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

08/29/2011 - 1:18pm

In mid-August, hundreds of UAW women (and a handful of union brothers) gathered at the beautiful The Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in northern Michigan for the annual Women’s Conference. At the opening night right after we arrived, UAW President Bob King was the keynote speaker. He spoke with passion about the work ahead, to defend working people’s democratic right to organize and demand a fair share of the wealth that they create. He also warned about the specter of progressives sitting out the next election because they are so frustrated and disappointed with President Obama and the nightmare of what could come in his place now that the Tea Party is so strong and the Supreme Court has opened the door to right wing money pouring into campaigns.

 We also heard the next morning from UAW Vice President and Woman’s Program Director Cindy Estrada, who asked the attendees to stay engaged and get active in the 2012 campaign. Those of us who tuned into public radio on our scratchy hotel alarm clock radios heard Estrada the next morning at a press conference denouncing the Michigan Governor who is demanding $206 million from public union members there. 

08/19/2011 - 3:53pm

On August 15, the Second Circuit Court vacated the $18 million settlement of the "Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation" (formerly known as "Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick", and the class-action follow-up to "Tasini v. New York Times"). The Appeals Court decision sends the writers' class-action lawsuit against periodical publishers back to the lower Federal District Court for renegotiation or more litigation.

The appeals court ruling in this electronic-rights class-action lawsuit is based on the conflict between writers who did register their copyrights (the minority of writers) and those who did not (the majority). This decision is yet another chapter in freelance writers' 10-year struggle for payment for use of their work in periodicals' digital archives. Stay tuned.

08/12/2011 - 4:04pm

The war on collective bargaining goes on, this time at Verizon

Despite making $19.5 billion in profits and paying out $258 million to its top 5 executives in the last four years, Verizon wants to take back more than 50 years of collective bargaining and destroy middle class jobs.

Verizon has refused to move from a long list of nearly 100 concession demands. CWA and IBEW have taken the unprecedented step of striking until Verizon stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.

Verizon’s demands include: freeze pensions for current workers and eliminate them for future workers, allow contracting out and offshoring of more jobs, slash sick leave, completely gut health care plans for current and retired workers, and eliminate disability payments for injured workers.

Read more on the CWA's website

How Can I Help?

Walk a picket line

Sign the CWA's petition

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NWU at the picket line standing up against corporate greed


06/28/2011 - 2:35pm


The 30th Anniversary celebration for the NWU began with our successfully concluded 2011 Delegate Assembly (DA), held in Detroit, MI, June 24-26. More than 50 delegates, officers and guests from 17 cities, including Mumbai, India, participated in many discussions concerning the boycott of the Huffington Post and the future of online journalism, e-books, the Google Book Settlement, and much more. We took up the issue of anti-immigrant attacks in Arizona and the attempts to wipe out the Ethnic Studies program in the Tucson public schools, and the attempt to ban Occupied America, a textbook written by NWU member Rodolfo Acuna from Los Angeles. He met with the Civil Rights committee and was the featured speaker at our Saturday dinner reception.
 The DA elected the following leadership for divisions and standing committees:

  • Journalism Division: Yael Grauer, Twin Cities; Jeanne Cosmos, Boston
  • Book Division: Edward Hasbrouck, Bay Area; Susan E Davis, New York
  • Business and Technical Division: Ken Heard, Philadelphia; Tom Ladd, Bay Area
  • CAP Committee (Political Action): Dan McCrory, Los Angeles; Laura Dely, Washington DC
  • Civil and Human Rights Committee: Alecia Goodlow-Young, Detroit; Gino Pepi, Bay Area
  • Women’s Committee: S. Renee Greene, At-Large (Mesa, AZ); Roseann Silletti, New York

The DA passed 8 resolutions, and three more are pending.

  • We amended the by-laws to have the National Executive Committee adopt financial policies and procedures for the Union rather than the Financial Secretary-Treasurer with the approval of the President.
  • We amended the by-laws to include procedures to enable delegates to submit late resolutions to the Delegate Assembly.
  • We created a program of research, education and NWU policy concerning e-book contracts and royalties.
  • We reaffiliated with US Labor Against the War (USLAW).
  • We passed a resolution supporting ILWU Local 10, threatened for the one-day strike in support of Wisconsin public workers.
  • We passed a resolution supporting the Wisconsin public employees in their struggle against Governor Walker;
  • We supported the ethnic studies program in the Tucson School District;
  • We are preparing for a boycott of Natural Solutions magazine unless NWU members are paid the $11,000 for the work they have done.


  • Having NWU 30th anniversary celebrations across the country this November;
  • A resolution condemning FBI raids against union activists for international solidarity work;
  • Support of an AAUP resolution on the politicization of science.

 This week we will have a link to a web page with reports and resolutions. Also, the July NWUsletter will include reports, delegate impressions and other DA highlights.

06/27/2011 - 6:13pm

Greetings to all you delegates gathered in Detroit from your friends in ASJA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors.   We commend you for your continued willingness to stand with us against The Google Book Search settlement.  Like us, you see that it is folly to allow any erosion in writers' most most precious, most basic right:  to be able to control our own works. 

The goal of a world-wide, digital library, established with the consent of individual authors and governed by  representatives from many categories of writers, librarians and the reading public, is a worthy project.   We hope that this year, we will see changes in attitude and practice that will make having such a library possible. 

But if we have to keep fighting, if the parties in the Google law suit continue in their ill-judged attempt to coopt our books and millions of "orphan" books, we know the NWU will be right there with us in the trenches.

Yours in solidarity,
Salley Shannon
ASJA President, with the endorsement and good wishes of the ASJA board  

Greetings! I want to take this opportunity to thank Larry Goldbetter and the NWU for opposing the Google Books Settlement, which was recently rejected by the court. The NWU collaborated with the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in filing a joint brief asking the judge to reject the settlement; Judge Chin stated that the opposition of writers to the settlement was an important factor in his decision. I hope that our groups can work together on other projects in the future to defend and advocate for writers’ rights.

Michael Capobianco
Past President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Greetings From Lekhak Parishad

Greetings From PNWSC

Greetings From Nino Ricci

Greetings From Anuj Bhargava

Thank you NWU for inviting us to present a message to your delegates. NWU and The Newspaper Guild are working together to develop a system that affords fair pay for all writers, photographers and others in our community, regardless of their employment relationship. We see the NWU as an ally in a joint fight for fairness.
We embarked on the HuffPo campaign because we believe freelance media workers need someone to fight for them to continue producing the work that is so critical to a democracy. You, the writers, deserve it. And the public deserves it. That is why we urge all Huffington Post contributors to honor the writers’ boycott. So that message is heard.
It is only by working together in solidarity that we will be able to end such exploitive business practices. We need to let the public and publishers know that they cannot build a sustainable business model on the backs of unpaid labor.
Arianna has said we don’t understand the new model of journalism. We disagree. We understand that without fair compensation to those who practice it, journalism will be relegated to an existence of digital cut-and-paste at the price of an informed citizenry.

Our goal is to build a support system for those who remain committed to journalism without the assurance of a steady paycheck. We are calling on Arianna to demonstrate her commitment to journalism by sitting down at the table with us. We want to create a model of journalism that benefits all participants, not just those sitting at the top.
Thank you. Wishing you a good meeting.

Bernie Lunzer, Newspaper Guild-CWA President

(PDF Version Here)


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.

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