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

07/19/2013 - 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 .

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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.
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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

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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.

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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://nwu.org/sites/nwu.prometheuslabor.com/files/may-14-2013-hearing.pdf

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.

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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

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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.

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05/02/2013 - 1:24pm

KENYA CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR ENHANCED SECURITY FOR JOURNALISTS AND RESPECT OF LABOUR RIGHTS

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)

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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.
  

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04/23/2013 - 8:28pm

Campaign Against Unfair Journalist Contracts

To mark World Copyright Day on Tuesday 23 April, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), are launching a campaign to fight against unfair contracts.

"Fair contracts are the guarantee for high quality and ethical journalism," says IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "However, the spread of buy-out contracts strongly impacts on the quality of journalism as well as the livelihood of journalists."

Rights-grabbing contracts, or "buy-out contracts", demand that journalists sign all moral and economic rights over to publishers. These include the right to protect the integrity of their work, be identified as the author and to receive equitable remuneration when work is re-used. Buy-out contracts assign media employers a worldwide, exclusive right to use, reproduce, display, modify and distribute their work on all types of platforms, known or future. They also allow media employers to transfer the work to third parties without additional payment to the journalist. The EFJ has been collecting information about unfair contractual terms and conditions and found that major newspapers, magazines and broadcasters across Europe widely use these unfair contracts.

"We were appalled by the extent of unfair contractual practices in the media industry," said Arne König, EFJ President. "Media organisations asked journalists, particularly freelancers, to assign their exclusive rights for multiple use of their works for small one-off payments."

Read more here.

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Union News

07/27/2011 - 6:24pm

By Wendy Werris
Jul 27, 2011

In a move as significant for its breadth as its implications for the future of book coverage, the Los Angeles Times book review laid off all of its freelance book reviewers and columnists on July 21.

Susan Salter Reynolds was with the Times for 23 years as both a staffer and freelancer and wrote the “Discoveries” column that appeared each week in the Sunday book review. She was told that her column was cancelled and will not be replaced by another writer. “I don’t know where these layoffs fit into the long-storied failure at the Times,” she said yesterday, “but these are not smart business decisions. This is shabby treatment.”

Jon Thurber, editor of the book review, explained to Reynolds last Thursday that all books-related stories will now be done in-house, and that the decision to cease eliminate non-staffers was based on his freelance budget being cut. Richard Raynard’s popular “Paperback Writers” has also been eliminated. As children’s books editor at the Times for the last several years Sonja Bolle, who most recently wrote the monthly “WordPlay” column, said, “This indicates an even deeper contraction of the business, a continuation of a process at the Times that doesn’t stop here.” Bolle is most concerned about the shrinking coverage of children’s books. “This is a great loss for readers,” she said of the elimination of her column.

Four staffers remain in the book review section: David Ulin, Carolyn Kellogg, Nick Owchar, and Thurber. In December 2009 the Times laid off 40 features writers, including Reynolds and Bolle, but brought many of them back to work part-time. “We were paid about one-third of what we had been making, and lost our health insurance,” Reynolds says. "Then two months ago we were shifted to freelance status, which meant none of us were allowed to enter the Times building.” Thurber did make an exception for Reynolds so she could come to the office to pick up the multiple review copies she received daily in order to produce her column.

When contacted, Thurber deferred to Nancy Sullivan, the Times’s v-p of communications. “This was a cost-saving move,” she said, “strictly related to our budget.” Sullivan would not provide details on the number of freelancers who were eliminated last week. “Staff writers from outside the book department will take over for those who left. We have not changed our commitment to book coverage or the amount of space the Times will devote to it.”

07/22/2011 - 4:39pm

There was a "status conference" July 19th in New York in the ongoing Federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for scanning millions of books without the permission of the copyright holders.

The parties to the lawsuit asked for more time to try to negotiate a new settlement proposal. Judge Chin scheduled another hearing for September 15th, but suggested that if the parties had not reached at least an agreement in principle by then, he would set a schedule for the case to move forward toward discovery, briefing, argument, and decision of the legal issues without an agreed-upon settlement.

Law Prof. James Grimmelmann, who spoke at the NWU's forum on the case last year, has more about the hearing in his blog:
http://laboratorium.net/archive/2011/07/19/gbs_status_conference_opt-in_settlement_in_the_wor

Earlier this year, Judge Chin agreed with the NWU and numerous other writers' organizations from around the world that the previous settlement proposal was not "fair and adequate".  But Google, the Association of American Publishers, and the Authors Guild (whose membership is limited to authors of books published by major publishers with substantial advances, unlike the NWU which is open to all writers) have continued to exclude the NWU and all other interested parties from their ongoing negotiations.

The NWU is continuing to monitor the case, and will advise our members on future developments.  Backgorund information incluidng the NWU's submissions to the court is available from the NWU Book Division at: http://www.nwubook.org

07/15/2011 - 5:07pm

BBC journalists in one-day strike

BBC Television Centre The BBC has apologised to viewers and listeners
for any disruption
Continue reading the main story
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14152795?print=true#story_continues_1>

Journalists at the BBC have begun a 24-hour strike in a row over
compulsory redundancies.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted in favour of
industrial action last month because a number of World Service
journalists are facing compulsory redundancy.

The NUJ has warned that the strike will cause "widespread disruption" to
radio and TV programmes.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation was "disappointed" by the action.

Viewers and listeners saw some changes to BBC output on Friday morning
as a result of the strike.


BBC journalists in one-day strike
BBC          Television CentreThe BBC has apologised to viewers and listeners for any disruption
Continue reading the main story
Journalists at the BBC have begun a 24-hour strike in a row over compulsory redundancies.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted in favour of industrial action last month because a number of World Service journalists are facing compulsory redundancy.
The NUJ has warned that the strike will cause "widespread disruption" to radio and TV programmes.
A BBC spokesman said the corporation was "disappointed" by the action.
Viewers and listeners saw some changes to BBC output on Friday morning as a result of the strike.

07/14/2011 - 4:09pm

Forty years after it was first published, the book Occupied America: The History of Chicanos has been banned, and its author, Rudolfo Acuña, widely published professor and prominent immigrant-rights activist thinks he knows why.

To Acuña, a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, it boils down to two things: numbers and control. He says that banning his book and shutting down an ethnic studies program that has been widely successful in Arizona are part of an effort to undermine social inclusion and financial uplift for Chicanos, or people of Mexican descent. Not only has his work come under fire, but Acuña has received numerous death threats from unidentifiable individuals who are at odds with his commitment to improving the system of education and living conditions for Chicanos. 

This work is very much tied to the immigration issue, which Acuña, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, says, "puts panic in people [and makes them think] 'We're losing our country.'"

This might be why so many politicians have rallied against his groundbreaking work in Chicano Studies - an academic program he helped develop in the late 1960s at California State University, Northridge. While this initiative remains the longest running and largest such program, many others have since been established at universities across the country, and even some middle and high schools. 

Not everyone is so keen on seeing Chicano studies expand. Among the program's most vocal critics is Arizona's attorney general, Tom Horne, who has called it a sort of "ethnic chauvinism." He has also claimed that the program is "an officially recognized, resentment-based program," even though the National Education Association has shown that such curriculum instead increases interracial understanding and significantly enhances students' interest in academic pursuits. 

07/14/2011 - 4:01pm

On June 21, 2011, just before heading on to the Delegate Assembly in Detroit, 1st V.P. Ann Hoffman and I met at the Executive Office Building in Washington, next door to the White House, with President Obama's lead advisor on intellectual property enforcement and policy issues.

This meeting was a follow-up to comments on writers' difficulties enforcing our rights that we submitted in 2010, shortly after the creation of the office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator: http://www.nwubook.org/NWU-ip-enforcement.pdf

The office of the IPEC doesn't carry out enforcement actions itself, but exists to coordinate the Administration's executive actions -- including copyright and other IP-related law enforcement -- and legislative recommendations such as those on future copyright "reforms": http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/intellectualproperty/

We received no response to our initial written submission, and writers' interests (especially vis-a-vis publishers and distributors) were not reflected in IPEC reports and strategic recommendations.

Accordingly, we requested a face-to-face meeting with the IPEC office. Somewhat to our surprise, we found the door wide open. (Not literally, of course -- admission to the building required not only an appointment and "screening" at the entrance to the White House compound but detailed submissions of personal information, in advance, to the Secret Service.)

We met for the better part of an hour with the head of the office, the "IP Enforcement Czar" herself, Ms. Victoria Espinel, along with four of her staff advisors she had invited to provide expertise on specific aspects of IP enforcement ranging from copyrights to international law. All had read our comments in preparation for the meeting, although they still seemed to be surprised when we began our presentation by identifying publishers and distributors as the most significant infringers of writers' copyrights.

06/03/2011 - 5:49pm

New York City June 1 - At a brief status conference this afternoon, Google, the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers asked
Judge Denny Chin for additional time to explore settlement possibilities. Judge Chin scheduled the next status conference for July 19.

There's more on the google Books hearing from Publishers Weekly:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/47490-no-progress-on-google-book-settlement-talks-tone-changing-.html

05/26/2011 - 11:08am

The Executive Committee of the Union of Cyprus Journalists is greatly concerned and expresses its abhorrence over incidents of violence against Turkish Cypriot journalists by the so-called “police” in the occupied part of Cyprus.

Following a second bomb attack against the car and the life of a Turkish Cypriot colleague and the shooting attack against the offices of a newspaper, an assault against journalists by “policemen” of the occupation regime comes to clearly confirm that freedom of the press is under undisguised persecution in the occupied part of Cyprus.

The latest incidents of violence against journalists came about when Turkish Cypriots colleagues, covering a protest march by employees of the so-called “Turkish Cypriot Airlines” made redundant by its closure, were beaten and had their cameras damaged by “policemen” trying to prevent them from carrying out their work.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists strongly deplores raw violence and stresses that it will report on the above mentioned actions against freedom of the press to all European and world journalists organizations.



The Executive Committee
of the Union of Cyprus Journalists

05/16/2011 - 5:19pm

When:  Sunday, May 29, 2011

What:  The first  "Net Needs News Day." 

Who:  Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Has invited members to simultaneously publish a cartoon about how the web is mostly useless without original reporting generated by newspapers.  (Note: Cartoonists are participating on their own.)  Society of Professional Journalists President  Hagit Limor will blog on this topic at www.spj.org.

Why:  Increase public's awareness and appreciation of journalism and its vital role to information on the worldwide web (95% of all original content online.)   

2nd reason: SPJ recently favorited a motion graphics video on the same topic for its new channel for journalists. ("The Fat Lady Has Not Sung: Why the Internet Needs the News" is also airing at Stanford University graduate classes) : http://www.youtube.com/user/spjournalists#p/a/f/0/PRdUTWn-Zvo     

Where:  As many newspapers as possible.

Contact:  Sharon Geltner, Froogle PR, geltner@netneedsnews.net.  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/pages/The-Fat-Lady-Has-Not-Sung/168436819844750

05/06/2011 - 12:09pm

Situation of NWU member highlights benefit of Union Plus disaster help program

The case of At-large co-chair James Sandefur, whose family suffered losses in the recent tornadoes, highlights the benefits available to NWU members through Union Plus, a wide-ranging program for members of the UAW and AFL-CIO.

One program offers a $500 grant to any member suffering a documented financial loss as the result of a FEMA-certified natural disaster or emergency.  That program is available only to members who have participated for 12 months or more in the Union Plus credit card, mortgage or insurance program.

For more information on the disaster relief program, go to http://www.unionplus.org/money-credit/natural-disaster-relief-fund.

Remember too that Union Plus has a free prescription drug discount card for NWU members and their family members.  Go to unionplus.org and log in as a member of the UAW, then go to health benefits and download your cards.

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