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

12/18/2013 - 5:59pm
Release: December 18, 2013
The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) has reiterated its call for the Iraqi government to end impunity for crimes against journalists, following the appalling murder of female TV presenter, Nawras al-Nuaimi, in the northern city of Mosul last Sunday, 15 December. Media reports say that al-Nuaimi, who worked for Al-Mosuliyah TV, was shot as she was walking near her home in the city. Her murder took place on a day of widespread violence across Iraq that left 20 people dead.

The presenter's death means that six journalists have now been murdered in Iraq since October, with five of those murders occurring in Mosul, one of the country's most dangerous cities. According to IFJ statistics, at least eight journalists have now been killed in Iraq this year. In October, the IFJ launched its End Impunity campaign which is calling on the governments of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia to investigate killings of journalists and bring their perpetrators to justice.

"We express our deepest sympathies to the family and colleagues of the journalist Nawras al-Nuaimi who was murdered in cold blood for doing her job and reporting on the truth," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.  "The escalation of intimidation, violence and brutality in Mosul and across Iraq in recent months is deeply concerning and we urge journalists working in the country to maintain their vigilance and take every measure to protect their safety at all times." The IFJ last week welcomed the news that the government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRG) had established a committee to monitor investigations into the killing of the journalist Kawa Mohamed Ahmed "Garmyani," and the Federation has reiterated its call for the Iraqi government to take similar positive steps.

"Our End Impunity campaign is calling for an end to violence against journalists in Iraq where it is estimated that at least 300 journalists have now been killed since the US invasion in 2003," added Boumelha. "We believe that the lack of accountability for acts of violence against journalists in Iraq reinforces the culture of impunity and is the main reason why journalists in the country remain in the firing line.

"The authorities in Iraq must take the action required to ensure that the perpetrators of such extreme acts of violence against journalists answer for their crimes.  We reiterate our call for the Iraqi government to set up a special task force to conduct a detailed and independent investigation into the murder of journalists in Mosul and across the country."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries
 

 

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12/12/2013 - 3:46pm

Neutrality agreement paves the way for UAW representation after 8-year struggle

NEW YORK -- A majority of voting graduate employees at New York University chose to unionize in an historic election held on Dec. 10 and 11 that was certified by the American Arbitration Association late today. With a resounding 98 percent voting for representation by the UAW, NYU once again becomes the only private university in the U.S. with collective bargaining rights for graduate employees.

A groundbreaking Nov. 26 election and neutrality agreement between NYU and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW) and Scientists and Engineers Together/UAW (SET/UAW) led to the election. The positive vote creates a bargaining unit of 1,247 graduate, research and teaching assistants (GAs, TAs and RAs) across NYU and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, which expands the unit beyond the number of classifications covered under the previous contract that ended in 2005.

“This is a huge victory that puts us in a position to negotiate for the things that really matter to us,” said Natasha Raheja, a doctoral candidate and TA in Anthropology at NYU. “We are determined to reach an agreement on a strong union contract by the end of this academic year.”

The election and neutrality agreement set a positive tone for the election, built the foundation for a productive bargaining relationship with the administration, and serves as a model for graduate employees aspiring to organize at other private institutions across the country. Key provisions included:

  •  A commitment by the NYU administration – including department chairs, directors of graduate studies, and others – to remain neutral and refrain from influencing the election.
  • Provision for a neutral arbitrator to resolve any pre-election disputes within 48 hours.
  •  An agreement by the NYU administration to bargain in good faith for a contract upon certification of a majority vote in favor of unionization.

In a joint statement issued after the neutrality agreement was reached, the UAW and NYU expressed confidence that the agreement will “improve the graduate student experience” and “sustain and enhance NYU’s academic competitiveness.”

“Without an employer-driven campaign, the hostility and divisiveness that too often surrounds union votes never materialized. This election stands out as one of the most positive, democratic processes I’ve ever experienced,” said UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner. “NYU’s genuine commitment to neutrality fostered a remarkably respectful environment in which graduate employees were free to choose representation without threats or intimidation. For many, it was a celebration of their right to vote and an important affirmation of their valuable role in the NYU community. This election should be the start of a tremendous shift among university administrations across the country toward embracing the voices of dedicated, hardworking graduate employees like those at NYU.”

“The UAW of the 21st century is committed to finding common ground with employers to establish fair practices that allow workers to decide on union representation without employer interference and without fear and intimidation,” said UAW President Bob King. “We commend the NYU administration for allowing NYU graduate employees to exercise their democratic right to freely choose representation. NYU is a recognized leader among educational institutions globally; we hope this will serve as a model that inspires other private universities across the country to pursue similar agreements that recognize workers’ rights to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and their campuses,” King added.

The UAW represents more than 45,000 academic workers across the U.S., including graduate employees at the University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, University of California and California State University.

Story here

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12/06/2013 - 5:38pm

UAW statement on passing of Nelson Mandela

12/5/13

DETROIT – The UAW released the following statement today on the passing of Nelson Mandela:

“The UAW deeply mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential civil rights and social justice leaders of our time. Nelson Mandela demonstrated how commitment to core principles and social justice can change the world. His actions freed millions from the chains of racism. From his humble beginnings to his imprisonment for fighting against the apartheid system in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to the world.

“It was an incredible honor for the UAW, through the leadership of then-President Owen Bieber, to play a role in supporting Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s. President Bieber traveled to South Africa to support Mandela and other activists, and when Mandela toured the United States in 1990 after his release from prison, he insisted on celebrating with UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, Mich. During that trip, Mandela invited Bieber to be at his side during a rally at Tiger Stadium.

“Nelson Mandela will be missed by those who believe in civil and human rights for all people. The best way to honor his passing is to continue to work for his ideals. We are committed to doing so.”

This video details the UAW’s fight for global and human rights including work on behalf of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement.

 

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11/16/2013 - 9:07am

NWU Disappointed in Court's Google Books Settlement Decision

The NWU is disappointed with the District Court decision
dismissing the Google Books Settlement lawsuit brought by the Authors
Guild against Google's unauthorized digitizing of entire libraries of copyrighted books.

We continue to believe that Google's practices violate writers'
copyrights. These practices interfere with our ability to control and
receive fair compensation for secondary uses of works included in the
books that Google is scanning and using for its own purposes and profit.

Judge Chin found Google's mass digitization of the contents of several large
libraries to be "fair use" of copyrighted works. Such broad interpretation extends
the meaning of fair use beyond all previous boundaries.

In particular, Judge Chin considered only the impact of Google's practices
on sales of books, and not the potentially more significant negative
impact of Google's actions on the many other business models for content
included in books that publishers deem "out of print" in their original editions.

As working writers who depend on our copyrights for our livelihoods, we
can say with certainty that Judge Chin is mistaken in his belief that
works included in books that are out-of-print in their original editions
"have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries."  The original publishers
may have forgotten many "out-of-print" books, but entrepreneurial writers
are generating increasingly significant revenues from new e-book editions,
self-publishing, Web publishing and advertising, and licensing of rights
to use content included in "out-of-print" books in electronic formats.

We welcome the announcement by the Authors Guild that it intends to appeal
this decision.

--
Larry Goldbetter, President

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11/07/2013 - 10:57pm

Turkey: “For the Government, Journalism is Terrorism”
By Ricardo Gutiérrez, EFJ General Secretary

This is the account of EFJ Observer Ricardo Gutiérrez, who attended the 6th hearing of the KCK "Press Wing" trial in Istanbul, Turkey, on 25 September:

Zeynep Kuray smiles, but she is angry. Sitting on the steps of the new courthouse built just outside of the Silivri prison complex, Zeynep Kuray is one of the 44 journalists who appeared on Tuesday before the High Criminal Court in the context of proceedings against the alleged "press wing" of the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), an organization allegedly affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been leading an armed struggle against the government since 1984.

The sixth hearing of the KCK "Press Wing" trial took place from 25-27 September. The General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Ricardo Gutiérrez, followed the debates, alongside other observers: MEPs Jaroslaw Walesa and Sajjad H. Karim and journalist Erol Önderoglu of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Zeynep Kuray is an investigative journalist who worked for the left-wing daily BirGun and as a correspondent for Firat News Agency. She was released on 26 April 2013. Twenty-two of the 46 journalists and media workers arrested in December 2011 are still in custody. All are accused of terrorism.

"I had to wait more than eight months, in prison, before I could find out my indictment," said Zeynep Kuray. The charge is based on telephone conversations with other journalists, a series of articles she wrote on sexual harassment cases at Turkish Airlines, and investigative material mentioning the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army against the PKK.

If found guilty, Zeynep Kuray risks seven years in prison: she is charged with "membership of an armed organization" (under Article 314 .2 of Turkey's Penal Code) and "membership of a terrorist organization" (under Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Act). "The truth is that they have nothing against me," she said. "They just accuse me of doing my work, of showing the truths they intended to hide."

Like most prosecuted journalists in Turkey, Zeynep Kuray continues to write from prison: "I denounced the dire health situation of South African women at the Bakirköy Women's Prison. A real scandal! Some have AIDS but they are not being treated. The authorities know that I will never be silent."

Reporter Baris Terkoglu, prosecuted in another case (OdaTV), made the same choice: "Continuing to practice journalism was obvious. To abandon my job would have been a victory for prosecutors who obey government orders. The state apparatus wants to intimidate the sector. We serve as an example."

Ercan Ipekçi, president of the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS), confirms: "The government not only tries to silence dissenting voices, conducting robust operations to break the opposition media, whether pro-Kurdish, left-wing, or nationalist, but also intends to put pressure on journalists from ‘mainstream' media, who do not dare step out of line... It is very difficult for our union to organize solidarity with imprisoned journalists: those who are not in prison are afraid of being fired, as was the case with a number of chief editors, following the critical coverage of the crackdown at Gezi Park in Istanbul."

At the trial of the alleged "Press Wing" of the KCK, as in other trials targeting the press, one is struck by the lack of substance in the prosecution's arguments and by the severity of the charges. The EFJ General Secretary has repeatedly said: "The Turkish government criminalizes the mere exercise of journalism. There is no trace here of charges of violence or formal links with alleged terrorist organizations. Our brothers and sisters are just wrongly prosecuted for doing their job. Erdogan's government criminalizes legitimate coverage of the Kurdish cause."

The EFJ has repeated this message to Turkish journalists, but also to the organizations defending freedom of expression and gathered in Istanbul by MEPs Walesa and Karim: Human Rights Watch (represented by Emma Sinclair-Webb), Reporters without Borders (represented by Erol Önderoglu), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (represented by Ozgur Ogret).

"Business as Usual"

Before the High Court of Silivri, one of the defendants in the KCK case, Çagdas Kaplan, 25 years old, who worked for the Diha news agency, carefully dismantles all the prosecutor's arguments. He challenges the magistrate, who had access to all his email messages and his telephone conversations, to produce a single piece of evidence that proves he received instructions from the PKK.

One of the cornerstones of the charges against Çagdas Kaplan is a photograph of his making a victory sign in front of the signboard marking the entrance to the city of Kandil. This was considered in the indictment as a sign of affection for the PKK. But the man in the photograph taken is not Çagdas Kaplan! And Kaplan has never visited this city... "Business as usual," said his attorney Ramazan Demir. "The arguments of the prosecution sometimes border on the ridiculous," says Ricardo Gutiérrez. "One could smile if the fate of journalists who have nothing to discredit them was not at stake."

For the EFJ and the TGS, there is no question of easing the pressure - a commitment that is shared by other stakeholder organizations: RSF, CPJ, and Human Rights Watch. The European Parliament also keeps up the pressure: the EP Ad Hoc delegation for observation of trials of journalists in Turkey is expected to submit its final report - "A critical document," according to Jaroslaw Walesa - in the beginning of next year.

The EFJ more than ever recalls its demands: the immediate release of the 62 imprisoned Turkish journalists and the abolition of anti-terrorism laws, misused by the Turkish government to criminalize freedom of expression.

Read more...
10/30/2013 - 5:13pm
NUSOJ Calls for the Ministry of Information to withdraw the threatening and Unfair call for Media Registration in Respect to Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Mogadishu, October 30, 2013

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is concerned about the recent call by the minister of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transport ordering the independent media to register or face closure by giving a deadline untill 10 November, 2013 and calls for the ministry to withdrew its unfair decision in respect to the media freedoms and freedom of expression.

The call for registration, which the Somali media stakeholders called "Scarring Act" comes a mid the media law consultations is underway and several consultative media law conferences were held in Garowe, Puntland and in Galkacyo, Galmudug administration and further consultations is planned to be held in the southern Somali town of Baidoa and Beletwein of Hiiraan region in central Somalia with the support of Internews. The media law review is handled by an independent technical committee appointed in July.

In July, the Minister of information, posts, Telecommunication and Transport, Abdullahi Elmoge Hersi said, that the Ministry wants the independent media to register with 45 days, the minister also underscored that the registration was for free with the aim that the ministry wants to get the data of the Somali independent media, their locations, contacts for which the ministry will use in a publication of media directory in Somaliaduring a dinner hosted by the Somali Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdoon Saacid which the media stakeholders including the officials of the National union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) were invited, .

Later, the Ministry of information distributed forms to be filled by the media managers and thus was filled by the major media institutions in Mogadishu, providing the media houses hold legal licenses to operate provided by the the ministry , according to NUSOJ assessment.

However, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is appalled by this call for registration, which threatens media closures if not met, which contradicts the previous call of registration announced by the minister and endangers the media freedoms and the freedom of expression.

"We are appalled by this unfair call of registrations, which threatens the freedom of expression and the media freedoms at large." Mohamed Ibrahim, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists said, "We call for the ministry to withdraw this serious decision which completely looms the media freedoms."

Link here

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10/24/2013 - 4:52pm

With the International Day against Impunity one month away, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has launched a campaign to End Impunity, urging the authorities of the countries with the highest death tolls of journalists to investigate these killings and bring their perpetrators to justice. The campaign is initially focusing on Iraq, Pakistan and Russia.

IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, and General Secretary, Beth Costa, signed letters expressing the IFJ’s concern about the lack of accountability for those who carry out acts of violence against journalists, urging the leaders of these three countries to do everything in their power to resolve all the cases of murdered journalists and to punish all those responsible.

Examples of murdered journalists whose cases remain unsolved are Pakistani reporter Wali Khan Babar, who was killed in 2011, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed in 2007, and former President of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate Shihab al-Timimi, who was gunned down in 2008.

The IFJ is calling on its affiliates across the world to send similar letters to the embassies of the three countries in their regions, or directly to the governments of the three countries. The campaign follows the resolution adopted by the IFJ World Congress in Dublin calling for a new strategy to mobilize support against the impunity for violence targeting journalists.

To print or download a copy of the each of the letters, go to: http://www.ifj.org/en/pages/end-impunity

  • In Iraq, at least 300 journalists have been killed since the US invasion in 2003. Not a single case has been investigated;
  • In Russia, at least 124 journalists and media workers have died in work related killings since 1991. While the authorities initiated investigations in some cases, these have been few and far between and led to even fewer convictions;
  • In Pakistan, 37 journalists were killed in 2010-2011. There have been no arrests or prosecutions in any of these crimes.

 Over the next few months the IFJ will be calling on the governments in the three countries to investigate cases of impunity by sending letters, using social media, issuing statements, running protests and events and highlighting specific cases. And the IFJ is asking all affiliates to do the same.

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10/16/2013 - 2:03pm

Dear Shield Coalition Members –

We just received word that the Fourth Circuit has declined James Risen’s request for rehearing en banc (see attached). We do not yet know whether he will appeal to the Supreme Court. But even if he does, given that only one judge dissented from the en banc decision, the odds of the court granting cert and ruling in his favor are low. (Judge Gregory, the lone dissenter, noted the absence of a federal shield law.) Therefore, unfortunately, Risen is in imminent danger of being held in contempt of court and imprisoned for protecting his source. We will keep you posted.

As for the Senate bill, as you can imagine, progress has slowed given the government shutdown. We have, however, been working with Sen. Schumer’s staff on the report to accompany the bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12. The purpose of the committee report is to explain the bill and chronicle the legislative history. We’ll send along the report once it’s finalized. The bill as amended in committee is available here: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/legislation/mediashield/S987AsReported09...

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you!

Sophia Cope
Director of Government Affairs/Legislative Counsel
Newspaper Association of America
4401 Wilson Blvd., Suite 900, Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: 571.366.1153 | Web: www.naa.org
sophia.cope@naa.org

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10/09/2013 - 2:46pm

Press Release   October 7, 2013

IFJ Hails Momentous Agreement Between Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate and Employers

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) hailed today an agreement reached by its affiliate in Palestine, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, and employers as a momentous breakthrough for its journalists...

 "It took many months of hard work by the leaders of our affiliate in Palestine to achieve such a historical milestone for their members", said Boumelha. "The PJS can now set out to negotiate with employers the first collective trade union agreement for journalists in the region.  The IFJ congratulates them for this major achievement which will benefit journalists, secure their future and enhance the profession."

The three employers from the major state-owned media in Palestine committed themselves to start a national social dialogue with journalists' representatives on all aspects of social and professional working conditions of journalists and achieve by 1 January collective agreements based on recognised core international labour standards.

The declaration of intent set out the principles that will guide such negotiations, in particular:

• Recognition of public service journalism conducted in the public interest;

• Commitment to protect and advance editorial independence as the cornerstone of public service media;

• Setting quality media as a central objective guided by the core ideals of the mission of journalism and the highest standards of professional ethics.

###

For the complete press release click here

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09/24/2013 - 11:16pm

Writers Alert: The Intelligent Optimist magazine

NWU has received a complaint that The Intelligent Optimist magazine still owes one of its freelancers about $1,500 (out of an original $4,000) for work done over a year ago, despite many promises of payment and intervention by an NWU grievance offer. Writers should keep this in mind when considering whether to take an assignment from the publication. The NWU is interested in hearing from other writers who may have had problems with The Intelligent Optimist. Please contact the grievance and contract division at: gcdcoordinator@nwu.org.
 

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Union News

11/12/2010 - 1:22am

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed a strike by journalists at the Croatian daily newspaper Voice of Istria in a crucial battle over workers’ rights and independent journalism in the country.

The IFJ affiliate the Croatian Journalists’ Union, which organises 117 workers at the Glas Istre Novine company, has called a strike tomorrow after nine months of turmoil at the paper which has seen a company buy-out, plans for massive wage cuts, job losses and internal interference in the work of journalists.

“This strike is a result of management ‘slash and burn’ tactics and a refusal to negotiate with the union,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The workforce refuses to see their rights wiped away by a company that has lost all sense of decency in its treatment of staff.”

11/12/2010 - 1:17am

The European Federation of Journalists today called on journalists across Europe to support journalists at the BBC who have launched a strike campaign to defend pension rights. At the weekend journalists staged a successful 48-hour stoppage across the network, forcing a number of flagship programmes off the air. Now fresh actions are planned as the network seeks to impose a "pay-more, get-less" retirement plan on thousands of its staff.

"The BBC journalists are showing the way to tackle head-on the media agenda of cuts and down-grading of staff rights," said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary. "It's a strike campaign that will resonate in all European media houses where journalists and media staff are being targeted to shoulder the burden of the financial crisis."

The EFJ says that European journalists are facing savage budget cuts, declining social rights and a lack of social dialogue not just in the broadcasting sector, but across the whole of the media landscape.

10/18/2010 - 5:03pm

The NWU National Executive Board voted to oppose an Arizona law, House Bill 2281, which threatens ethnic studies classes in the state. The vote took place at the September 25-26 meeting in New York City.

Outgoing Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne drafted the measure after launching vicious public attacks on the ethnic studies program, particularly Mexican-American Studies class of the Tucson Unified School District. Horne, a Republican, is running for Arizona Attorney General...

10/04/2010 - 4:45pm

With the folding of daily newspapers and an overwhelming number of other commercial print publications, the bulk of paid published writing has shifted to the Internet. In the world of Internet publishing, we have seen the rise of Content Farms claiming to offer desirable writing assignments. These companies, owned by AOL, Yahoo and Demand Media among others, pay writers very little—such as $50 dollars for ten or more 500 word articles, pay by amount of web site page clicks—and other nonspecific methods with no guaranteed amount or very low payment. Demand Media, which has contracts with the San Francisco Chronicle, the National Football League, The Houston Chronicle and more, boasts of having 10,000 freelance writers that they pay a penny-a-word!

10/04/2010 - 4:09pm

Despite long hours of travel to get to Washington, UAW members showed up in the thousands to support the march's goals. Photo by Susan Kramer.Despite long hours of travel to get to Washington, UAW members showed up in the thousands to support the march's goals. Photo by Susan Kramer.


“The voices of division will try to divide us by race, gender, age and other ways. Those rallying here today are leading us on a path of community, of compassion and common humanity.” That’s what UAW President Bob King told almost 200,000 marchers from more than 300 unions and progressive organizations at the “One Nation Working Together” rally.


10/04/2010 - 4:03pm

On September 24, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, removing computers, cell phones, boxes of papers, posters, children’s art and more. They claim they were investigating “material support for terrorism.” More than a dozen federal warrants were served in four states calling people to testify at a Grand Jury this week. On September 27, NWU President Larry Goldbetter issued the following statement which was read by NWU members at a rally protesting the raids in front of FBI headquarters in Chicago. He and other NWU members joined a similar rally in NY on September 28.

 

10/01/2010 - 11:46am

In its press release, the European Federation of Journalists demands that journalists currently in jail in Turkey must be set free immediately if the movement towards key changes in the country’s constitution is to deliver promises of democracy and freedom.

The EFJ has joined its affiliate, the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), in a call for the immediate and unconditional release of more than 40 journalists jailed in Turkey who they say are in prison for nothing more than doing their job.

09/12/2010 - 3:49pm

Crain’s new york business.com reported that freelance workers in NY state are owed more than $4.7 billion in lost wages. The article (http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20100829/SMALLBIZ/308299994) sited a study by a Rutgers University economist that “shows that 42% of nearly 900,000 independent workers in New York State reported having trouble collecting payment for their labors last year.”

08/23/2010 - 8:18pm

Lee Lockwood (1932-2010), a photojournalist who made his name with influential 1960s articles about Fidel Castro and an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was a member of the National Writers Union from 1989 until he retired in 2006. He died on July 31 of complications from diabetes.

Lee Lockwood (1932-2010), a photojournalist who made his name with influential 1960s articles about Fidel Castro and an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was a member of the National Writers Union from 1989 until he retired in 2006. He died on July 31 of complications from diabetes.

According to an obituary in the August 7 New York Times, Lockwood viewed his work as a photojournalist as an instrument of social change. A freelancer, he was associated for many years with the Black Star Agency, which sent his work to newspapers and magazines around the world.

Lockwood also wrote books. His most famous, Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Castro: An American Journalist’s Inside Look at Today’s Cuba in Text and Pictures (Macmillian, 1967), was based on a week-long, smoke-filled interview for Playboy in 1965. The book covered a wide range of topics, from Marxism, the Cuban missile crisis, and American race relations to sex and prostitution. Lockwood explained in the introduction why he wrote the book: “We don’t like Castro, so we close our eyes and hold our ears, Yet if he is really our enemy, as dangerous to us as we are told he is, then we ought to know as much about him as possible.”

While in Cuba, Lockwood obtained a visa to North Vietnam, the scene of another famous article. That made him the first outside photographer allowed there in more than a decade. Lockwood’s 28-day visit was chronicled in a long, heavily illustrated cover article for the April 7, 1967, issue of Life magazine. As the Times notes, “In words and pictures, Mr. Lockwood portrayed the life of a country then under heavy bombardment by United States forces: bare, ruined villages; deserted factories; a boy with a missing leg, lost to a bomb,” as well as scenes of everyday life.

 

One of Lockwood’s subjects was American Navy pilot Lt. Cmdr. Richard A. Stratton, who had been shot down and captured in January 1967. Clad in striped prison pajamas, Stratton read a “confession” denouncing U.S. bombing over a loudspeaker and then bowed on orders from a prison official. Lockwood’s photo of Stratton bowing, given a full page in Life, was reproduced around the world. Coupled with Lockwood’s description of Stratton – “His eyes were empty.… His expression never changed.” – the State Department soon after charged the Vietnamese with brainwashing. However, in a Times interview in 2008, Stratton called his actions merely common sense: “You are being tortured, and all you have to do to get them to stop is say the same thing that Bobby Kennedy is saying.”

Lockwood joined the Boston Chapter of the NWU in 1989, inspired by the opportunity to belong to a fighting union. The 1954 graduate of Boston University with a degree in comparative literature showed an avid interest in computers in the early 1990s when other writers were pooh-poohing the emerging technology. Members remember that he gave an informative workshop on that topic for the Western New England Chapter. A review of Boston Chapter doings yielded this from 1993: “Lee Lockwood wanted more on-line exchange of information and ideas, so he pressed the NWU to make our bulletin board an active networking service.”

The major arena where Lockwood contributed his many skills to the NWU was the Grievance and Contract Division where from 1992 to 2005 he spent about 90 percent of his time as a contract advisor. Phil Mattera, the long-standing National Book Grievance Officer, remembers: “Lee was also the member who brought the NWU's first grievance (in 1994) involving an electronic book. Playboy Enterprises was putting together a CD-ROM compilation of interviews from the magazine and planned to include Lee's Castro piece – without asking permission and without more than token compensation. Unlike other contributors to the magazine, Lee had never signed over all rights. After getting publicity for the case in Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal   and other publications, we got Playboy to pay Lee a $1,000 fee.”

Having members of Lee Lockwood’s reputation certainly enhanced the NWU’s stature and encouraged similar writers to join. We salute Lockwood’s many professional achievements and contributions to the NWU as we continue to advocate for freelance writers’ rights which greatly concerned him.

Note: If you wish to send a few words of remembrance to the Lockwood family, you may do so via the online guest book.  It’s interesting to note that Richard Stratton posted the following message there: “Lee's 1967 Life Magazine "Bowing Picture" ensured my release from Hanoi in 1973. For this my family is forever grateful. Deepest sympathy from our family to yours.” One hopes Lockwood knew that. 

Susan E. Davis
National Contract Advisor
Book Division Co-Chair
New York Chapter Co-Chair

07/10/2010 - 11:09pm

The National Writers Union joins with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in condemning the brutal murder of Faiz Mohammad Khan Sasolion June 27.

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