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

10/06/2014 - 8:24am

‘NOT NO, BUT HELL NO!’ - NWU Member Submission

As we move into October and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’m reminded of a couple of things: (1) In Washington, DC, the No. 1 Management Rule is: “Don’t do anything you don’t want to read in the New York Times.” (2) I got involved in disability politics in the mid-1980s because Justin W. Dart Jr. and others inspired me in my fight against associational discrimination within the US Department of State. But in 1993, after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had become law, and after I had passed my exams for the Foreign Service, I was still denied an appointment to travel abroad, owing to my daughter’s cardiac disability.

Government officials tried to waive my medical clearance, but the ADA had abolished "waivers" on medical clearances for health conditions and disabilities.  That is called associational discrimination based on disability, and was now prohibited. So when the bureaucrat asked me, “Don’t you want a waiver?” I responded,  “Not no, but hell no!” I insisted that they enforce the ADA. Then, in early 1995, after the government spent millions of dollars to discriminate against my daughter and me, I was appointed to the Foreign Service. The NY Times covered it: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/22/business/at-work-promotions-and-family-matters.html.

Alex Baker Patterson lived to be 17. She enjoyed looking at photographs of eagles in flight. So do I. My favorite eagle is Alex.  

—Jim Patterson

 


 

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10/06/2014 - 8:23am

Ilham Tohti, who won the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith ‘Freedom to Write’ award, was sentenced to life in prison by a court in China. PEN's denunciation of the verdict was cited in the NY Times. A writer, scholar, and leader in Uyghur PEN, Tohti founded Uyghur Online, a forum for dialogue between China’s Muslim Uyghur minority and its majority Han populations. The author was arrested in a violent raid on his home back in January, and charged with “separatism”—an allegation that his writings firmly reject.

As he was dragged out of court that morning, he spoke the last words we may hear from him in a long time: “This is not just! I won’t give in.” PEN is working with its partners to provide material support to Tohti's family, whose assets have been seized as a result of his conviction.

—PEN AMERICA

PEN has launched a letter-writing campaign to urge the Chinese authorities to release Ilham Tohti.

 

 


 

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10/06/2014 - 8:17am

The Boston Chapter’s September Publishing Alternatives panel drew 30 writers and four publishers: Candlewick Press (Somerville, MA, UK and Australia); Gemma Media (Boston); Hobblebush Books (Brookline, NH); and Cognoscenti, National Public Radio/WBUR’s online commentary page (Boston). During the Q&A, our business-savvy members focused on what matters most: What’s in the contract; turnaround times; advances; and openness to issues that mainstream publishers may consider too controversial (e.g. abortion). Biggest takeaway: Editors are impressed by queries that show a writer has thoroughly perused—and even better bought and read—the books on a publisher’s website. That way, potential authors have a sense of the kinds of material a publisher is likely to want. Thanks to event organizers and steering committee members.   

 — Barbara Beckwith

 


 

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10/06/2014 - 8:15am

American authors are now eligible for Man Booker prize for first time.

Read more:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/09/us-britain-booker-idUSKBN0H41UB20140909

 


 

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10/05/2014 - 5:12pm

Green Was the Old Black

By Calvin Ramsay

Photo courtesy of the author.

The name of Victor Hugo Green, a mailman who started his career in 1913 in Hackensack, NJ, lives on. He created both the Negro Motorist Green Book and the Negro Traveler’s Green Book because, at the time, the country’s racist Jim Crow laws hampered African-Americans. Green’s wife, the former Alma Duke of Richmond, VA, and their family often made the nearly 700-mile round trip to her hometown during their long marriage. Each time, the Greens were reminded that something needed to be done about the mistreatment of blacks on the open road.

By 1918, the Greens had moved from Hackensack to Harlem, NY, and remained there until his retirement in 1952. Throughout those years, Green continued to commute to Jersey to support his branch and his union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, which was largely white but allowed Green to join. The postman used his union connections with fellow carriers to ask for help with addresses and contacts for the Negro traveler. Once he had put together a nationwide team, he launched the Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936, which was published for three decades, until 1966 and annually included more than 80 pages of content.

The Green Book Travel Guide listed Negro hotels, restaurants, homes where travelers could stay, beauty and barbershops, as well as doctors and dentists’ offices. Restrooms and gas stations that catered to the Negro traveler were also included. Green’s dream was that one day the Green Book would not be needed because African-Americans would enjoy full accommodations on the open road. He did not live to see that day, passing away in 1960. But his daughter kept the Green Book going for six more years through the passage of the Civil Rights Bills of the middle and late sixties.

I learned about all of this history in 2001 in Atlanta, when I attended the funeral of two dear friends’ son who died in a traffic accident. The child’s grandfather, who had come down from NYC, was looking for a Green Book. It was his first time traveling to the South, and he thought it was still needed. I asked him what the Green Book was, and I became fascinated.

After that I wrote a play on the subject. It was staged in Washington, D.C. with the legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond playing Victor Green; Bond shared with me that his family always traveled with the Green Book. In the audience that night was Ernie Green of the Little Rock Nine (not sure if he’s any relation), who famously integrated an all white school in 1957 in Little Rock, AR. He told me that his family had used the Green Book, as well. Later I learned that Buck O’Neil, manager of the Kansas City Monarchs, the Negro Baseball league team for which Jackie Robinson had played, had placed a Green Book under glass at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. Musician Wynton Marsalis told me that his grandfather ran an Esso gas station in New Orleans, and that he both advertised in and sold the Green Book. My children’s novel, Ruth and the Green Book, tells of an 8-year-old traveling with her mom and dad from Chicago to Selma, AL, in 1952 to see her grandmother. They endure a great number of trials—until they get a copy of the Green Book.

 —NWU member Ramsey is the author of numerous plays, musicals and books.

 


 

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10/05/2014 - 5:09pm

By Marilyn A. Gelman

In the days following a car crash injury some year ago, I thought I was entitled to certain benefits based on what I thought the auto policy said. But I was wrong. The same goes for a 2007 contract that I was thrilled to sign for the publication of an essay. The editing process was a pleasure, and I felt proud of the anthology in which the work appeared. However, years later I learned that simple words in contracts can have complex meanings.

The cause of my recent education was an invitation to be a Byliner.com backlist author. Suddenly I cared about the rights to that past work. I thought some rights had reverted to me because the contract for the piece specified five years, and seven years had passed. Besides, I thought the book had gone out of print years ago, when the publisher said copies were no longer available. Wrong and wrong.

After emailing back and forth with a NWU contract advisor, I began to look at words in contracts in a new way. I was stunned at my naiveté. There were words and phrases that should have signaled "Warning!" Instead, I overlooked them at the exciting prospect of a sale.

I do not regret signing the 2007 contract, but I do regret not fully understanding what I was signing.

Some words and phrases that will make me slow down and think twice include "exclusive," "X years after final publication," and "future media and technologies." In the future, I will inquire about a publisher’s right to license my story to third parties—especially those who use my story to support an ideology I do not espouse—and explore the possibility that there might be negotiating room.

Are there “warning” words and phrases on your list? Share them with the GCD at advice@nwu.org. And if your contract has terms that you don’t understand, ask the GCD for a review.

Image credit: Clip Art


 

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10/05/2014 - 5:04pm

Photo Credit: Laura Anglin

For her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin received the 2014 National Book Award medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. When NWU asked her about her reaction to the news, she said: “I'm honored by this medal, and delighted that the National Book Foundation is giving it to a writer best known for writing kinds of fiction often not regarded as literature.  I'll wear it with pride in the continuing campaigns against Google's attack on copyright and Amazon's attempt to censor authors and publishers who refuse to kiss the feet of Bezos.”

Q & A W/ URSULA K. LE GUIN

Le Guin, who is an NWU member, will celebrate her 85th birthday on October 21st. She lives in Portland, Oregon and, as of 2013, had published 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, 12 books for children, six volumes of poetry and four essay collections. Her honors and awards include the Hugo, the Nebula, a National Book Award and a PEN-Malamud. Recently we asked Ursula to answer some questions about the writing life. 

NWU) What’s your writing schedule? 

UKL) If I have something to write, I prefer to write it in the morning, in my study.  But if I have something to write, I'll write it whenever and wherever I can.

NWU) What's the best writing advice you ever got?  

UKL) “Why can’t you have kids and write books?” My best friend Jean said that to me when we were about 22.

NWU) Which of your books has proved most prescient?

UKL) "Prescient" sounds too much like fortune-telling! Several of my sf novels, such as The Word for World is Forest, The Dispossessed, and The Lathe of Heaven, show the terrible effects of overpopulation and exploitative capitalist technology on species diversity, the climate, etc., but I wasn't prescient—scientists have been warning us about all that for 50 years now, all you had to do was listen to them.  (Which a lot of us still aren't doing.)

NWU) What books are on your bed stand right now?

UKL) Shigeru Mizuki, Showa: A History of Japan (a graphic history/autobiography -- amazing!)  Mary Jacobus: Romantic Things.  Two volumes of Rilke. Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle (to re-read for the nth time, so I can write an introduction for a new edition, yay!) 

NWU) To what extent do you believe science fiction should offer a social critique, or serve as a lens through which to examine contemporary issues in science and technology? 

UKL) I don't like to say that any kind of fiction, any art form, "should" do anything but be true to itself.  However, by its nature, sf offers a different perspective on contemporary life (not just science and tech), and often hints that change is desirable, and possible.

NWU) Despite decades of fine work by many female writers such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Octavia Butler and yourself, to what extent do you think the field of science fiction is still something of a “boy’s club”?

UKL) For the people who want it to be a boys club, that's what it is.  For grown-ups, it's a lively part of contemporary literature.  These days it has no more problems with gender assumptions than the rest of literature has, but unfortunately, that's a good deal.

NWU) Why are you a National Writers Union member? 

UKL) Because writers need solidarity against exploitation as much as any other workers do, and have particular issues that take knowledge and adroitness to handle


 

 

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09/23/2014 - 9:56am

Members of the National Writers Union (NWU), a local of the United Auto Workers (UAW), joined hundreds of thousands of other people to march more than 40 blocks through New York City on Sunday to demand action on climate change. The NWU and UAW joined a huge contingent of other workers and labor unions marching as part of the much larger People’s Climate March (PCM), held on September 21.

Estimates place the number of marchers as high as 400,000. With those numbers, the march was the largest of its kind in the history of the United States, with people from across the country and the world banding together to call attention to increasingly extreme weather that has brought droughts and fires to the Western United States and spawned powerful megastorms. The science is clear: climate change is placing lives in danger; threatening livelihoods, homes, and agriculture; and promises to wipe entire islands totally off the map...and the situation may be nearing the point of no return.

More actions are happening in NY this week as the UN Summit on climate change opens. More than 80 labor unions took part and NWU marched with a very large and lively UAW delegation behind a very cool banner. Where the movement goes from here is not clear, but the issue of climate change is now front and center, no longer a fringe issue, and no longer up for debate.


 

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09/03/2014 - 5:43pm

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Larry Goldbetter, President – 212-254-0279                                                        

David Hill, Co-Chair Journalism Division – 347-749-1842

 

NWU STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF STEVEN J. SOTLOFF

The National Writers Union joins the rest of the world in our grief and anger over the brutal murder of Steven J. Sotloff by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He was just 31 years old. Our sadness is compounded by the fact that his death follows so closely that of fellow freelance journalist James Foley just two weeks ago. Steven, James and many others have risked their lives to work a beat that major news sources have abandoned as too dangerous.

Steven had lived in Yemen and learned Arabic there. He covered the Arab Spring, reporting for Time, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Interest, Media Line, World Affairs, and Foreign Policy, from Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and Bahrain. He was abducted in Syria on August 4, 2013.

At least 20 journalists are still missing in Syria, where the three-year old civil war has taken the lives of more than 191,000 and created more than 3 million refugees. Thirteen Palestinian journalists were killed and more than three dozen wounded in the recent Israeli assault on Gaza. Last month, Russian journalist Andrei Stenin became the seventh journalist murdered in Ukraine, his car recently recovered on a road close to Donetsk. The vehicle was burned and riddled with bullet holes. Like Foley and Sotloff, these journalists were all targeted for execution.

The world is an ever more dangerous place. As we write this, war rages in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Ukraine and across Africa. US drone strikes occur regularly in Yemen, Pakistan, and now Somalia. And US troop levels in Iraq will soon once again top 1,100. The shocking videos of the Foley and Sotloff murders may not be what a previous administration had in mind when they launched their “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq. But it is what we have reaped, and there is no end in sight.

RIP Steven J. Sotloff. And to those in the field, be strong, be brave and be safe.

 


 

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08/28/2014 - 4:01pm


 

I was told today at my temp job with the National Probation Service in Swansea, Wales, that being a writer was "undesirable" when working with confidential files, even though I had previously been an employee of the organization. This is the same place that celebrates its famous writer, Dylan Thomas with events, festivals and statues. I have also worked at the Police, the DWP, (Department of Work and Pensions) the DVLA (Driver's Licensing Department) and had security clearance, and worked at the National Health Service.

I was told by the temp agency the "senior management" had found out I was a "writer" and I was dismissed because of it. It didn't even matter what sort of writing you did, health and beauty, yoga and fiction equals some major investigation of their practices and divulging confidential information in their minds.

I have contacted NAPO (trade union for Probation and Family Court Staff) to make them aware that being a writer was a dismissible offence. Obviously some one who I was working with went and told the "senior management" I was a writer to get me let go, not a happy thought. Temp jobs are days, weeks and months at best. Most people would want more continuity in their lives than that brief encounter and being a writer is a life-long occupation. I wonder how many other writers have been discriminated against for having a long-term job as a writer.

I would welcome hearing anybody else's experience of discrimination for being a writer.

Sincerely,

Cara E. Moore

 


 

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Union News

05/03/2011 - 4:50pm

02 May 2011

Shadow of 9/11 Attacks Hangs over Journalism, Says IFJ on World Press Freedom Day

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) marks this year’s World Press Freedom Day by focusing on the legacy of the terrorist attacks on 11 September in New York and Washington ten years ago. The Federation plans to launch a major campaign - Journalism in the Shadow of Terror- to consider the impact of those terrible events and to call for a reversal of the tide of legal and official intimidation of journalism and attacks on civil liberties that has followed the events of 2001.

“The last ten years have seen an alarming erosion of press freedom as governments adopted a hard line in the fight against terror,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “There is no doubt that journalists have been among the prominent victims of a widespread assault on the democratic rights of all citizens and this has to change.”

The IFJ says that the laws introduced in the wake of the attacks of 11 September in America such as restrictions of movement and the right to investigate public authorities and to report and to publish freely have reduced the rights of journalists. The Federation is calling for a fresh debate on the new information landscape and how governments are responding to the challenge of groups such Wikileaks in exposing government secrets and the impact this has on journalism.

04/14/2011 - 4:00pm

 

 

 


NWU/UAW 1981 at the NYC May Day rally. The Union of Huffington Post Writers and Bloggers "call on journalists and bloggers to join the National Writers Union."

 

 

See http://www.facebook.com/l/60538/www.hpub.org for details."

 

04/12/2011 - 6:18pm
nwu.org

NEW YORK, NY: A class action lawsuit was filed today against The Huffington Post.com, Inc., Huffington Post owner Arianna Huffington, her co-owner, and AOL.com, Inc. alleging that thousands of writers and other content providers have been wrongly denied any compensation for the substantial value they created for the Huffington Post.  The Huffington Post was recently sold to AOL for $315 million.
 
“Arianna Huffington is pursuing the Wal-Martization of creative content and a Third World class of creative people,” said Jonathan Tasini, the lead plaintiff in the suit. “Actually, that is unfair to Wal-Mart because at least Wal-Mart pays its workers something for the value those workers create. In Arianna Huffington’s business model, economic gain is only reserved for her.  Everyone else, apparently, is expected to work for free regardless of the value they create. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day.”
 
The class action, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of a putative class of over 9,000 writers and other content providers to The Huffington Post.com states deceptive trade practices and unjust enrichment as causes of action.  The complaint requests at least $105 million in damages on behalf of The Huffington Post’s uncompensated writers and other content providers.

THE FULL COMPLAINT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE: http://www.huffingtonpostlawsuit.com/uploads/Tasini_et_al._v._Huffington_et_al._Filed_Complaint_April_12_2011.pdf
 

03/30/2011 - 10:15am

VICTORY!!!

Quick response to USLAW's alert by 452 people helped to free the four young journalists who had been detained by Iraqi security forces following a demonstration by workers demanding respect for labor rights, reliable electricity, clean water, sanitation and jobs for the unemployed.

INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY WORKS!!!

03/23/2011 - 3:28pm

NEW YORK CITY:  March 23, 2011 –  "Judge Denny Chin's decision that the Google Book Settlement was 'not fair, adequate and reasonable' gives the National Writers Union even more reason to pursue other means through Congress and the courts to protect and affirm writers' rights against this sort of corporate infringement," declared Larry Goldbetter, president of the NWU, the union of freelance writers. "Because writers' copyright infringement claims against Google have yet to be resolved, the NWU calls on Google to stop scanning without permission -- now." 

Google digitized the contents of several university libraries started in 2004 without getting permission of any of the copyright holders of those books and journals.  The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued, claiming infringement of copyright.  After a few years, the parties agreed to settle the law suit.  The proposed settlement and an amended settlement designed to meet objections to the first agreement not only tried to resolve rights arising from the illegal copyight.  The settlement also set up a new system to permit Google to sell the books it had digitized.  The National Writers Union and many foreign governments, individual writers, other writers groups and the U.S. Justice Department objected to the amended settlement.  Judge Chin rejected the settlement on March 23.

After seven years of Google digitizing books without the consent of the copyright holders, the only point that is clear is that the efforts of three parties – Google, the Authors Guild (AG) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) – to resolve the many issues involved were totally unsuccessful and left most matters yet to be decided, added Goldbetter.   NWU hopes that any future settlement talks will include other writers' groups like the NWU in addition to the Authors Guild, which, according to the judge, may have “antagonistic interests” with at least certain other writers.  (Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., 05 CIV 8136 (DC 2011), p. 20.  "NWU looks forward to hearing from Google, AAP and AG about how they plan to broaden the negotiations to include all those who offered substantive objections to the settlement," stated Goldbetter. 

03/22/2011 - 8:25pm

New York March 22 - NWU applauds Judge Chin's decision today rejecting the Google Book Settlement as not "fair, adequate, and reasonable." Along with our co-objectors, we will continue to pursue justice for authors and the establishment of a digital Library of Congress, not Google.

See the decision here: http://thepublicindex.org/docs/amended_settlement/opinion.pdf

See some initial news coverage on the decision here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704461304576216923562033348.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/nyc-judge-concludes-google-book-settlement-not-fair-adequate-and-reasonable/2011/03/22/ABG2DuDB_story.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20045967-36.html

03/22/2011 - 10:35am
Right now 50 bloggers at ArtScene and the newly formed Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers (HPUB) are striking the Huffington Post for unpaid wages. The Natioinal Writers Union and others are honoring what the Newspaper Guild called, their "electronic picket lines." We urge our members and everyone reading this, not to write for HuffPo until they brought to the bargaining table.
 
We can think of no better way to launch our campaign to establish a living minimum wage for on line content writers. From HuffPo, which was bought by AOL for $315 million to Demand Media, with a December IPO that valued it at $1.5 billion, huge profits are being reaped off the unpaid or penny-a-word labor of freelance writers. This can not go on.
 

The following article by NWU member John Sandman is the first of a series to further the discussion, struggle and buzz among freelance writers and bloggers, to gather the forces needed to make this fight. We look forward to hearing from you and to your participation in this campaign.

03/14/2011 - 3:37pm

News about union support for single-payer health care and HR 676 <singlepayernews@unionsforsinglepayerhealthcare.org>

Conyers Reintroduces HR 676 into the 112th Congress

On February 11, 2011, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Democrat of Michigan, reintroduced Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676, the national single payer health care legislation, into the 112th Congress.  With minor changes, such as the addition of oral surgery to the benefits, HR 676 is the same and will provide all medically necessary care to everyone through progressive public funding and elimination of private health insurance companies.  There are no premiums, no co-pays, no co-insurance, no deductibles.

Congressman Conyers stated:  “Millions of Americans are frustrated with rising health care costs, and have a deep mistrust of private health insurance companies. The for-profit medicine model has resulted in rationed care and created undue stress and financial hardships for millions of Americans across the nation.

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