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

07/20/2013 - 9:02pm

UAW statement on the Trayvon Martin tragedy

DETROIT -- UAW President Bob King released this statement today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy: "The UAW is deeply saddened by the Trayvon Martin case and the tragic death of a vibrant young man. The Florida Stand Your Ground law is an inhumane piece of legislation that is leading to horrifying consequences, not just this case, but many others.

"The UAW has a long history of fighting for fairness and equality for everyone in society and will be a strong voice for bringing justice in the Trayvon Martin tragedy. We are committed to work together with our allies in fighting for justice, beginning with the August 24 March on Washington. We encourage all UAW members and citizens of conscience to join us in Washington, D.C., to demand enactment of a new Voting Rights Act and justice in the Trayvon Martin tragedy."

07/19/2013 - 9:49pm

The Steering Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the National Writers Union endorsed Iraq Veterans Against the War's (IVAW) forthcoming public event, "Twenty-first Century Militarism:  Occupation Abroad and Resistance at Home."  The event will be held at the Chicago Temple, Friday night, August 2, 2013 at 7 pm.  Featured speakers are Christian Parenti and Nick Turse, both internationally-known scholars and activists.  More information can be found here.

This event is part of IVAW's National Convention that will be taking place in Chicago that weekend.
For more information, please visit IVAW here or contact Kim Scipes, Chicago Chapter Chair at 773/615-5019 or kscipes@nwuchicago.org .

07/08/2013 - 10:27am
DEADLINE EXTENDED:  You can still win a week at a writers' retreat
As competition heats up to sign up the most new or lapsed members to the National Writers Union, we have extended the deadline for submissions.  Any new or long-lapsed member who puts your name on his/her application as the person who caused them to join or rejoin the union puts you one step closer to a week at Wellspring House in Massachusetts.  The contest will now cover any member signed up between June 1 and OCTOBER 1, 2013.  Questions:  contact Ann Hoffman, annfromdc@aol.com.
06/24/2013 - 2:35pm

Newspaper Guild Poll Asks:
Is Edward Snowden a Patriot or Traitor?

A poll posted this morning on The Newspaper Guild website, www.newsguild.org, asks whether former NSA contractor Edward Snowden should be considered a patriot or a traitor. “We have an engaged audience of journalists and a larger community on social media that should make for an interesting survey,” Guild President Bernie Lunzer said. “Although the poll is anonymous, we think it will give us a sense of how people in our profession feel about Snowden’s provocative actions.”

Vote at: http://newsguild.org/snowden-question

06/11/2013 - 5:31pm

Any Member May Draft Resolutions for Upcoming DA

The National Writers Union Delegate Assembly (DA) will assemble over the second weekend in August to set the union's agenda for the next two years. Delegates have been elected from every chapter. Members who will not be in Chicago for the biennial event can play a role by proposing resolutions.

The DA, the governing body of the NWU, considers resolutions suggesting policy direction for the union as well as amendments to our by-laws.

The call for resolutions, rules for resolutions, the current NWU by-laws and a list of all delegates elected to date along with their chapters and/or union positions and email addresses has been posted in the Members Only section of this web site at a tab called 2013 Delegate Assembly.

Members can access this information by logging in and clicking on the “2013 Delegate Assembly” link in the “Members Only” menu on the left side of the home page.

05/16/2013 - 4:51pm

NWU Attends Copyright Hearing, Asks for Writers to Be Heard

“I’d like to enter into the record this letter I have from the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, noting there are no authors or other artistic creators on today’s panel.” That’s how Congressman Johnson (D-GA) began his questioning at the hearing I attended on May 16 of the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. This was the first of many hearings that will eventually produce the first reform of U.S. Copyright law since 1976.

The letter Congressman Johnson was referring to, introduced NWU to the committee as “among the most active contributors to Copyright Office consultations,” including “orphan works” and the need for a copyright small claims court. It urged the committee to hold future hearings “at which the full range of creative workers can testify about the ways that copyright law could be improved,” especially NWU. A statement from the Copyright Alliance, which includes creators and industry groups, was also entered into the record by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA). Links to both are below:


http://www.copyrightalliance.org/2013/05/statement_copyright_alliance_executive_director_sandra_aistars_re_todays_judiciary_0 target="_blank"

The day before the hearing, D.C. member Monica Coleman and I attended a reception co-sponsored by the Copyright Alliance (CA), made up of both creators and industry groups, and the Creative Rights Caucus (CRC), which has 40 Congresspeople as members.  We met CRC Co-Chair Chu (D-CA) and her staff and a number of CA lobbyists. Everyone welcomed NWU’s involvement.

At the hearing, we were joined by Michael Capobianco of Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America, and the hearing room was packed. The only witnesses called were a five-member panel from the Copyright Principals Project (CPP), an invitation-only group of academics, lawyers and a representative from Microsoft. No creators were either invited to the CPP or to testify at the hearing, but many were there to voice our concerns and to try to ensure that the next hearing has a panel of creators. I was there on behalf of the union to try to ensure that NWU is included. 

In the week we had to prepare for the hearing, an ad hoc committee developed that included Edward Hasbrouck (SF), Susan E. Davis (NY), Mike Bradley (SF), Ann Hoffman (DC), Monica, and me. I also met with Bev Brakeman, the UAW Region 9A CAP Director, and Josh Nassar, the UAW Legislative Director in D.C., to begin our first serious lobbying effort in quite some time. We managed to maximize our presence, work on a few different levels, and keep talking through our disagreements. Not as easy as it sounds.

Moving forward, we are putting together a working group that in the short run can produce a preliminary report: “What We Want and Don’t Want in New Copyright Law.” It will require discussion on many aspects of the new law, especially “orphan works” and a federal small claims court. But it will also review prosecution of copyright infringers, reversion of rights, extended collective licensing (ECL), exceptions for the blind, and more. Something like this can be used to help educate members, recruit more writers, and be circulated to the subcommittee so our friends know NWU’s wishlist for the new law.

If you’re interested in being a part of this, contact nwu@nwu.org.

05/14/2013 - 2:45pm

Guild demands Justice Dept. return telephone records taken of AP reporters' phone calls

The Newspaper Guild-CWA and its local that represents AP staffers, The News Media Guild, demands that the U.S. Justice Department return all telephone records that it obtained from phones -- including some home and cell phones – of Associated Press reporters and editors.

The collection of these records is egregious and a direct attack on journalists, and the Justice Department needs to cease and desist such investigations. The ability of journalists to develop and protect sources is vital to keeping the public informed about issues affecting their lives.

There could be no justification or explanation for this broad, over-reaching investigation. It appears officials are twisting legislation designed to protect public safety as a means to muzzle those concerned with the public's right to know.

The suggestion that the news story 'scooped' an announcement for partisan political purposes only exacerbates the damage such actions can have on a free press. This investigation has a chilling effect on press freedom in the United States – a right enshrined in the Constitution. Please contact your representatives and the White House to tell them to stop this outrageous, abusive investigation now.

For immediate release: Contact, Bernie Lunzer, TNG-CWA President, 202-258-3231, bernielunzer@gmail.com

05/02/2013 - 1:40pm

World Press Freedom Day is May 3, 2013

This year the International Federation of Journalists is marking World Press Freedom Day by focusing on the issue of “Journalist Safety and Journalists Imprisoned around the World”. This reflects the on-going concern over the numbers of our colleagues who continue to languish in prisons in many countries as a result of their profession.

For more information click here.

05/02/2013 - 1:24pm


Press Statement;   For Immediate Release

Nairobi, Kenya: May 2, 2013

Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) wishes to join the media fraternity in Kenya, the Eastern African Region and globally in marking the 2013 World Press Freedom Day being marked on May 3.

KCA notes with concern that the Kenyan media environment has over the last one year recorded increasing cases of threats to the safety and security of journalists and general disregard for their labour rights.

At least 25 journalists have reported various forms of threats to their security and safety in different parts of the country over the last six months. Some of these threats have been reported in the media and statements recorded with the police but a number of threats have remained less pronounced but serious enough to undermine the freedom of journalists in the performance of their duties.

The threats have been recorded from security agencies, state officials, political leaders and their supporters, drug traffickers and other actors, in the process creating a climate of fear and intimidation among journalists in the course of their work.

Entire press release here.(Word document)

04/29/2013 - 1:25pm

As we've noted previously, many countries have been considering, and some have adopted, "orphan works" laws that allow anyone who claims they can't find who holds the rights to a work to use it without permission. 

Canada has had such a law, but it is very limited. Now countries throughout the European Union are considering much broader laws. 

The first of those laws to go into effect, and the worst yet, is in France. Like some of the laws proposed in other countries, it extends beyond so-called "orphan works" to authorize Extended Collective Licensing (ECL) for scanning and digital distribution of any book that has been distributed in France and that is now deemed "out of print, without even the pretense of a search for the holders of electronic rights. 

You can opt out of having your work licensed through this scheme, but only after a book containing your work has been identified by the operators of the scheme, "ReLIRE", as out of print in France. 

You may be affected even without knowing it. The NWU's Grievance and Contract Division has long recommended that authors get language included in contracts that gives you the right of approval, or at least a right to notice, for licensing of translations, foreign editions, or other subsidiary rights. But many current contracts may lack such language, and publishers don't always comply with contracts.  

So a publisher of a book by you, or an anthology or collection including a story, article, poem, etc. you have written, might have authorized an edition in France, or designated a US or other edition as simultaneously published in France among many other countries around the world. 

The first list of works identified as "out of print" in France, and due to be digitized unless the rightsholders opt out, was made available last month. Browsers immediately discovered that it included works by many prominent, easily-found US writers including NWU member Ursula K. Le Guin.

No attempt had been made to find these or any other writers. You are  expected to figure out for yourself that your work might be included, search the database to find your work, and fill out the forms (in French), to opt out. Or your work is fair game to be digitized and made available without your permission from France to readers worldwide. 

It's complicated because the database and all the instructions and forms are in French only. A simple author search won't turn up stories, articles, or poems included in anthologies or collective works. Works are identified, of course, by their French titles, which may not be literal translations of their English titles.  There are many spelling and transcription errors, and only exact matches are shown in search results. 

We are extremely grateful to Gill Spraggs of Action on Authors Rights (UK), one of our allies in the successful fight against the proposed Google Books Settlement, for preparing a guide in English to how to find if your work is included in the French "ReLIRE" database, and to opt out.

This includes links to translations of the French forms and instructions, as well as to useful resources by French author Lea Silhol and others. 

(Since your first reaction may be, "But that would be highway robbery," we can't resist the temptation to note that Gill Spraggs, in addition to her talents as a poet, translator, editor, and activist, is actually one of the world's leading scholarly authorities on -- quite literally -- highway robbery, which was the subject of her Ph.D dissertation at Cambridge and her popular cultural and literary history, "Outlaws and Highwaymen".)

The NWU and other US writers' organizations including the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (many of whose members' work has turned up in translations and anthologies in the ReLIRE database) are working on collective responses. This law and others like it are clear violations of other countries' obligations to US writers pursuant to the Berne Convention and other copyright treaties, and we will be asking the US government to make appropriate diplomatic protests on our behalf. 

But we can't search for all our members' work. 

So the first step -- both for your own self-protection and to lay the basis for collective action -- is for you and any other writers you know to check whether any of your work has been included among works slated for digitization in France. This is highly likely if any of your work has ever been issued in France or in French translation, including as part of any collective work and as may have happened without your knowledge. 

Please let the NWU know if you find any of your work included in the French "ReLIRE" database.

NWU members can post what you find to the NWU Book Division e-mail discussion list, which will help other NWU members know what sort of work you found in the French database, and how you found it. Or, if you prefer to keep your grievance confidential, you can contact either of the NWU Book Division Co-Chairs, Susan E. Davis or Edward Hasbrouck.


Union News

05/22/2008 - 1:37am

NEW YORK—Barbara Kingsolver is pleased to announce the 2008 winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Heidi W. Durrow of Los Angeles will receive the $25,000 award for her unpublished novel, and the opportunity to work with an editor at this prize cycle’s participating publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. The Bellwether Prize is awarded biennially to a promising first-time novelist working in the tradition of socially engaged literature.

04/16/2008 - 1:30am

Recently, Amazon announced that it is requiring on-demand publishers and authors to use its print-on-demand (POD) division, BookSurge, if they want to sell their titles as print-on-demand on Amazon.com.

04/07/2008 - 1:26am

On October 29 a majority of a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the $18 million settlement reached in March 2005 after two years of heated negotiations between freelance writers and publishers over electronic copyright infringements involving unauthorized sales over the Internet of writers’ copyrighted works.

03/24/2008 - 1:22am
Every worker has the right to a job at a living wage. That right must be respected by the bosses, who, driven by corporate greed, want to cut your wages nearly in half as well as decimate your current benefits.
02/07/2008 - 1:15am

 The National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, the nation’s only trade union dedicated to advocating for the rights and economic betterment of freelance writers, stands in solidarity with our brother and sister writers of the Writers Guild of America

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