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

10/05/2014 - 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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08/20/2014 - 10:03pm

 

We grieve the loss of James Foley and send our condolences to his friends, colleagues and family. At 40 years old, James Foley was still in the early stages of what would surely be a long and successful career as a journalist, yet already he had accomplished far more than most journalists do in a lifetime. His work had taken him into the heart of conflicts around the world. He was no stranger to hostile and dangerous environments.

In fact, his capture in 2012 wasn't even his first. He had already spent 44 days in a Libyan jail in 2011 while covering the civil war there. During his capture he witnessed another journalist, South African Anton Hammerl, killed in the firefight. Despite the risks, Foley still traveled to Syria in 2012 to cover the conflict there. His commitment to bearing witness and reporting what he saw to the world was admirable.

Every journalist should look to his example and the example of others who risk their very lives to bring the world the truth. It is worth noting that James Foley was, like many of the journalists currently covering the conflict in Syria, a freelance journalist. He was not a staffer with the backup of a large well-funded media company. And other freelancers covering Syria have faced similar dangers since most of the media pulled their staffers out in 2012. Austin Tice went missing in August of 2012 after sneaking into Syria with the intention of finding work as a freelance reporter to cover the conflict. He tweeted from Syria "If someone wanted to hire me that'd be great. Student loans don't pay themselves."

At least 20 journalists have gone missing in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. At least 39 journalists are missing worldwide. This is a moment for us to celebrate the life and work of James Foley, but also a moment to reflect on the risks that brave and admirable men and women just like him take around the world for very little money and often very little recognition. Without their bravery in the face of war, despotism and chaos, history would truly be written by the victors. May those who have not been found come home safely, and may those yet to go into the scene of the battle be protected, cared for, and celebrated.

 


 

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08/11/2014 - 10:03am

Plans are proceeding for a massive People’s Climate March at the UN on Sunday, September 21. NWU is one of dozens of unions that have endorsed the march, and organizers are planning a Labor Weekend here to help turn out 20,000 union members. Our point person is NY member Abby Scher, and we are asking our members to get on PCM busses and join us from Boston to Washington, DC. For more info, contact Abby at abbyscher@mindspring.com

 

(Photo: NWU members and the UAW contingent at the PCM Labor Press Conference held in Times Square on July 30.)

 


 

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08/11/2014 - 9:44am


On July 22, NWU joined the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) in signing onto an amicus brief on behalf of the families of Superman’s co-creators, Siegel and Shuster, and the children of artist Jack Kirby, who are petitioning to have their appeals of two Circuit Court decisions heard by the US Supreme Court. 

In the first case, Siegel and Shuster signed away all rights to Superman for $130 in 1938. In 1997 and 2002, respectively, their heirs attempted to exercise their right to recover the original copyrights by serving statutory notices of terminations on DC Comics and its parent, Warner Bros.

In DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp., the Ninth Circuit stripped the Shuster estate of its termination rights, making it much easier for large media companies to eliminate, settle or completely circumvent termination rights. This ignores the Supreme Court’s opinion in NY Times v Tasini, (2001) that the termination right is “inalienable.” This decision essentially guts the termination right and hurts authors and artists everywhere. 

In the other case, the children of Jack Kirby sent notices of termination to Marvel to regain ownership of Kirby's share of the copyrights, in accordance with their rights under the Copyright Act. Marvel claimed that Kirby was an independent contractor and that his work fell under the "work for hire" exception. 

The case went before the 2nd Circuit, which has a 40-year record of erroneously determining the work of independent contractors to be "for hire," disenfranchising hardworking authors and their families of valuable property that is rightfully theirs.

According to attorney Hilary Hodson, “On May 14, 2014, the Supreme Court asked Marvel to file a response to our cert petition, meaning they are considering granting cert. If cert is granted, our chances of prevailing are high. A win would have broad implications -- all pre-1978 works by an independent contractor, or non-traditional employee, would no longer be ‘work for hire.’"

 


 

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08/03/2014 - 9:45pm

President
NWU/UAW Local 1981
256 W. 38th St. Suite 703 New York, NY 10018
3 August 2014
 
Dear Larry,
 
I write on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists to thank you and your union for standing up with the global community of journalists in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in Gaza. This morning, I have just been notified by our Palestinian union, the PJS, of the latest grim toll of journalists killed yesterday which now brings the total of journalists killed in the last three weeks to 12 and over 35 injured. As you know, the IFJ deals almost on a daily basis with cases of journalists attacked all over the world just for doing their job. The tragedy of Gazan journalists is that they are not just caught in crossfire or indiscriminate shelling but they are also wilfully targeted.
 
According to the PJS, media offices have been regularly targeted by the Israeli army, in particular Al Aqsa TV and radio whose studios have been repeatedly hit. Also hit were Al Jawharah Tower which houses several media, the offices of Media 1 TV, and even Al Jazeera office in Al Shorooq Tower was shot at, hours after Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the broadcaster to be banned from Israel.
 
The IFJ has no doubt that, according to the Geneva Convention’s Article 79 Protocol Additional I, any targeting of journalist is a serious breach of international humanitarian law and Article 85 of the convention considers this to be a war crime. Materials and facilities used by journalists are civilian objects according to Article 52 and, consequently, the bombing of a TV or radio station, even if it is partly used for propaganda, is not reconcilable with international humanitarian law.
 
We take these breaches of international conventions very seriously and, whenever they happen, we make representations to the Israeli authorities reminding them of their responsibility under international laws. At a time when every attempt at a ceasefire has floundered, we are extremely concerned that the security situation of journalists in Gaza will worsen without a concerted and unified voice to denounce the violations of journalists’ rights in Gaza and mobilise world opinion for change on the ground.
 
We will therefore continue to call on all our affiliates worldwide, including the National Writers’ Union in the US, to provide humanitarian support to their Palestinian colleagues and, most importantly, solidarity from journalist to journalist.
I can assure you that journalists from all the over the world will continue to stand up with our colleagues and help them in their greatest hour of need.
 
Yours in solidarity,
 
 
Jim Boumelha IFJ President
International Federation of Journalists,
 
International Press Centre
Résidence Palace, Block C,
155 Rue de la Loi, B1040
Brussels
Tel: +32 2 235 2200 Fax: +32 2 235 2219
E-mail: ifj@ifj.org
 
 

 

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07/29/2014 - 9:53pm

Photo couresty Workers WorldFollowing the killing of a Palestinian journalist and his daughter, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued a renewed call for the safety and freedom of journalists in Gaza.  The IFJ announced in a press release: "According to IFJ affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), Baha Edeen Gharib, 55, who worked as Israeli affairs editor for Palestinian TV, and his 16-year-old daughter Ola, were killed by an Israeli rocket attack this morning in Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip region, while they were travelling home."

There’s an old saying, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” Nowhere is that more true than in the US corporate media’s coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza.   As of this writing, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed, almost all civilians. Mosques, schools, and medical centers have been destroyed. Thirty-two Israelis have been killed, almost all soldiers.

NWU has posted on our social media channels about the murder of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli troops,  and how NBC pulled a reporter from Gaza after he reported that four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing soccer on the beach. A social media campaign convinced NBC to return Mohyeldin to Gaza.

But more significant than how the war is being covered is the war itself and the US complicity in it. Israel has carried out a brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. The occupation is underwritten by $3.1 billion annually in US aid, 25% of Israel’s military budget. And according to If Americans Knew, the US will provide an additional $3 billion per year, every year thru 2018!

Israel’s cries of “self-defense,” amplified uncritically by the US mainstream media, ring hollow; like the “self defense” of the US against Native Americans, or the “self-defense” of the Apartheid regime against the black South African population. 

On July 23, the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate alleged war crimes in Gaza. The US was the only “No” vote.

I urge every member and chapter to join local actions and coalitions to end this brutal occupation now!

NWU President Larry Goldbetter

Photo: Chicago Gaza solidarity march. Image courtesy: Workers World


 

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07/23/2014 - 12:25pm

The Niger Delta. This image is licensed under Creative Commons.

By: Abby Scher, NYC

The NWU and 37 other labor organizations have endorsed the People’s Climate March (PCM) scheduled for Sunday September 21, in NYC (http://peoplesclimate.org/march/). United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called world leaders to New York that week to discuss climate change before a new round of negotiations in 2015. A mass PCM can help create pressure for a progressive global agreement.

Billion dollar oil, natural gas and coal companies, focused only on their bottom line, are using ever more destructive techniques to extract resources from deep beneath the sea and earth. Harmful emissions are growing creating a more endangered planet. Climate change demands that we create an economy that works for all people and the planet, based on green jobs and sustainable resources. Unions need to help create that strategy.

Working people and the poor are worse hit by climate change – not only in Bangladesh and other impoverished countries but in the U.S. as well, as those living on the edges of NYC discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

We hope to have 20,000 union members on the PCM, with an international labor gathering the evening before. For more info contact me at abbyscher@mindspring.com.

 

 


 

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Union News

02/03/2011 - 10:54am

Media Release

31 January 2011

IFJ Condemns “Desperate Tactics” as Egypt Targets Media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Egypt to end the crackdown on journalism and media which has led to numerous beatings of media staff and censorship of television and communications networks. As the political crisis has intensified with renewed protests in the streets the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has become ever-more desperate to stop media coverage of the uprising.

Media reports say that the Government last week blocked websites and the Qatari- based international broadcaster, Al-Jazeera has been taken off the air. Its office in Cairo has been shut down and staff were arrested, their film confiscated. The studios of the French public broadcaster, France 2 have also been shut.

02/03/2011 - 10:05am

Media Release

31 January 2011

IFJ Welcomes Tunisian Union Strategy for Jobs and Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed calls from Tunisian journalists’ union to put free speech and rights of journalists at the heart of a new strategy for democracy in the country.

Members of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists meeting last week in the wake of dramatic political changes inside the country adopted a strategic plan to tackle the crisis of jobs and media restructuring following the collapse of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

01/27/2011 - 1:27pm

Obituary of David Hardy, NWU Member and Union Brother by Patricia Hilliard
 
David Hardy had a long career as a news reporter. This was not easy in an era that did not accept African-Americans in this line of work, but as he explained, being African-American meant he had to work twice as hard and be twice as good as white reporters.  Working twice as hard earned him the recognition he deserved. He was given the United Press International Investigative Reporting Award for his investigative articles on a corrupt senator, David Friedland, who was wanted by the FBI. The Society of Professional Journalists honored him for excellence in feature writing.   Hardy was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting by the Daily News. Ironically, later, David Hardy entered a legal battle against the Daily News for employment discrimination which he ultimately won. 

01/05/2011 - 11:36pm

UtterJargon.com homepage.

To Sebastian Pinera, President of the Republic of Chile....

01/05/2011 - 9:37pm
Media Release
31 December 2010
Please click here for the French version

Please click here for the Spanish version

IFJ Reports Heavy Media Loss to Violence after 97 Journalists Died in 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today warned that journalists and media personnel remain prime targets for political extremists, gangsters and terrorists as it announced that at least 94 journalists and media personnel who were killed in 2010, victims of targeted killings, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents. Three other journalists lost their lives in accidents this year.

The IFJ list was issued just two days after police in Sweden and Denmark revealed they had foiled a potentially deadly bomb plot against Jyllens Posten, the Danish newspaper that in 2005 set off protests around the world when it published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

Elsewhere the IFJ list puts Pakistan top of the list of the most dangerous zones for journalists in 2010, ahead of Mexico, Honduras and Iraq.

"Nearly 100 journalists killed is a heavy loss which ought to stir the world governments into action to offer better protection to journalists," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The sheer number of murders and conflict related incidents which claimed the lives of journalists and media personnel around the globe this year has brought into sharp focus the high risks associated with the practice journalism today."



12/21/2010 - 2:03pm

The hearing for Penguin v. Steinbeck which was originally scheduled for this Wednesday, December 22nd at 4 PM has been postponed until January 20th at 4 PM. The location is the same, at 500 Pearl Street, in Courtroom 17 A in front of Magistrate Gabriel W. Gorenstein.

We will be sure to send out a reminder the week before the new hearing date.

Thank you again for your concern and support on this very serious issue before the court.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

In solidarity,

Gail Steinbeck Gail Knight Steinbeck
Chairperson
CREATIVE PROPERTY RIGHTS ALLIANCE
1482 East Valley Road, Suite 100
Montecito, CA 93108
Phone: (805) 565-0275
Fax (805) 565-0276
www.creativepropertyrightsalliance.org

12/17/2010 - 3:05pm

Dear Artists and Authors,

 
On Wednesday, December 22nd a Goliath publisher will once again attempt to dilute the rights of artists to control their copyrights and exercise their right to be paid fair market value for their works. In an ongoing battle between the publisher Penguin and the family of the Nobel Laureate, John Steinbeck, the publisher has sued the family for over $150,000.00 in legal fees, after the Steinbecks tried and failed to terminate and renegotiate their contracts under Sections 304C of the United States Copyright Act. The goal was to be sure the copyrights were held by John Steinbeck's family, as the Copyright Act intended, with the objective to renegotiate their contracts for present day, fair market value. While the upcoming hearing is basically only a fee issue, it has the potential to add another ominous layer to the precedent setting case, Penguin v. Steinbeck and will only be another impediment to artists' Federal termination rights. 
12/03/2010 - 2:14pm

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the political backlash being mounted against the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website’s host server to shut down the site yesterday.
The website’s host Amazon.com blocked access to WikiLeaks after United States officials condemned the torrent of revelations about political, business and diplomatic affairs that has given people around the world unprecedented access to detailed information from United States sources, much of it embarrassing to leading public figures.
“It is unacceptable to try to deny people the right to know,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “These revelations may be embarrassing in their detail, but they also expose corruption and double-dealing in public life that is worthy of public scrutiny. The response of the United States is desperate and dangerous because it goes against fundamental principles of free speech and democracy.”

12/01/2010 - 4:53pm

 

NEW YORK CITY November 18 – As part of the Interfaith Worker Justice Day of Action Against Wage Theft, about 30 former Inkwell workers filed their case in federal court for over $360,000 in back wages. The freelance writers, translators, graphic artists and editors worked for Inkwell Solutions, a “development house” used by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to outsource the production of textbooks. In 2009 the workers completed a textbook project for the Texas school systems, in English and Spanish. Inkwell closed their doors and the owners tried to skip town without paying the freelancers.

11/12/2010 - 1:23am

GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION

November 23, 2010

To Mark One Year Since Massacre In Philippines

Dear friends and colleagues,

We write to you on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to alert you to activities around the world to commemorate the world’s single biggest atrocity against journalists - the brutal murder of 32 journalists and media workers in a massacre of at least 58 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines on November 23, 2009.

At the request of colleagues attending the IFJ Asia-Pacific regional meeting in September 2010, the IFJ Asia-Pacific office is working with our friends in the Philippines to prepare a Global Day of Action on November 23, 2010, to mark the one-year anniversary of the massacre.

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