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

03/27/2013 - 11:52am

Authors' Rights - Newsletter of the International Federation of Journalists - March 25, 2013
In this edition:
Germany unions demand fair pay over copyright bill
German union reaches agreement on photo fees
French affiliates criticize deal between newspaper publishers and Google
EU copyright reform to guarantee fair pay for authors
and more here!

03/18/2013 - 11:44pm

'Lean In' All You Want -- But If You Want a Better Job, Unionize!  (What the CEOS of Facebook and Yahoo! Won't Tell You)

(By Brigid O'Farrell)

"March 13, 2013  | OK, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg didn’t say “join a union.” But that’s the message the vast majority of working women should be considering this Women’s History Month. The best way for the most women to improve their working lives is through a union.   

"The new PBS documentary Makers: Women Who Make America shows how the women's movement changed the workplace for women, men and families. Two of the young Makers highlighted in the film, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, now dominate the news. Here's what neither of them tell you: union women earn more than non-union women and have better benefits and working conditions.

"Women at Facebook and Yahoo should consider spending their time organizing to have a say in their workplace."

Read the rest of this AlterNet.org article here.

03/08/2013 - 6:36pm

In Celebration of International Women's Day, March 8th (by Brigid O'Farrell)

Eleanor Roosevelt and Walter Reuther, 20th Anniversary UAW Freedom Awards, 1957

In 1957, UAW President Walter Reuther introduced Eleanor Roosevelt to delegates at the union’s convention as the “First Lady of the World.”International Women’s Day is a fitting occasion to celebrate the proud international history of Reuther, Roosevelt, and the UAW; then recommit ourselves to working women’s international solidarity.

Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most admired and controversial women of the twentieth century. She was also a life long advocate for working women and their unions. Practicing what she preached, as a newspaper columnist she was a member of The Newspaper Guild, AFL-CIO, for over twenty-five years. Reuther told the delegates she “carries a union card in her purse”.She spoke that day about foreign affairs and the important role of unions in educating the public. She often challenged union members to take a “world view,” giving people everywhere “hope for better economic conditions”.

Walter Reuther and Eleanor Roosevelt were close friends and allies. Together they argued for a program of full employment at home and economic aid rather than military aid abroad. They exchanged strategies and travel plans to other countries including India, Russia, and Sweden. With a shared vision of unions as critical participants in the fight for social justice they championed not only auto workers, but all workers including immigrants, migrants, and domestic laborers around the world.

For the rest of this article, click here.



03/06/2013 - 3:36pm

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013

Here is an exchange between the Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine and myself this afternoon attempting to solicit my professional services for an article they sought to publish after reading my story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after 25 years of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea”   here http://www.nknews.org/2013/03/slam-dunk-diplomacy/ at NKNews.org

For the rest of this story, click here.

02/25/2013 - 10:25pm

"Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the Book Division in National Writer’s Union, said many authors support the creation of a digital copy of their writings. But the fact that they cannot give their permission is unlawful.

“If you have read many of the legal cases, Google Books and HathiTrust have tried to create an entirely false impression that authors oppose the scanning of the books and want to oppose digitization,” he said. “We very strongly endorse and support digital libraries.”

"Many authors don’t agree with Google and HathiTrust bypassing them when digitizing works, which he feels denies authors and publishers their fair compensation.

“It’s profoundly disingenuous for Google to claim a benign public purpose in its efforts,” Hasbrouck said. “They are investing lots of money in this project because they can make lots of money in this purpose.”

Complete article here.

02/18/2013 - 6:25pm

BBC Journalists Strike Over Layoffs (story from BBC News 2/18/13)

Many BBC journalists have gone on strike for 24 hours in a dispute over compulsory redundancies. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it called the strike after failing to reach an agreement with management. The disagreement was over the redeployment of 30 staff members facing compulsory redundancy.

The flagship Today programme on BBC Radio 4 was dropped from the schedule, replaced by repeats and short news summaries on the hour. On television, BBC Breakfast was broadcast from London by a single presenter, instead of its regular Salford hosts. The usual programme was replaced with a 30-minute bulletin on the hour, followed by daytime programmes including Cash in the Attic and Escape to the Country. On Radio 5 live, the overnight Up All Night programme and Morning Reports were dropped, while Radio 4 news programmes The World At One, The World Tonight and PM were all affected.

The BBC press office is running a webpage with rolling updates of affected programmes and changes to the schedule. The corporation is cutting about 2,000 jobs over five years as part of its Delivering Quality First programme.

More here.

02/16/2013 - 7:56pm

NWU Files Amicus Against Google Scanning Project

Today the NWU joined other organizations of writers to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in support of allowing copyright infringement litigation against Google's scanning of entire libraries of books to proceed as a class action.

The brief opposes Google's appeal of the trial judge's ruling certifying the class of authors whose books were scanned without their permission. The judge also allowed the Authors Guild to represent its members in  the law suit.

"The ability to join together to pursue collective grievances, and to represent our members in class actions and group grievances, is central to the role of the NWU as a labor union," says NWU President Larry Goldbetter. "Writers should not have to go it alone or bring separate lawsuits when we confront a corporation as large as Google which has engaged in the same pattern of theft from millions of authors."

A proposed settlement of the lawsuit against Google was opposed by the NWU and many other writers, and was rejected by the trial judge as unfair and inadequate. Following that ruling, the lawsuit has continued toward a trial or resolution on the merits. "The NWU opposed a specific proposal that was made to settle this lawsuit," Goldbetter notes. "But we have always believed that Google's wholesale book scanning infringes our rights. As the filing of this friend-of-the-court brief makes clear, we continue to oppose Google's book-scanning without permission or payment, and to support this legal challenge to it."

Read the amicus brief here.

02/12/2013 - 4:34pm

NWU Delegation at UAW CAP conference

Six NWU members attended the national UAW CAP Conference in Washington, D.C. from February 3 through Feb 6 to lobby Congress for the union's agenda. They lobbied their own congressional delegations for the UAW's top 2013 priorities, which are: no benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; tax fairness; create a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, and keep Japan out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Photo: National Writers Union members at UAW CAP in Washington, DC, February 3-5.

Front row: Anthony Zeli (ME), First VP Ann Hoffman (DC), UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner and Gail Kinney (NH)

Back row: Recording Secretary Dan McCrory (CA), NWU president Larry Goldbetter and Boston Steering Committee member Barry Hock (MA)


02/12/2013 - 4:19pm

Conde Nast Contracts Cut Author's Share in Film Deals (by Christine Haughney, New York Times)

"Condé Nast, whose magazines are battling a punishing business environment, wants to capture more of the film and television profits, which previously went to writers who owned the rights to these works. The new contracts have angered writers and their agents who argue that it’s another cut at their already rapidly shrinking compensation..."

"...According to copies of the various contracts provided and described to The New York Times, those exclusive rights ranged from 30 days to one year. The contracts also show that if Condé Nast decides to option the article, writers receive $2,500 to $5,000 for a 12-month option. If an article is developed into a major feature film, writers receive no more than 1 percent or $150,000 toward the purchase price.

"Television programs and made-for-television movies are capped at even lower amounts, especially for less experienced writers. These arrangements are agreed to before an article has even been published."

Read more here.

02/04/2013 - 11:17am

In response to an inquiry by the U.S. Copyright Office, the NWU has filed comments opposing proposals to legalize copying and use of so-called "orphan works" without the permission of the writers or other creators of those works:

The NWU believes that the so-called "orphan works" problem has been greatly exaggerated. This "problem" has been to a significant degree manufactured as a polemical device, and to a greater degree appropriated and misused to serve commercial interests antithetical to those of writers and other creators. Regardless of the benign intentions of many scholars, academics, and librarians, the (false) perception they promote of an "orphan works crisis" primarily serves Google, other search engines and Web spiders and distributors of digital content, print publishers, and other commercial "partners" and profiteers in copyright-infringing mass digitization and digital distribution schemes. These for-profit companies are the real parties of interest in this inquiry, and these would be the principal potential beneficiaries of a statutory financial windfall from "orphan works" and/or mass digitization legislation – at the expense of the incomes of working writers and other creators....
In addition, the NWU believes that any "orphan works" legislation similar to the bills considered by Congress in 2008, or any legislation or regulation purporting to authorize mass digitization and distribution of digital copies without the permission of the holders of the rights to digital copying of the works being copied, would contravene the intent of the copyright clause of the U.S. Constitution and the letter of the Berne Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty....  Any "orphan works" scheme, even one that involves genuinely diligent, individualized manual searching for rightsholders, will inevitably conflict with ... normal modes of exploitation by writers of our copyrights, and will therefore violate the Berne Convention.

Following a second round of written "reply" comments (due March 6, 2013), the Copyright Office plans to hold hearings on this issue, in which the NWU expects to particpate, later in 2013.

Read the complete NWU submission to the Copyright Office (PDF)

More on "Orphan Works" and related issues from the NWU Book Division

"Kidnapped" (blog post by NWU member Ursula K. Le Guin, January 21, 2013)


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:

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

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:

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.