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

10/30/2014 - 9:28am

 

Workers Tell Their Stories

The non-profit arm of the National Writers Union is collecting stories, especially those of low-wage workers. Members Esther Cohen, Terry Schwadron, Ed Murphy, and Chris Rhomberg, who is also a Fordham University professor, work with interns from the school, who conduct the interviews in New York City. 
 
Above: Interns Emma Kilroy, foreground, Andrew O'Grady, center.
 

UREL BERNARD BAPTISTE

Security Guard 
 
“I just came to the United States exploring, you know, vacationing,” he said, “and then I forgot to go home.”  Like many immigrants, Urel Bernard Baptiste finds himself away from home for work. He has the 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. shift at a Fordham University residence. Bernard, as he is called, stumbled upon the job before the students that he safeguards were even born, and has since remained at his post by chance.
 
Born in Dominica, he grew up on the island of Antigua, which he considers to be home. “Technically I was looking for a job when I came, but not here in New York. I never planned to leave home.” Then he got an offer to work at Fordham from an Antiguan friend who was head of security. Bernard’s wife still lived back home, but encouraged him to give it a try. 
 
After two years in New York however, he was homesick; he missed his wife and four children. One night, he packed his things and went to the airport, ready to return home for good. That’s when he hit a speed bump: “I forgot my passport. I took a yellow cab all the way back to the Bronx and searched the house where I stayed, but couldn’t find it.” He was encouraged to stay one more night until he could get his things together. “And then I thought, what if I wasn’t supposed to go home after all?” Soon, he found himself welcoming his wife and children to New York City, where they’ve lived since. “I will keep working here until my son is done with his education,” Bernard said, “which won’t be long. Then I’m leaving New York, and leaving this country. I’m going home.” He’s not happy with management decisions to use a third party contractor to supply some of the security guards at the university… “They go to the security office, pick up their radio, pick up their guest log, and they are told ‘Go to Alumni Court South.’ These people don’t know where the hell that is. They don’t know the students’ faces. They don’t know the RAs, the RDs, the supervisors. They don’t know what goes on here, and it is bad for the school.”
 
After a recent situation involving a resident requesting to retrieve a bag from his room without signing in as a guest, Bernard’s higher-ups scolded him for making a judgment call. They told him that after 22 years on the job, he was “not qualified to make that sort of a decision without calling a supervisor first.” He was angered, but swallowed his emotions. “I have never felt so degraded at a job. All my children have good jobs except me; I’m here working this shit.” He says his pension won’t cover all the costs for his family, so he keeps working. “But I’m leaving soon. And when I do, I might write a letter to Fordham. A long letter. But right now…I try to make the best of it. I call it survival,” he said.  As told to Elaina Weber.
 
GINA EFFAH
Restaurant Manager, Cashier
 
She has been a manager and cashier at Popeye’s on West 14th Street since 2006. Although she lit up when talking about the friendships she’s made there, this one-day-a-week job is not something Gina intends to do for the rest of her career. Her plan to go straight into the sciences after high school was sidetracked when she had the first of her three children while studying to earn her associate’s degree. Then her father passed away, and she had to pay for her education on her own.
 
Now 30, Gina studies radiology part time, works at Popeye’s, and cares for her family. Her husband works as a nurse, but they live paycheck to paycheck. Her job at Popeye’s is a way to make a little extra money, and push herself through the remainder of school.
Gina says that her coworkers are like family, yet the majority of them are teenagers, so the faces are always changing… The perks of the job include free food, some of which she can take home to her family. But once she finishes earning her associate’s degree, she says she’ll leave to work as an X-Ray Technician, and then go on to pursue a bachelor’s of science.  As told to Sara Gillooly.
 
ALEX MOLD
EMT, Researcher
 
I have two jobs that I love. One of them is for Fordham University, where I am an Emergency Medical Technician (EMS) and a crew chief. I have had some amazing experiences, like the time I helped deliver a baby. As a collegiate EMS organization, pregnancy and delivery are something that I have not experienced much, so this day stood out. I have also been responsible for saving a life. The scariest moment happened when a person received massive cranial trauma and did not realize it. Later he thanked me for taking care of him. It felt good.
 
My other job at Fordham is as a research assistant for Dr. Qize Wei. He’s studying the role of MyoGEF (cell invasion) on breast cancer. Since I have worked on this project, I have been published twice and been responsible for teaching three undergrads how to work in the lab. When they ask questions, I see a part of me in them. They experience the same eagerness towards learning the procedures as I had when I first started in the lab. 
Alex Mold, student intern, Workers Stories project.
 
 
 

ABOUT THE STORIES: NWU began offering free classes for Fast Food Workers at our headquarters, and this year partnered with Fordham University’s Dorothy Day Center. They gave us six interns to gather the stories of New York City’s low-wage workers, which we post on the NWU site. The Workforce Development Institute in Albany sponsors the website, and recently Riverside Church joined us in our efforts to tell more of these stories.

 
Read more at http://workerstories.org

 

Read more...
10/29/2014 - 3:44pm

From 1933 to 1945, labor supporter Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States. A recent book by NWU Member, Brigid O’Farrell, and an upcoming play hosted by SoCal NWU members explore the longest-serving First Lady’s passions. 
 
On the Stage: On Saturday, Nov. 22, SoCal NWU and & SoCal Arbeter Ring present the one-woman show, Hick: A Love Story, starring Terry Baum, and written by Baum and Pat Bond. The production explores Lorena Hickok’s life and romance with the First Lady. The venue is SoCal Arbeter Ring at 1525 S. Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tickets are $10 at the door, first come first seated.
 
The Backstory: To get the scoop on the patrician First Lady and the charming butch reporter, Baum traveled to Hyde Park, NY, to study original documents, including Roosevelt’s letters, which are in the “Lorena Hickok” files at the FDR Library. Of the letters the First Lady wrote to Hick, more than 2000 survive; they date from 1933 to 1962—the year Roosevelt died—says the play’s star. The missives were discovered in 1978, when aresearcher opened 18 boxes willed to the FDR Library by Hickok. Baum also interviewed people who knew Hick, a prominent journalist of her time whose stories were published on the front page of the New York Times.
 
The two women met during FDR’s first Presidential campaign in 1932, when Hick convinced her editor that the candidate’s wife was worth her own reporter. The love affair went on for several years, but the friendship lasted a lifetime. Hick helped Roosevelt become an outspoken, media-savvy activist for democracy and human rights, and one of the most powerful women of the 20th century. See a promo for the play on YouTube.
 
On the Page: In October, Bay Area member and author Brigid O’Farrell gave a talk celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Wider Opportunities for Women at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC, and discussed her most recent book, She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker, (Cornell University Press, 2010). The volume explores the First Lady’s life long activism on behalf of working women and theirunions, including her role as chair of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women. A journalist and author, Roosevelt held membership in The Newspaper Guild for more than 25 years. O’Farrell’s book has taken her across the country to facilitate the workshop: “Using Our Past to Change our Future: Leading with Eleanor Roosevelt.” 
 
Photos courtesy: progressinvolvment.com and the authors.
 
Read more...
10/29/2014 - 3:20pm
By Barbara Mende
 
Traditional publishing has become so restrictive that many authors say, “Forget 7 percent royalties and giving up rights to media that haven’t been invented yet! I’ll self-publish.” That can be a great alternative. More accurately, it can be a lot of alternatives, including much higher royalties. But do your homework first, so you’ll know what you’re getting into. In 2010 the Grievance and Contract Division (GCD) had six inquiries about PublishAmerica (now America Star), one of the more notorious subsidy presses. The year before, we had two inquiries. There have been none since. 
 
Inquiries about the more substantial firms that became part of Author Solutions (including AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Xlibris) began to decline, as well. Instead, authors were taking the do-it-yourself route: producing their books through Amazon’s CreateSpace or Ingram’s Lightning Source. They also pursued their own contracts with editors, illustrators, and packagers.

 
Subsidy presses are still out there. Now their projects are trending upmarket. We still hear frequently about Tate Publishing, which turns out decent products for which authors pay a few thousand in “marketing” fees. Author Solutions is now “a Penguin Random House Company,” and has alsoteamed up with Simon & Schuster to create Archway Publishing. Other niche imprints are beginning to emerge. How can an author resist? While mainstream publishers don’t exactly promise to monitor self-published books in the hope of finding another Fifty Shades of Grey, one can hope. 
 
So choices abound. A good place to start your self-publishing research is the NWU-Book Discussion Group. (Find directions on how to join at www.nwu.org/writer-discussion-listservs). And be sure to send your self-publishing agreements of any type to advice@nwu.org for review before you sign them.
Mende is NWU’s Grievance and Contract Division Coordinator.
 

 

Read more...
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...

Union News

04/30/2010 - 11:54pm

Writers across the country are receiving letters from HarperCollinsRandom House, and other publishers asking them to sign e-book amendments to their book contracts.

  

 If you receive such a letter from any publisher, please contact the NWU's Grievance and Contract Division right away. The GCD will set you up with an NWU Contract Advisor who can examine your contract and provide you with expert advice. Contract advice is a free benefit available to NWU members. You can contact the GCD via email at advice@nwu.org. If you are not an NWU member, join today.

04/03/2010 - 9:33pm

On March 24 the National Writers Union submitted a brief to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator in response to a request for public comments about “the costs IP infringement imposes on the U.S. economy, the threat to public health and safety posed by IP infringement, and recommendations for a U.S. government strategic plan for dealing with IP infringement.” In the past, publishers have tried to speak for writers on this issue. Now it's critical that writers speak for ourselves about who the real copyright infringers are and what we think should be done about it.

03/23/2010 - 12:17am

On March 2, the US Supreme Court reversed the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and voted 8-0 (Justice Sotomayor did not participate in the case) to uphold an $18 million settlement of a copyright infringement suit between Internet publishers and freelance writers.

02/11/2010 - 1:05am

 Dan McCrory, Recording Secretary, explains this important legislation

 The U.S. Senate will soon consider a proposed federal shield law that provides the same protections to freelance journalists as to writers employed by newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and online publishers. The Free Flow of Information Act, S. 448, could have implications for all media workers, legislators and government officials, opinion leaders and the general public.

02/11/2010 - 12:27am

A message to NWU members from Edward Hasbrouck (co-chair Book Division):

We saw many lapsed and former NWU members at recent events about the Google Book settlement in New York and Berkeley. Here's what one of them, a member of the Authors Guild, wrote to the court after the NWU event:

http://thepublicindex.org/docs/amended_settlement/borsook. pdf

Our work on this has been for all writers, not just our members.

Please tell your friends about what we've been doing, and let them know: If you want to make a living from writing -- books, articles, blogging, technical writing, Web content, any kind of writing in any medium, genre, or format -- the NWU wants and *needs* you back!

02/06/2010 - 12:18am

 

On February 4, the U.S. Department of Justice broadened its opposition to the proposed Google Book settlement, including key objections raised by authors. Click here for the DOJ brief.
01/29/2010 - 4:42pm

Howard Zinn, historian, activist, and a member of the National Writers Union and the Boston Chapter for almost 20 years, died on January 27, 2010. But his life and writing will inspire grassroots activists for many future generations.

01/29/2010 - 4:27pm

New York City - January 28: The NWU's objections to the revised Google Books settlement proposal were filed with the U.S. District court today by our pro bono counsel from the Fordham University Law School.

01/27/2010 - 12:59pm

 At 10:00 PST/1:00 EST, Apple is unveiling its long-awaited somewhat mysterious new reader (code name: tablet). This isn’t just a new techie gadget, but a big story for writers.  In addition to the new reader, Apple is coming up with a new business model.  Unlike Amazon’s fixed low book prices, Apple is allowing publishers discretion and book prices are expected to be higher.  The split will favor publishers: Amazon splits revenue 50/50 with publishers, Apple’s model is expected to be 30/70. This sounds good, but it may not translate into higher royalties.  What else is new? 

 
Here are a couple of links about this subject.  The WSJ is a preview (they’ve recently started charging for content), but it explains the model pretty well, so if you are interested I recommend reading the full article (the comments attached to the preview are free):
 
Back to Amazon’s e-books: Publishers have been giving away some authors’ e-books as a free download on Kindle. The other day, the New York Times ran an article (With Kindle, the Best Sellers Don’t Need to Sell) about the impact on writers when their books are being given away for free as e-books. It tackles the question of whether or not writers are benefiting from their books being given away for free.  While at first blush we would disagree, it really is a lot more complex of an issue.  Some writers are seeing a bounce in sales of their newer books when their older ones are being given away as free e-books.
 
Please join us in talking about these issues.
 
12/28/2009 - 8:00pm

If you've ever written anything that might be in the collection of a major library—not just books—you might be affected by the proposed settlement of the Google Book Search ("GBS") copyright infringement lawsuit.

 
To help inform NWU members and other writers, the NWU has posted a new set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the revised Google Book Search settlement proposal and the choices all authors need to make by the new deadline of January 28, 2010.  This also includes a sample letter writers can use if they want to opt out of the proposed settlement.  This document (FAQ) is on the Google Settlement page of the website. 
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