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

04/04/2014 - 4:19pm

The European Federation of Journalists today condemned the killing of an Associated Press (AP) photographer from Germany who was killed while working in Afghanistan ahead of elections Saturday. The photographer was killed and another was wounded when, the AP reported, an Afghan police commander approached the convoy the photojournalists were traveling with - a convoy of elections workers delivering ballots - and opened fire on the journalists.

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03/31/2014 - 9:49am

Event: Copyright in the Digital Age: Creators in a landscape of Google Books and orphan works
Hosts: National Writers Union, DC Chapter and the Special Libraries Association, Social Science Division
When: April 24th, 2014, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EDT - Click to add this event to your iCalendar.
Where: AFL-CIO, 815 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, President's Room

US copyright is in flux. How can our copyright system continue to strike the right balance between social good and the need for benefits and incentives to diverse creators? What can we learn from listening to creators themselves about how they are negotiating a new landscape? Join us for a panel session focusing on how writers are making a living in the digital age, the state of fair use, and authors' perspectives on book scanning services such as Scribd, Google Books, and Amazon's Look Inside The Book program.

Speakers include Edward Hasbrouck, activist, journalist, author, consumer advocate and NWU Book Division co-chair; Michael Capobianco, author, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association of America (SFWA), President 1996-1998 and 2007-2008; and Kurt Wimmer, an expert in privacy and digital media law and general counsel for the Newspaper Association of America. Larry Guthrie of the Special Libraries Association, Social Science Division's Labor Section will moderate.

Bring a brown bag lunch. The event will be webcast. For more information visit:
http://www.nwu-dc.org/content/copyright-digital-age

Contact: nwudc.news@gmail.com

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03/17/2014 - 6:11pm

Three major journalists' unions in Ukraine and Russia have agreed to work together to support safety for journalists covering events in Ukraine and Crimea, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). The Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU), the National Union of the Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) and Russian affiliates the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) came together for a meeting in Brussels, Belgium where they vowed to support transparency of information and committed to upholding reporting principles outlined in the IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists.

Read more on the IFJ site:

 


 

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02/24/2014 - 7:09pm

Frequently Asked Questions about Revised Settlement of Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation
(post-Tasini case class action)


What is the settlement about?
A class action lawsuit was initiated in 2001 by the National Writers Union and two other writers’ organizations to compensate writers for uncompensated electronic uses of their work prior to the Supreme Court decision in Tasini v. New York Times. After a long and contentious legal process, a revised settlement was negotiated by all parties and was given preliminary approval by a federal court in New York on January 22, 2014. A hearing on final approval has been scheduled for June 10, 2014, but that date could change.

How is this different from the settlement proposed in 2005?  
Most writers who filed claims will get slightly more money under this revised settlement than under the original proposal, including those writers who had not registered their copyrights.

Who can file for payment?
Only those people who filed a valid claim before September 30, 2005, are eligible to receive payment. No new claims will be accepted for the revised settlement, and no additional works can be added to previously filed claims.

If I didn’t file a claim, will this settlement affect me?
Yes. You can do nothing, opt out, or object. If you do nothing, you will give up some rights if freelance articles you wrote were reproduced in publications that participated in the settlement.

What should I do if I didn't file a claim in 2005?
If you find out that any works you wrote are covered by the settlement, you should probably opt out now. There is no benefit to anyone who didn’t file a claim, but there are potential costs. If you didn't file a claim and you do nothing, you will give up some rights to all your affected works, in perpetuity, but you will get no money. If you opt out, you won't give up any rights. Opting out is simple and free. You don’t have to try to list all your works.

What should I do if I filed a claim in 2005?
If the settlement is approved, the publications that published the work for which you made claims choose to participate in the settlement, and your claim is deemed valid by the claims administrator, and you will eventually get a payment. If you feel it’s a bad deal, you can opt out now.
If you are fairly confident you are never going to do anything to generate any revenue from the works covered by the settlement, you will probably want to stay in and get paid. If you are generating other revenue from these works or think you might, you need to decide whether the compensation you will get from the settlement is enough to be worth the rights you will give up.

What rights do I give up if I stay in the settlement?  
Non-exclusive rights in perpetuity to any and all forms of digital distribution of all affected works, which are infinitely sublicensable.
Are the license and rights granted by the proposed settlement limited to the works for which I made claims?
No. The license covers all your freelance contributions to participating publications, even if you didn't make claims for them and even if you didn't make a claim at all.

What do you recommend I should do?
That’s up to you. We can’t make a decision for you. Only you know your work and what revenue you may expect from it, if any, in the future.

How long before we are paid?
That depends on the court, over which we have no control. It will be at least several more months. But we will alert members and other writers when the settlement has finally been approved and when payment is likely.

Which publications are included in the settlement?
A list of publishers can be found in Exhibit F, but the list contains only the names of corporations and not the names of individual journals or magazines. The final list of which publications choose to participate in the
settlement won't be known until after the settlement is finally approved.
I filled out a claim for the Google Book Settlement in 2010. Are the two settlements related?
No. These are two entirely separate, very different cases.

Can I object to the settlement?
Yes. Anyone who files the proper paperwork will have a chance to speak to the court before the court decides whether to give final approval to the settlement.

What if I still have questions? How do I get more info?
The full Notice of Revised Class Action Settlement is posted at www.copyrightclassaction.com. If you still need help, you may contact us at nwu@nwu.org. It may take us time to answer your question.
 


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02/15/2014 - 9:24pm

Friday, February 21, 2014

The United Auto Workers today, February 21, 2014, filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging outside interference in a historic Southern auto plant vote last week. A win for the UAW would have represented a major victory for the labor movement in the South.  The vote one week ago saw Volkswagen auto plant workers vote narrowly against union representation that would have led to the establishment of a works council - the first such proposed model of labor-management relations in the United States.

The UAW alleges that a firestorm of interference and threats from special interest groups influenced how workers voted over three days last week. (WATCH: Workers’ React to Outside Interference).

According to a UAW Release: Of the anti-union messaging: “It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

The campaign also included threats by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker related to promises of a new product line awarded to the plant if workers voted against UAW representation.

The objections state, “Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen. … The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security, and withholding of state support for its expansion.”

The UAW announced after the vote:

“While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union,” said UAW President Bob King.

Read the full announcement here.  Volkswagen Chattanooga workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside. Send them a message of support on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #UAWVW to remind them they have allies, brothers and sisters standing with them in solidarity.


 

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02/14/2014 - 6:57pm

IFJ Release: "The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today published its full report on the number of journalists and media staff killed across the globe in 2013.  Titled In Mortal Danger: Journalist & Media Staff Killed in 2013', the report provides information on the 105 journalists and media staff who lost their lives in targeted attacks, bomb attacks and other cross fire incidents during the year, while also raising awareness of the continued safety crisis around the globe.

There are also updates on 15 accidental deaths recorded last year.  Documenting the precarious and often brutal situation for journalists reporting in areas of conflict, war and political unrest, the IFJ report shows that the deadliest regions for journalists in 2013 were Asia Pacific, with 29% of the killings, and the Middle East and Arab World with 27%, while the most dangerous countries for media staff were Syria, the Philippines, Pakistan, Iraq and India."

Read more on the IFJ site...


 

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02/09/2014 - 10:36pm

Maxine Kumin of New Hampshire was one of the Boston NWU chapter's longest-term members. She also served on the NWU advisory board. She passed away on February 6th, 2014 at the age of 88. Her obituary was published the next day in the New York Times. ABC also reported her health had been in decline for a year.

An NWU "Datebook" with photos and quotes on each page published in 1988 included the following quote from Maxine Kumin: "Butchers & bakers and wordmakers all deserve the umbrella of a good union."

Maxine Kumin's essay "Letter to a Young Writer" was originally published in Teachers & Writers, 33, no. 4 (March/Aprils 2002), and was reprinted in The Roots of Things: Essays, by Maxine Kumin (Northwestern University Press, 2010). It has been posted on the NWU Boston Chapter website with permission of the author.


 

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02/06/2014 - 3:10pm

Leaders and members of the National Writers Union joined the United Auto Workers (UAW) Community Action Program (CAP) Legislative Conference Feb. 2-5. The CAP Conference is the annual political and legislative gathering of the entire UAW. Together with some 1,500 delegates from across the United States, attendees lobbied Congress on issues on the UAW's list, including raising the minimum wage and stopping Fast Track trade authority. During the 4-day conference, delegates lobbied their members of Congress.

High-profile speakers at the conference including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who told union delegates they "built the middle class," and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, also addressed the gathering. Delegates also heard from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic labor stalwart Rep. George Miller of California, Congressional Black Caucus co-chair Rep. Marcia Fudge and others.

National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) President Larry Goldbetter, First Vice President Ann Hoffman, CAP Committee Chair  Keith Bagwell and New Hampshire CAP Committee Member Gail Kinney represented the NWU at the conference. Hoffman lobbied most Members of Congress from Virginia with two other members of the UAW.

During the conference, President Bob King announced that workers at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN will vote whether to join the UAW between February 12 and 14.  If the vote is successful, VW and the UAW will form a works council, similar to those in existence in Germany and other countries where VW manufactures.  A works council would be a new form of union representation in the U.S., but is well established and highly successful in Europe. King discussed the upcoming election on the "Ed Show" on MSNBC.

“Volkswagen is known globally for its system of cooperation with unions and works councils,” said UAW President Bob King. “The UAW seeks to partner with [Volkswagen Group of America (VWGOA)] and a works council to set a new standard in the U.S. for innovative labor–management relations that benefits the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community. The historic success of the works council model is in line with the UAW’s successful partnerships with the domestic automakers and its vision of the 21st century union.”

The works council model has been successful for Volkswagen elsewhere. The company is recognized around the world as being a leader in respecting the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain, with standards that go beyond labor standards, according to a UAW press release.

 

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01/28/2014 - 12:39pm

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today announced the launch of a campaign to advocate for the safety of Ukranian journalists in the wake of an estimated 150 journalist injuries since protests began in Kiev. The IFJ has posted videos and other documented evidence of journalists' injuries and intimidation in Ukraine, including a link to this video of a December attack on journalist Tatyana Chornovol. The campaign includes safety tips for journalists as well as a suggested draft letter to the Ukrainian government (direct link to file download) urging the government to protect journalists. The IFJ urged its affiliates to fill out the letter and send it to communications@ifj.org.  

IFJ has also launched a social media campaign under the Twitter hashtag #SOS_Kiev. Find IFJ on Twitter @IFJGlobal. IFJ is asking journalists covering the protests in Ukraine to submit photos and messages to help the IFJ document the protests on the ground. Journalists can send post their photos and messages to IFJ on Facebook or to European Federation of Journalists on Facebook and use the hashtag #SOS_Kiev on Twitter.

 


 

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01/24/2014 - 12:34pm

 

On January 22, Judge George B. Daniels in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a “Preliminary Approval of the Revised Class Action Settlement” in the legal case called "In Re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation."
 
This settlement grew out of class action lawsuits initiated in 2001 by the National Writers Union and two other writers’ organizations to compensate freelance writers for electronic uses of their work in print periodicals prior to the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Tasini v. New York Times.
 
The lead plaintiff in that case, Jonathan Tasini, was President of the NWU when the suit originated in 1995. The NWU brought this lawsuit because we believed that freelance writers, who were only paid for print publication, should be paid for electronic uses of their work. With the legal and financial backing of the United Auto Workers union (UAW), we were able to continue the fight to the Supreme Court, who ruled in our favor and established that work published in electronic media constitutes a separate use of the work, which publishers must pay for.
 
Because only the plaintiffs to the original Tasini lawsuit were compensated after that decision, follow-up class action laws suits were initiated to pay other freelance writers. After a long and contentious legal process, a revised settlement was negotiated and has received preliminary approval from the court. A fairness hearing on the settlement is scheduled for June 10.
Formal notice of the proposed settlement will be posted on our website for our members shortly. This will give Class members the opportunity to opt out of the settlement or to present objections to the settlement. The deadline for filing a request to opt out of the settlement or for filing objections is May 9, 2014.
 
The National Writers Union is pleased that under the proposed settlement the publishers that used our work without our permission or payment have agreed to pay more than what was stipulated in the first proposed settlement. We are also pleased that each author of an article or work that did not have a registered copyright will receive more compensation than originally proposed. Mostly, we are pleased that once the settlement is finally accepted by the court, money will eventually be in writers’ pockets where it rightfully belongs. We will provide detailed advice to our members about the proposed settlement.
 

For more information contact the National Writers Union: 212-254-0279

 


 

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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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