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

10/09/2014 - 9:59am

"Ruth and the Green Book", by member Calvin Ramsey, was recently named one of the 10 Books That All Georgians Should Read 2014 and Books All Young Georgians Should Read for 2014. [Read our NWU feature story about "Ruth And The Green Book".] " The “Books All Georgians Should Read” programs are a celebration of Georgia's rich literary heritage, and the lists are compiled annually by the Advisory Council for the Georgia Center for the Book. Recommendations come from individuals and groups around the state; the intention is to promote reading and discussion across genres while, at the same time, cultivating appreciation of the literary arts.

The "Green Book", the actual title of which was "The Negro Motorist Green Book", was published for 3 decades, starting in  1936, to advise African-Americans traveling in the U.S. of hotels, beauty shops, gas stations and other places at which they would not be excluded because of their race. Read more...

Follow the Georgia Center for the Book on Twitter.

 


 

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10/06/2014 - 7:02pm

PUBLISHING NEWS

OPPORTUNITY FOR AUTHORS

Richard Flanagan, an Australian , won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for fiction for his sixth novel: The Narrow Road to the Deep North.  The book tells the story of a surgeon in a Japanese POW camp on the Thailand-Burma railway. The Prize was anounced on October 14. American writers were eligible for the prize for the first time this year. Two were among the final six contenders:  Karen Joy Fowler for "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" and Joshua Ferris for "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour."

For more on the story, see themanbookerprize.com


PANEL BRINGS PUBLISHERS, WRITERS TOGETHER

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

 — Barbara Beckwith


ILHAM TOHTI SENTENCED TO LIFE

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

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


‘NOT NO, BUT HELL NO!’

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

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

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

—Jim Patterson


INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END IMPUNITY

The International Federation of Journalists has launched an End Impunity campaign and is asking the NWU, as its sister union, to help increase awareness about this issue in the US on November 2.

Vicious attacks against journalists over the last month continue to attract media attention. Yet, more than 1000 journalists and media staff have been killed around the world over the last two decades—more in peace time than during wars and conflicts. Credible statistics estimate that out of 10 killings, only one gets investigated. The UN General Assembly recently passed the strongest resolution supporting journalists and marked November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

NWU chapters can ...

● Download the campaign banner at IFJ.org and publicize it on your website and pubilcations.

● Post protests, slogans and demands on Twitter with the hashtag #EI_IFJ.

● Hold press conferences or meetings dedicated to End Impunity against Journalists and publicize the problem.

● Hold a minute of silence or another special event, such as a film screening.

Find out more: daytoendimpunity.org

 


 

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10/06/2014 - 9:56am

New York NWU Hosts Book Reading (All NY Photos by Tim Sheard)

New York NWU Tables at the Brooklyn Book Fair

Wisconsin NWU Gets New Banner

 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 9:51am

KUDOS!

  • Eric A. Gordon (SOCAL):

—reports on a talk by "Forward" journalist J.J. Goldberg:

http://www.peoplesworld.org/j-j-goldberg-speaks-on-israel-and-palestine-is-there-a-way-out/

— says, "Why go all the way to Newfoundland and not get a story out of it?"

http://www.peoplesworld.org/echoes-of-valour-in-newfoundland-a-story-of-racism-defeated/

— takes on the subject of marriage in a particularly personal way: 

http://www.peoplesworld.org/impressions-of-marriage/

 


 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 8:27am

The International Federation of Journalists has launched an End Impunity campaign and is asking the NWU, as its sister union, to help increase awareness about this issue in the US on November 2.

Vicious attacks against journalists over the last month continue to attract media attention. Yet, more than 1000 journalists and media staff have been killed around the world over the last two decades—more in peace time than during wars and conflicts. Credible statistics estimate that out of 10 killings, only one gets investigated. The UN General Assembly recently passed the strongest resolution supporting journalists and marked November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

NWU chapters can ...

● Download the campaign banner at IFJ.org and publicize it on your website and pubilcations.

● Post protests, slogans and demands on Twitter with the hashtag #EI_IFJ.

● Hold press conferences or meetings dedicated to End Impunity against Journalists and publicize the problem.

● Hold a minute of silence or another special event, such as a film screening.

Find out more: daytoendimpunity.org

 


 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 8:24am

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

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

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

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

—Jim Patterson

 


 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 8:23am

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

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

—PEN AMERICA

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

 

 


 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 8:17am

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

 — Barbara Beckwith

 


 

Read more...
10/06/2014 - 8:15am

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

Read more:

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

 


 

Read more...
10/05/2014 - 5:12pm

Green Was the Old Black

By Calvin Ramsay

Photo courtesy of the author.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Read more...

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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