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

01/25/2012 - 5:57pm

National Writers Union activist Gail Kinney was honored with the Bennie Thornton Civil Rights Achievement Award at the annual UAW Region 9A Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights dinner on Jan 13, 2012. Also receiving awards were Albany County (NY) District Attorney David Soares and Halsteen Graham-Days and Kathy Jackson of The Richard "Dik" Days Scholarship Fund. Photo album.

01/25/2012 - 10:36am

NWU's National Executive Council has voted to support U.S. Rep. Stephen J. Lynch’s bill, called “U.S. Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011." This legislation addresses a decades-old accounting error that led to the Postal Service being overcharged by billions of dollars for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. The bill would allow the USPS to improve its financial future.

The U.S. Postal Service is a success story among U.S. government agencies. The USPS takes no taxpayer money, it delivers mail (including independent publications and local newspapers that ensure free speech) at very low cost to every community and every individual living in the U.S. Its thousands of workers are unionized, and not only is it financially self-supporting, but it has always brought in a surplus.

In the lame duck session of 2006, the Republican majority in Congress passed a law requiring USPS to accumulate, in advance, enough money to pay for the next 75 years-worth of health care benefits for its present and future employees. It is to come up with this money in the next 10 years. No other government agency (and no business) has such a burdensome requirement, which has caused a USPS deficit of billions of dollars that it cannot pay. To close this deficit gap, the USPS is planning to close hundreds of local Post Offices, especially in remote rural areas and small towns; and to lay off 120,000 unionized postal workers.

Please write and call your representative to the U.S. Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Click here for their contact information.

01/18/2012 - 5:14pm

NWU President Larry Goldbetter today released a letter sent to the president and executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) urging the Society to move their 2012 Summer Conference, scheduled for August 6-8, out of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. Goldbetter’s letter explained:

Workers at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza have called for a boycott of all business since August 2010 in support of their goal of a safe and fair contract. They join workers at 16 other Hyatt hotels throughout North America in demanding that Hyatt change its safety record and allow workers to take on the company’s practices, wherever it is abusing workers.

01/12/2012 - 4:25pm

The NWU has filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office in response to that office's public inquiry about "how copyright owners have handled small copyright claims and the obstacles they have encountered, as well as potential alternatives to the current legal system that could better accommodate such claims."

The NWU's comments focus on the real-world experience of NWU members whose copyrights have been infringed, and the patterns and trends in infringement-related grievances which have been brought to the attention of the Grievance and Contract Division. Our comments provide a snapshot of the problem copyright infringement poses for working writers, and a blueprint for what needs to be done about it. The NWU's comments were drafted by Book Division Co-Chair Edward Hasbrouck and reviewed and revised by an ad hoc committee made up of GCD members and Book Division co-chairs, as well as First Vice President Ann Hoffmann.

The deadline for submission of comments, originally Jan. 16, has been extended until 5 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 17 in light of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance.  Anyone can submit comments.

We encourage individual members who have had copyright issues to submit their own statements. Please identify yourselves as NWU members; you may wish to mention that you also endorse the NWU's comments. A comment form, along with background on the possibility of a special court or special procedures for small copyright claims, is posted on the Copyright Office website at http://www.copyright.gov/docs/smallclaims. If you are considering filing your own comments and would like to coordinate them with the NWU, please contact Book Division Co-Chair Susan E Davis at sednyc@rcn.com.

12/29/2011 - 10:56am

"NEW YORK -- New York Times staffers unhappy with management are letting publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. know it. In recent days, more than 270 current and former Times employees have signed an open letter expressing their "profound dismay" with recent company decisions." (by Michael Calderone in Huffington Post) More

In related news, HuffPo bloggers unhappy with management are letting publisher Arianna Huffington know it. For news from NWU's Pay The Writer campaign to set a standard base pay rate for online freelance journalists at the Huffington Post and other online publications, sign up for email alerts at Pay The Writer and follow the conversation on Twitter @PayTheWriter.

12/20/2011 - 6:03pm

A few words from the National Writers Union's 30th anniversary celebration in New York City


Larry Goldbetter, NWU President

It’s been quite a road we’ve travelled, from the Land of Ronald Reagan in 1981, to Zucotti Park and the spirit of Occupy in 2011. Reagan huffed and puffed and blew down the Berlin Wall and the old Soviet Union, which had already thoroughly rotted out from within, and unleashed an assault on working people and unions that continues to this day.  With unions at their lowest level since the Great Depression and with 90% of the workforce non-union, here we are, still standing. (Read on...)

Jan Clausen - Poet, Teacher, Activist

The first and simplest answer is that "we (writers) ARE the 99%," and as in other industries, a union is an absolute necessity to help us fight the conditions of our exploitation. Whatever our genre or specialty, the vast majority of wordsmiths are targets in the class war being waged against all kinds of working people. Our first task is simply to survive long enough in our profession to even have a shot at writing in the future. I recently got scared, then infuriated, when I realized how many of my writer friends, both older and considerably younger than I, have left New York or are on the verge of leaving because they can't afford to live here any longer. Add to that the numbers of those with strong publishing track records who can't get their new work accepted anywhere, or are making the choice to sign a contract for virtually no advance simply to get a book out, and you will see that, if the 99% of non-elite writers expect to sustain a writing life, we must get together and fight back. United we bargain, divided we beg is every bit as true for writers as for transit workers, teachers, carpenters, or nurses. Pay the writer! (Read on...)


Susan Davis - New York Co-Chair, National Contract Advisor

We’re here to celebrate the union’s many accomplishments over the past 30 years and to take a look ahead. That’s why we chose “Writing the Future” as this evening’s theme. The idea for the National Writers Union emerged in 1981 at workshop entitled “Why a Union? at the Writers Congress called by The Nation magazine in NYC. By 1983 an official charter was adopted that set up goals of defending freelance writers’ rights in all genres and working to promote their economic interests. But what does the NWU do best? We assess the current marketplace for writers in every genre and take action to promote writers’ best interests. We strive to take vanguard positions on everything from tax law to orphan works or web-based content farms that pay a penny a word or, in the case of the Huffington Post, zip. (Read on...)


The evening's speakers also included:

Herb Boyd

Award-winning book author, journalist
Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent





Louis Reyes Rivera

Award-winning poet, essayist
Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame, 2011

Photos by Thomas Good / NWU


12/20/2011 - 2:02pm

National Writers Union Joins NY Press Club Coalition for the First Amendment

We have joined a dozen other NY press organizations in a coalition to monitor NYPD/Press Relations stemming from the arrests and mistreatment of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street. For more information about the New York Press Club Coalition for the First Amendment click here.



National Writers Union Urges Children's Book Authors to Honor Hyatt Boycott

The National Writers Union has been asked by UNITEHERE! Local 11 President Tom Walsh to help encourage children’s book writers and illustrators to honor the union’s boycotts at Hyatt hotels.  In particular, we urge the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to move their 2012 Summer Conference, scheduled for August 6-8, out of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

Workers at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza have called for a boycott of all business since August 2010 for a safe and fair contract.  They join workers at 16 other Hyatt hotels throughout North America in demanding that Hyatt change its safety record and allow workers to take on the company’s practices, wherever it is abusing workers.  SCBWI continues to plan its conference in the Hyatt, in the face of repeated outreach to their board and staff.  The Hyatt boycotts have been endorsed by the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, the LA County Federation of Labor, and Writers Guild of America-West (WGA-West).

12/16/2011 - 10:10am

National Writers Union “Pay the Writer” Campaign Backing Freelancers Bid to Get Paid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — About 60 writers and other editorial contributors are owed more than $200,000 for their published work in Heart & Soul magazine, the only national magazine focused primarily on black women’s health issues. A group representing the writers has conferred with attorneys about a possible lawsuit.
Its representatives are also meeting week with leaders of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981. NWU represented 30 out of 60 freelancers who were bilked out of $360,000 in 2009 by a New York City publisher and recently won a judgment for the full amount owed. The union is also suing Natural Solutions in Minneapolis on behalf of 13 unpaid freelancers.
Heart & Soul is in the process of being sold and current owner, Edwin Avent, plans on spending $10 million setting up his “Soul of the South” TV network, which launches in 2012, targeting African Americans in 50 cities, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Yet, as of today, he has not told the writers, photographers and other editorial contributors when they will be paid.

12/07/2011 - 12:59pm


The “Why a Union?” workshop at the Nation Institute’s Writers’ Congress draws an overflow crowd. The plenary of 3,000 writers endorses the proposal to create a union for writers in all genres to actively press for better pay and treatment and to vigorously oppose Reagan-era threats to free expression. "We need no more heroic individual writers," said keynote speaker Toni Morrison. She called for "an accessible organization that is truly representative of the diverse interests of all writers."

Barbara Raskin is elected head of an organizing committee and writers return home to organize chapters, starting with the San Francisco/Bay Area, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Baltimore/Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Westchester/Fairfield, followed by  Boston, Santa Cruz/Monterey,  Chicago, Los Angeles,  Twin Cities,  Northwest (Seattle/Oregon),  Western MA, and more recently At Large, Tucson, Philadelphia,  Seattle and Vermont.

The Washington DC local spearheads the first NWU agreement with Black Film Review on freelance terms. An agreement with Musician magazine soon follows.


Under direction of journalist John Dinges, the NWU writes a national constitution that focuses on decentralized democracy.


The National Writers Union is officially chartered. Members ratify a national constitution that  insures that chapters around the country have autonomy in local affairs. District 65/UAW provides free office space.

One of the NWU's first campaigns is to support poet Dennis Brutus when the U.S. Immigration Service threatens to deport him back to South Africa where he would face certain persecution. NWU members write letters and work vigorously to win him asylum, which he is granted.

NWU and Mother Jones make agreements on minimum standards for freelance contributors. Pacific Guest Life agrees to similar terms.

New York Chapter forms a softball team that plays against a combined Nation, Nuclear Times and Village Voice team. Two years later, the union’s ”Mighty WU” team has a winning season and competes in the publishers’ softball league.



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:

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

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:

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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