New York City, I’d better get a move on. I’d had a few poems published, but literary agents and publishers seemed out of reach. Then I made the daunting decision to bring my books to the publishing capital of the world. I still hoped to meet people in the industry, but I also determined that if it came down to it, I would sell my books on the street.

Along the way, there’ve been numerous setbacks. In the summer of 2012, for example, I overextended myself financially and was forced to choose between buying another shipment of books and paying my rent. I ordered the shipment and moved into a shelter. After five months there, I managed to rebuild my resources and find another room to rent in Brooklyn, where I’ve resided the past year. Despite the challenges, I now eek out a living through book sales.

Of the five books I market, my greatest accomplishment is Martha, a book-length, lyrical poem about performance dance. I’ve also published two collections of poetry and two novels. My second novel, Zoë, is a coming of age story about a young man hitchhiking and riding freight trains across the U.S.; he describes his adventures in letters to his girlfriend, Zoë. I recently adapted the story into a musical, which I perform on the streets of Manhattan. My third novel, Nunatak, centers around a young man who works one summer in a salmon cannery in Alaska amid a motley cast of characters. 

Promoting my wares al fresco can be challenging at times, but it also makes for great material. In the summer, when people tell me it’s too hot to sit outside and sell books, I say: “All the more reason we need the refreshment of literature.” In the winter when people comment about the cold, I praise the “warmth of poetry.” And last winter, when the city turned into tundra, I made snow-people. This provided me with a captive audience. Admittedly, they were an extremely frigid crowd, but I read them poetry until they melted. 

Quite often, I encounter the skeptical question, “Are you self-published?” Without hesitation, I respond, “Absolutely—just like Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.” In pursuing this path, I’ve joined ranks with some of the greatest literary luminaries in the history of civilization. 

Fortunately, the stigma of the “vanity press” has begun to fade. In time, it may even become a beauty mark. Self-publishing has become more feasible and practical with the emergence of Print on Demand (POD) companies such as CreateSpace, Xlibris and Lulu.  Also, the social media platforms provide marketing tools for the general public that are unprecedented. This enables a proliferation of communication through literature that may be comparable to the development of the Gutenberg Press. In this case, instead of providing more books for the public to read, these developments allow more authors to cultivate an audience. This enriches literature with a greater diversity of voices. 

The expansion of self-publishing may strengthen conventional publishing, as well. The industry can recruit authors who’ve already demonstrated an ability to speak to the public. This will boost their success rate with the writers they sign. The developments may also allow writers to organize in ways that are not subservient to shareholders and, instead, are oriented towards the writers and readers while working for the integrity of the literary arts. 

Dismiss me as a romantic, but I believe that the greatest value of literature is the artistry of the work and the substance of the content. After all, the prestige of a brand-name publisher, an enticing cover, and book-jacket blurbs, are all intended to accomplish one thing: Entice the public to pick up a book and read it. At that point, it’s the reader and the writing, and when the author touches a reader’s life, that is poetry. 

Garrett Buhl Robinson adapted his second novel, Zoë, into a musical. Listen carefully when you walk New York City’s streets, and beneath the roar you may hear him singing. www.garrettrobinson.us

Photo: Robinson reads his work. Photo credit: Emily Aronica.


 

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12/05/2014 - 10:09am

 

INK ON MY FINGERS

In this interview with Carolita Johnson, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, she shares about her experiences as a writer and an illustrator; side gigs she takes to keep the lights on; and her other long-running career in the fashion industry.

NWU: How are rights different for visual artists than they are for writers?  
CAROLITA JOHNSON: They’re not really that different. Writers can often make a better living than most cartoonists. Most writers at the New York Times don't need a day job, for example. But most of the cartoonists at The New Yorker, from my generation, have to have another source of income. Some of the luckier ones among us write for TV; I’m not sure if that really qualifies as a day job or just a darn good gig. Others of us teach cartooning or illustration. One cartoonist told me about working at an STD clinic, and another made his living engraving tombstones. There are those who work in retail, and even a few who are doctors. 

Even as a cartoonist for The New Yorker, I've had to work nights for a few months at a call center, selling season tickets to the Washington Philharmonic, I think it was. I also earn some of my income trying on clothes for patternmakers—as a junior medium—in Manhattan’s Garment District, which is pretty good work, but I'm getting too old for it, and will soon have to find something else. Anyway, that's all to say that even the most successful cartoonists at the best publications can't ever rely on their income from cartooning. Unless they live with their parents or have a rich spouse.

NWU: What's different in creating a cartoon—which is a certain form of narrative—from writing an article? 
JOHNSON: The creation process is similar, unless it's an article based on heavy research. Ideas come to you, you write them down to work on them later. What’s different is that cartoons are rarely edited once they’ve been submitted and bought. Maybe someone will say, “add more people,” or “that jacket should be buttoned on the other side because it's a man,” but that's pretty much it. Writing with an editor can be a long, painstaking process, but I enjoy the editor-writer relationship. There's more interaction, which is kind of nice for someone like me who works alone in my room. My editor is my first audience, and I always appreciate her/him. I say "him/her," although I've only had women editors so far.

NWU: How did you get into creating cartoons?
JOHNSON: Apparently I've always drawn cartoons! I'd forgotten this until my first new cartoon was published in 2003, and my old school friends came out of the woodwork with cartoons I'd drawn in class for their amusement. I even had a strip, called Snurfuls, about a shaggy dog, which my dad reminded me about. But I'd forgotten all about that by the time I came back from over a decade abroad traveling, trying lots of things, and just basically getting what they call, "a life."

I spent most of that time in France, with six months in London at first, then six months in Madrid in the middle. I was modeling and had to travel for a month or two at a time to Milan or Tokyo. To renew my visa in France, I had to leave every three months and get my passport stamped, so I'd take a bus or train to Amsterdam or Madrid, where I had friends who'd let me crash for a weekend. 

I would do any job I could get. For a while I did mosaics for a mosaic studio in Clichy, but got fired when my papers didn't come through. Another time, I babysat an old lady on her caregiver's day off—using her bathtub to wash my clothes and hair as soon as she fell asleep. I lived in a garret with no heat or hot water at the time. I typed 80,000 words a day for a translator for a couple years, until I got ganglion cysts. For all those years I had a gig twice a year at Jean-Paul Gaultier as a showroom model, the shortest one there. That put me through school, since my part time work never could have, and I made the money last for months at a time, living very modestly in varying degrees of Spartan comfort. I always say JPG was my college scholarship.

The second five years in, I spent at a French university. (In desperation I lied about my residence status, and for some reason they didn't catch up to me until I was on the verge of a doctorate, which I really had no business pursuing anyway.) I was lucky that a few of my key teachers were impressed enough by my glamorous gig that they let me be absent for almost two weeks every semester. Although, I was also a very good student.

When I went back to New York, I was a studio manager for a photographer and later his wife, a big stylist at Italian Vogue. I worked as a hostess in restaurants in Paris and in New York, saving up for my first computer. Then I got a software-testing and network-installing job in Paris for two years. Here's a piece on all the jobs I had.

So, when I came back to the States after 11 years, I met a New Yorker cartoonist. He encouraged me to try cartooning as a profession—something I'd never thought to do. He was also the first person I'd ever met who made a living from cartooning. To me he was like a mythical beast. I really liked him, and just wanted to go out with him. I didn't even take the cartooning that seriously at that time, but I did think it would be good practice to submit 10 cartoons a week, raise my productivity, and learn to meet deadlines. I was surprised when I sold a cartoon in the fall of 2002.

NWU Did you go to school for it?
JOHNSON: No, my parents made me go to art school, but they wanted me to be a "commercial artist." I took fashion design at Parson’s in New York City in rebellion. Then I studied Modern Letters  (comparative literature) in France. The fashion degree came in handy for my day job over a decade later. I don't think there were cartooning courses in colleges back when I was in college, but there certainly are now. Tons of them, everywhere. I might even try to teach one myself.

NWU: Did you grow up reading The New Yorker?
JOHNSON: My parents are strictly right-wingers, not The New Yorker type, so I never heard of the magazine until I met the cartoonist who got me to do cartoons for them. We live together now and compare cartoons. We tell each other if we think the other's cartoon is funny or not, but we're not competitive. Sometimes, when only one of us sells a cartoon, the other will pay for lunch at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan. It's always great when we both sell. But more often than not, Michael (Crawford) sells and I don't, or neither of us do. That's when we both walk around the house griping for a while, and then we get back to work.

Once in a while, we switch cartoons for fun: I'll redraw one of his, and he'll redraw one of mine, just to see if it'll sell that way, but so far no luck. Or sometimes I'll give Michael an idea for a job if a client calls for lots of ideas. And sometimes he'll help me with my perspective or architectural details, because I'm not good at those things. But as far as drawing goes, personally, I don't like collaborating on drawings with people. I just don't like drawings with mixed styles unless it's purely for fun, like at a party or something.

I still mostly only read the cartoons in The New Yorker—ha ha—unless I'm on a long subway ride to the beach. Then I read the magazine from cover to cover, until the sun goes down. It's a great publication.

NWU: What's your favorite New Yorker cartoon from over the years?
JOHNSON: Gotta say that the first one that comes to mind is Barsotti's "Fusilli, you crazy bastard!", but I have other favorites, depending on the day. It's too hard to choose just one. There are so many good ones. But I think almost every cartoonist you meet will point to "Fusilli, you crazy bastard!" as at least one of their favorites.

NWU: How do you work? What's your work space like? 
JOHNSON: For cartoons, I work on letter-size paper. I do my rough drawings on resume paper, so that if there's any rush, they can be used as final drawings. Unless I'm in a real rush, or low on ink or the proper materials, I draw my roughs almost as carefully as a "finish." I only redraw if I'm not happy with the drawing. I use a lightbox only for reproducing a drawing that I think is perfect except for some major flaw that makes it need redrawing, otherwise I prefer to sketch in non-repro blue, then ink it in. I used to use water with a little ink in it for grays, but I discovered black watercolor when I noticed other cartoonists had much nicer shadows and black contrasts.

My workspace consists of a drafting table and an office desk, but I can work with very little for cartooning. I write at my office desk, so I try to keep the computer there—away from the drafting table. That way I don't get distracted while I draw. For writing, it's easy not to get distracted. Once I start, I just forget everything.

NWU: What need does creating cartoons fulfill, and what need does writing articles fulfill? 
JOHNSON: I think I became much easier to get along with when I started doing cartoons for The New Yorker, mainly because all my observations and pet peeves were sublimated into funny or odd little cartoons, instead of complaints to my friends, family, the world. Cartooning is almost like emotional and behavioral therapy.

Writing is different. I've always tried to write, even as a child. I never could, though, until computers came along. I remember trying as a child, many times, but then giving up. My thought process is aided by the computer, by cut and paste, and by multiple records of the same story. The computer freed me from my writing handicaps. My typing is fast, lets me keep up with my disorganized thoughts. And words are very important to me. I don't just love putting them together or seeing beautiful sentences; I need to do this. So writing is just an outgrowth of a love of reading and writing, really. I was a big reader as a kid, and I'm an even bigger reader now. I think I'd write no matter what. 

NWU: Will you continue to do both, do you think, given that conditions for writers are not as good? 
JOHNSON: I think the wording of that question proves that writers have no idea how good they have it! Or at least how just-as-not-good things are in the other creative professions. Cartoonists do not have it "as good" as writers, or vice versa. Sure, as a New Yorker cartoonist, I'm one of the few privileged cartoonists who work under a decent contract, with my copyright intact, and my work respected.  However, cartoonists in general do not have it good at all. We're asked to work for free just as writers are. And cartoons are just unpaid-for spaces in magazines and newspapers, and more and more they're being dropped from publications. I even pretty much had to persuade a local newspaper to take my cartoons for free! It's a point of pride for me to be in my local paper, but unpaid print space is tight. 

As long as I find things funny in life, I'll sit down and draw cartoons about them, as a matter of desire and habit. I can't really stop myself. I do my own webcomic sometimes, for free. (Oscarinaland.com). And I like to illustrate my own essays. So, yeah, I'd continue to do both until some philanthropic urge possesses me to go dig ditches in a third world country, or feel I can be more useful doing something else. But for now, this is my contribution to the world. 


 

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12/05/2014 - 9:56am

Boston:
The Boston Chapter has worked out an agreement with Porter Square Books in Cambridge—one of the Boston area's leading independent bookstores—to collaborate on a quarterly reading that features an NWU writer. The series kicked off Monday, November 17, with chapter co-chair Charles Coe reading from his new novella, Spin Cycles, the story of a homeless man on the streets of Boston and his daily struggle for survival. Spin Cycles is part of the "Open Door" series by publisher Gemma Media, which publishes fiction on adult themes that are written at a third- to fifth-grade reading comprehension level. The series is aimed at "new readers." such as individuals in English as a Second Language programs and newly literate English speakers.

Tucson:
Greg Evans did a presentation about Amazon's Kindle KDP Select program at the Tucson Unit's monthly reading and open mic event in mid-November. The focus was the problematic contractual conditions of Kindle’s Direct and Select programs. A summary of the presentation can be found at NWU-Book Yahoo Group under the "A few notes on Kindle Direct and Select Contract Language."

National:
Attending the National Executive Board meeting in NYC, Gordon joined the organization’s other elected leaders on a visit to the Ralph Fasanella exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum. He also caught a Soviet-era opera at the Met:

http://www.peoplesworld.org/hurry-hurry-two-great-events-at-lincoln-center-nyc/

Ursula LeGuin:
Member Ursula LeGuin gets a loving appreciation in People's World:

http://www.peoplesworld.org/ursula-leguin-says-up-with-fantasy-down-with-capitalism/

Writers Rights:
This article concerns freedom of speech issues that directly affect our profession and our members. NWU national recently took a strong stand on this: http://www.peoplesworld.org/making-new-victims-out-of-revictimization/
Feel free to circulate it widely.  —Eric Arthur
 
Opportunities:
The Health and Environment Funders Network has created the new position of program director to develop webinars, plan events, write and shepherd social media as it relates to environmental health and justice. Apply only if you have five years of experience in one of those two area. A strong enough candidate may be able to work from home, rather than in the organization’s Silver Spring, MD, offices. See the DC Chapter website (nwu-dc.org) for more details and links.
 
Call to NWU Science Writers:
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will be heading the American Association for the Advancement of Science beginning in February, and wants to expand the organization’s communication, which is currently "print-centric." NWU science writers might be able to help him with that. If you’re interested in meeting with him or in otherwise impressing him with your smarts, contact Ann Hoffman, annfromdc@aol.com.
 
PhotoSoCal members attend an event for Lillian's Last Affair by Sue Katz, at end of table with arm around Sarah Forth's shoulder. Left of Katz, Marilyn Grunwald, right of Sarah, Joe Maizlish and Eric A. Gordon, with other attendees at the reading.

 

 

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12/05/2014 - 9:42am

One of the most vital things the GCD (NWU Grievance and Contract Division) does is review contracts and advise members on terms. But we don’t tell members what to do. We expect members to become proactive after reading the NWU Guide to Book Contracts and learning why terms are good or bad. For instance, a writer should never, ever assign his or her copyright to a publisher! Negotiating changes in contract language in the writer’s favor is challenging, but it’s also essential if writers want to protect their rights and make more money.

Members of the GCD give contract workshops at the NWU offices, and other writer or academic conferences. We’d like to make them available to all members via webinars, and we’re rolling out our first one on e-books in early 2015. A chapter can also sponsor a contract workshop for its members via Skype. While we can give all-day or half-day workshops in person, 60-to-90-minute sessions are best via video conference.

First we need to know what topics interest members. For instance, I’ve given an hour-long workshop on copyrights, and how to prevent digital piracy for our New York chapter. Other potential topics might be academic contracts; why warranties and indemnification are important; and/or strategies for negotiating better contract terms.

Want to host a contract workshop? Contact me at sednyc@rcn.com, and check out the latest GCD semi-annual report for January-June 2014 at tinyurl.com/qcx264k.

Susan E. Davis

 


 

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12/04/2014 - 6:06pm

(Ctd. from newsletter...)

And, all things considered, that still seemed pretty exciting.

During the term, I completed my assignments for the course (see my blog for the course), and embraced Twitter, which later empowered me to take the lead on social media innovation for several publications and organizations, including the NWU.

After the course, imagine my surprise when the course organizers asked me my preferred airport for departure to Alexandria, Egypt! In my five-day tour of the city, I networked with other journalists and heard a famous Egyptian writer speak. I also enjoyed the opportunity to dialogue with journalists from around the world, including an Iraqi with whom I still stay in touch. (He secured a visa and now lives in the United States.)

Throughout our stay, we feasted on seafood from the Mediterranean; talked about our own subjectivities; and explored Alexandria’s back streets. We were issued a backstage pass to the beautiful city locals affectionately call “Alex” only a year before Egypt erupted in violence during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

A highlight of the trip was our visit to the great Alexandria Library (pictured above), one of the oldest in the world and a symbol of freedom of information and scholarship in the Arab world. Read my take on the library here.

Although that part of the world has changed dramatically in the last five years, my newly acquired social media skills, lifelong friendships, and glimpse of a multi-faceted Muslim world will stay with me forever. And the experience underscored my inherent connection—as a writer and a journalist—to other people and cultures around the globe.

Photo: Alexandira Library. Credit: Creative Commons


 

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12/04/2014 - 5:56pm

By Susan E. Davis

Transgender pioneer and global icon, Leslie Feinberg died at home with the love of her life, Minnie Bruce Pratt, in Syracuse, NY, on Nov. 15. Feinberg had endured a long illness with multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, but the author, in her signature wit, attributed her catastrophic health crisis to “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science.”

During her 65 years, Feinberg profoundly influenced the national and international movement for Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) liberation, particularly through her groundbreaking novel Stone Butch Blues. Released in 1993, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and was translated into seven languages, including Chinese and Hebrew, with royalties donated to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women (www.aswatgroup.org/en).

“Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of ‘transgender liberation,’ and her work impacted popular culture, academic research, and political organizing,” Pratt wrote in the Nov. 17 Advocate. A poet and professor, she was Feinberg’s spouse of 22 years.

An anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, revolutionary communist, Feinberg was a proud member for many years of the NWU and Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group. A member of Workers World Party (WWP), which she discovered at a demonstration for Palestinian self-determination in the early 1970s, Feinberg participated in hundreds of anti-war, pro-labor, anti-racist and pro-choice demonstrations. One of her last protests was in defense of CeCe McDonald, a transwoman sentenced to jail in 2012 for defending herself against a bigoted attacker.

Feinberg began writing in 1974 as a WWP journalist, editing the political prisoner page for 15 years and becoming a managing editor in 1995. She wrote two nonfiction books, Transgender Warriors: Making History and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, as well as a second novel, Drag King Dreams. From 2004-2008, her 120-part WWP series, Lavender & Red, explored the links between socialism and LGBTQ history. The book, Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba, was excerpted from that series.

Leslie was my comrade and my role model in being an up-front communist. From some obituaries I’ve read, it’s obvious that she educated, inspired and dared many progressive people to see commonalities among oppressions, and to be bold in fighting for social justice and economic equality. Pratt said that Feinberg’s last words were, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Leslie Feinberg, live like her!

Susan E. Davis, an NWU member since 1987, is the author of four nonfiction books and a self-published novel; she’s NWU’s National Contract Advisor and co-chair of the Book Division.

 


 

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12/04/2014 - 5:54pm

1. Use Who Pays Writers - report your rates so other writers can have better information about payment: whopayswriters.com 

2. Always ask for more. When negotiating your rate, ask for what you want. Even just a little bit more. Nobody's going to give you more money or better terms unless you ask.

3. Know yourself. Are you a writer who has another job and just writes sometimes for 'fun'? Do you have other people who rely on you for financial support? Do you do well with multiple clients and constant hustle, or do you prefer the security of a steady paycheck? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? An expert or a generalist? All these things matter to your career. Know your preferences and limits, and plan your career in a way that will play to your strengths but still challenge you. 

4. Talk to each other "IRL." The internet is great, but real power comes from people talking with each other and sharing their experiences, then building on those experiences and relationships to take action. 

5. Read. Go beyond your own echo chamber. Read critically and enthusiastically. Read everything, everyone, always. 

Photo: Left to Right - Manjula Martin, David Hill (NWU J-Div Co-chair), and Ari Paul (lecturer at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs) at a recent NWU event.


 

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Union News

07/27/2011 - 6:24pm

By Wendy Werris
Jul 27, 2011

In a move as significant for its breadth as its implications for the future of book coverage, the Los Angeles Times book review laid off all of its freelance book reviewers and columnists on July 21.

Susan Salter Reynolds was with the Times for 23 years as both a staffer and freelancer and wrote the “Discoveries” column that appeared each week in the Sunday book review. She was told that her column was cancelled and will not be replaced by another writer. “I don’t know where these layoffs fit into the long-storied failure at the Times,” she said yesterday, “but these are not smart business decisions. This is shabby treatment.”

Jon Thurber, editor of the book review, explained to Reynolds last Thursday that all books-related stories will now be done in-house, and that the decision to cease eliminate non-staffers was based on his freelance budget being cut. Richard Raynard’s popular “Paperback Writers” has also been eliminated. As children’s books editor at the Times for the last several years Sonja Bolle, who most recently wrote the monthly “WordPlay” column, said, “This indicates an even deeper contraction of the business, a continuation of a process at the Times that doesn’t stop here.” Bolle is most concerned about the shrinking coverage of children’s books. “This is a great loss for readers,” she said of the elimination of her column.

Four staffers remain in the book review section: David Ulin, Carolyn Kellogg, Nick Owchar, and Thurber. In December 2009 the Times laid off 40 features writers, including Reynolds and Bolle, but brought many of them back to work part-time. “We were paid about one-third of what we had been making, and lost our health insurance,” Reynolds says. "Then two months ago we were shifted to freelance status, which meant none of us were allowed to enter the Times building.” Thurber did make an exception for Reynolds so she could come to the office to pick up the multiple review copies she received daily in order to produce her column.

When contacted, Thurber deferred to Nancy Sullivan, the Times’s v-p of communications. “This was a cost-saving move,” she said, “strictly related to our budget.” Sullivan would not provide details on the number of freelancers who were eliminated last week. “Staff writers from outside the book department will take over for those who left. We have not changed our commitment to book coverage or the amount of space the Times will devote to it.”

07/22/2011 - 4:39pm

There was a "status conference" July 19th in New York in the ongoing Federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for scanning millions of books without the permission of the copyright holders.

The parties to the lawsuit asked for more time to try to negotiate a new settlement proposal. Judge Chin scheduled another hearing for September 15th, but suggested that if the parties had not reached at least an agreement in principle by then, he would set a schedule for the case to move forward toward discovery, briefing, argument, and decision of the legal issues without an agreed-upon settlement.

Law Prof. James Grimmelmann, who spoke at the NWU's forum on the case last year, has more about the hearing in his blog:
http://laboratorium.net/archive/2011/07/19/gbs_status_conference_opt-in_settlement_in_the_wor

Earlier this year, Judge Chin agreed with the NWU and numerous other writers' organizations from around the world that the previous settlement proposal was not "fair and adequate".  But Google, the Association of American Publishers, and the Authors Guild (whose membership is limited to authors of books published by major publishers with substantial advances, unlike the NWU which is open to all writers) have continued to exclude the NWU and all other interested parties from their ongoing negotiations.

The NWU is continuing to monitor the case, and will advise our members on future developments.  Backgorund information incluidng the NWU's submissions to the court is available from the NWU Book Division at: http://www.nwubook.org

07/15/2011 - 5:07pm

BBC journalists in one-day strike

BBC Television Centre The BBC has apologised to viewers and listeners
for any disruption
Continue reading the main story
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14152795?print=true#story_continues_1>

Journalists at the BBC have begun a 24-hour strike in a row over
compulsory redundancies.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted in favour of
industrial action last month because a number of World Service
journalists are facing compulsory redundancy.

The NUJ has warned that the strike will cause "widespread disruption" to
radio and TV programmes.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation was "disappointed" by the action.

Viewers and listeners saw some changes to BBC output on Friday morning
as a result of the strike.


BBC journalists in one-day strike
BBC          Television CentreThe BBC has apologised to viewers and listeners for any disruption
Continue reading the main story
Journalists at the BBC have begun a 24-hour strike in a row over compulsory redundancies.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted in favour of industrial action last month because a number of World Service journalists are facing compulsory redundancy.
The NUJ has warned that the strike will cause "widespread disruption" to radio and TV programmes.
A BBC spokesman said the corporation was "disappointed" by the action.
Viewers and listeners saw some changes to BBC output on Friday morning as a result of the strike.

07/14/2011 - 4:09pm

Forty years after it was first published, the book Occupied America: The History of Chicanos has been banned, and its author, Rudolfo Acuña, widely published professor and prominent immigrant-rights activist thinks he knows why.

To Acuña, a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, it boils down to two things: numbers and control. He says that banning his book and shutting down an ethnic studies program that has been widely successful in Arizona are part of an effort to undermine social inclusion and financial uplift for Chicanos, or people of Mexican descent. Not only has his work come under fire, but Acuña has received numerous death threats from unidentifiable individuals who are at odds with his commitment to improving the system of education and living conditions for Chicanos. 

This work is very much tied to the immigration issue, which Acuña, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, says, "puts panic in people [and makes them think] 'We're losing our country.'"

This might be why so many politicians have rallied against his groundbreaking work in Chicano Studies - an academic program he helped develop in the late 1960s at California State University, Northridge. While this initiative remains the longest running and largest such program, many others have since been established at universities across the country, and even some middle and high schools. 

Not everyone is so keen on seeing Chicano studies expand. Among the program's most vocal critics is Arizona's attorney general, Tom Horne, who has called it a sort of "ethnic chauvinism." He has also claimed that the program is "an officially recognized, resentment-based program," even though the National Education Association has shown that such curriculum instead increases interracial understanding and significantly enhances students' interest in academic pursuits. 

07/14/2011 - 4:01pm

On June 21, 2011, just before heading on to the Delegate Assembly in Detroit, 1st V.P. Ann Hoffman and I met at the Executive Office Building in Washington, next door to the White House, with President Obama's lead advisor on intellectual property enforcement and policy issues.

This meeting was a follow-up to comments on writers' difficulties enforcing our rights that we submitted in 2010, shortly after the creation of the office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator: http://www.nwubook.org/NWU-ip-enforcement.pdf

The office of the IPEC doesn't carry out enforcement actions itself, but exists to coordinate the Administration's executive actions -- including copyright and other IP-related law enforcement -- and legislative recommendations such as those on future copyright "reforms": http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/intellectualproperty/

We received no response to our initial written submission, and writers' interests (especially vis-a-vis publishers and distributors) were not reflected in IPEC reports and strategic recommendations.

Accordingly, we requested a face-to-face meeting with the IPEC office. Somewhat to our surprise, we found the door wide open. (Not literally, of course -- admission to the building required not only an appointment and "screening" at the entrance to the White House compound but detailed submissions of personal information, in advance, to the Secret Service.)

We met for the better part of an hour with the head of the office, the "IP Enforcement Czar" herself, Ms. Victoria Espinel, along with four of her staff advisors she had invited to provide expertise on specific aspects of IP enforcement ranging from copyrights to international law. All had read our comments in preparation for the meeting, although they still seemed to be surprised when we began our presentation by identifying publishers and distributors as the most significant infringers of writers' copyrights.

06/03/2011 - 5:49pm

New York City June 1 - At a brief status conference this afternoon, Google, the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers asked
Judge Denny Chin for additional time to explore settlement possibilities. Judge Chin scheduled the next status conference for July 19.

There's more on the google Books hearing from Publishers Weekly:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/47490-no-progress-on-google-book-settlement-talks-tone-changing-.html

05/26/2011 - 11:08am

The Executive Committee of the Union of Cyprus Journalists is greatly concerned and expresses its abhorrence over incidents of violence against Turkish Cypriot journalists by the so-called “police” in the occupied part of Cyprus.

Following a second bomb attack against the car and the life of a Turkish Cypriot colleague and the shooting attack against the offices of a newspaper, an assault against journalists by “policemen” of the occupation regime comes to clearly confirm that freedom of the press is under undisguised persecution in the occupied part of Cyprus.

The latest incidents of violence against journalists came about when Turkish Cypriots colleagues, covering a protest march by employees of the so-called “Turkish Cypriot Airlines” made redundant by its closure, were beaten and had their cameras damaged by “policemen” trying to prevent them from carrying out their work.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists strongly deplores raw violence and stresses that it will report on the above mentioned actions against freedom of the press to all European and world journalists organizations.



The Executive Committee
of the Union of Cyprus Journalists

05/16/2011 - 5:19pm

When:  Sunday, May 29, 2011

What:  The first  "Net Needs News Day." 

Who:  Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Has invited members to simultaneously publish a cartoon about how the web is mostly useless without original reporting generated by newspapers.  (Note: Cartoonists are participating on their own.)  Society of Professional Journalists President  Hagit Limor will blog on this topic at www.spj.org.

Why:  Increase public's awareness and appreciation of journalism and its vital role to information on the worldwide web (95% of all original content online.)   

2nd reason: SPJ recently favorited a motion graphics video on the same topic for its new channel for journalists. ("The Fat Lady Has Not Sung: Why the Internet Needs the News" is also airing at Stanford University graduate classes) : http://www.youtube.com/user/spjournalists#p/a/f/0/PRdUTWn-Zvo     

Where:  As many newspapers as possible.

Contact:  Sharon Geltner, Froogle PR, geltner@netneedsnews.net.  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/pages/The-Fat-Lady-Has-Not-Sung/168436819844750

05/06/2011 - 12:09pm

Situation of NWU member highlights benefit of Union Plus disaster help program

The case of At-large co-chair James Sandefur, whose family suffered losses in the recent tornadoes, highlights the benefits available to NWU members through Union Plus, a wide-ranging program for members of the UAW and AFL-CIO.

One program offers a $500 grant to any member suffering a documented financial loss as the result of a FEMA-certified natural disaster or emergency.  That program is available only to members who have participated for 12 months or more in the Union Plus credit card, mortgage or insurance program.

For more information on the disaster relief program, go to http://www.unionplus.org/money-credit/natural-disaster-relief-fund.

Remember too that Union Plus has a free prescription drug discount card for NWU members and their family members.  Go to unionplus.org and log in as a member of the UAW, then go to health benefits and download your cards.

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