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

08/20/2014 - 10:03pm

 

We grieve the loss of James Foley and send our condolences to his friends, colleagues and family. At 40 years old, James Foley was still in the early stages of what would surely be a long and successful career as a journalist, yet already he had accomplished far more than most journalists do in a lifetime. His work had taken him into the heart of conflicts around the world. He was no stranger to hostile and dangerous environments.

In fact, his capture in 2012 wasn't even his first. He had already spent 44 days in a Libyan jail in 2011 while covering the civil war there. During his capture he witnessed another journalist, South African Anton Hammerl, killed in the firefight. Despite the risks, Foley still traveled to Syria in 2012 to cover the conflict there. His commitment to bearing witness and reporting what he saw to the world was admirable.

Every journalist should look to his example and the example of others who risk their very lives to bring the world the truth. It is worth noting that James Foley was, like many of the journalists currently covering the conflict in Syria, a freelance journalist. He was not a staffer with the backup of a large well-funded media company. And other freelancers covering Syria have faced similar dangers since most of the media pulled their staffers out in 2012. Austin Tice went missing in August of 2012 after sneaking into Syria with the intention of finding work as a freelance reporter to cover the conflict. He tweeted from Syria "If someone wanted to hire me that'd be great. Student loans don't pay themselves."

At least 20 journalists have gone missing in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. At least 39 journalists are missing worldwide. This is a moment for us to celebrate the life and work of James Foley, but also a moment to reflect on the risks that brave and admirable men and women just like him take around the world for very little money and often very little recognition. Without their bravery in the face of war, despotism and chaos, history would truly be written by the victors. May those who have not been found come home safely, and may those yet to go into the scene of the battle be protected, cared for, and celebrated.

 


 

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08/11/2014 - 10:03am

Plans are proceeding for a massive People’s Climate March at the UN on Sunday, September 21. NWU is one of dozens of unions that have endorsed the march, and organizers are planning a Labor Weekend here to help turn out 20,000 union members. Our point person is NY member Abby Scher, and we are asking our members to get on PCM busses and join us from Boston to Washington, DC. For more info, contact Abby at abbyscher@mindspring.com

 

(Photo: NWU members and the UAW contingent at the PCM Labor Press Conference held in Times Square on July 30.)

 


 

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08/11/2014 - 9:44am


On July 22, NWU joined the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) in signing onto an amicus brief on behalf of the families of Superman’s co-creators, Siegel and Shuster, and the children of artist Jack Kirby, who are petitioning to have their appeals of two Circuit Court decisions heard by the US Supreme Court. 

In the first case, Siegel and Shuster signed away all rights to Superman for $130 in 1938. In 1997 and 2002, respectively, their heirs attempted to exercise their right to recover the original copyrights by serving statutory notices of terminations on DC Comics and its parent, Warner Bros.

In DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp., the Ninth Circuit stripped the Shuster estate of its termination rights, making it much easier for large media companies to eliminate, settle or completely circumvent termination rights. This ignores the Supreme Court’s opinion in NY Times v Tasini, (2001) that the termination right is “inalienable.” This decision essentially guts the termination right and hurts authors and artists everywhere. 

In the other case, the children of Jack Kirby sent notices of termination to Marvel to regain ownership of Kirby's share of the copyrights, in accordance with their rights under the Copyright Act. Marvel claimed that Kirby was an independent contractor and that his work fell under the "work for hire" exception. 

The case went before the 2nd Circuit, which has a 40-year record of erroneously determining the work of independent contractors to be "for hire," disenfranchising hardworking authors and their families of valuable property that is rightfully theirs.

According to attorney Hilary Hodson, “On May 14, 2014, the Supreme Court asked Marvel to file a response to our cert petition, meaning they are considering granting cert. If cert is granted, our chances of prevailing are high. A win would have broad implications -- all pre-1978 works by an independent contractor, or non-traditional employee, would no longer be ‘work for hire.’"

 


 

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08/03/2014 - 9:45pm

President
NWU/UAW Local 1981
256 W. 38th St. Suite 703 New York, NY 10018
3 August 2014
 
Dear Larry,
 
I write on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists to thank you and your union for standing up with the global community of journalists in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in Gaza. This morning, I have just been notified by our Palestinian union, the PJS, of the latest grim toll of journalists killed yesterday which now brings the total of journalists killed in the last three weeks to 12 and over 35 injured. As you know, the IFJ deals almost on a daily basis with cases of journalists attacked all over the world just for doing their job. The tragedy of Gazan journalists is that they are not just caught in crossfire or indiscriminate shelling but they are also wilfully targeted.
 
According to the PJS, media offices have been regularly targeted by the Israeli army, in particular Al Aqsa TV and radio whose studios have been repeatedly hit. Also hit were Al Jawharah Tower which houses several media, the offices of Media 1 TV, and even Al Jazeera office in Al Shorooq Tower was shot at, hours after Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the broadcaster to be banned from Israel.
 
The IFJ has no doubt that, according to the Geneva Convention’s Article 79 Protocol Additional I, any targeting of journalist is a serious breach of international humanitarian law and Article 85 of the convention considers this to be a war crime. Materials and facilities used by journalists are civilian objects according to Article 52 and, consequently, the bombing of a TV or radio station, even if it is partly used for propaganda, is not reconcilable with international humanitarian law.
 
We take these breaches of international conventions very seriously and, whenever they happen, we make representations to the Israeli authorities reminding them of their responsibility under international laws. At a time when every attempt at a ceasefire has floundered, we are extremely concerned that the security situation of journalists in Gaza will worsen without a concerted and unified voice to denounce the violations of journalists’ rights in Gaza and mobilise world opinion for change on the ground.
 
We will therefore continue to call on all our affiliates worldwide, including the National Writers’ Union in the US, to provide humanitarian support to their Palestinian colleagues and, most importantly, solidarity from journalist to journalist.
I can assure you that journalists from all the over the world will continue to stand up with our colleagues and help them in their greatest hour of need.
 
Yours in solidarity,
 
 
Jim Boumelha IFJ President
International Federation of Journalists,
 
International Press Centre
Résidence Palace, Block C,
155 Rue de la Loi, B1040
Brussels
Tel: +32 2 235 2200 Fax: +32 2 235 2219
E-mail: ifj@ifj.org
 
 

 

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07/29/2014 - 9:53pm

Photo couresty Workers WorldFollowing the killing of a Palestinian journalist and his daughter, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued a renewed call for the safety and freedom of journalists in Gaza.  The IFJ announced in a press release: "According to IFJ affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), Baha Edeen Gharib, 55, who worked as Israeli affairs editor for Palestinian TV, and his 16-year-old daughter Ola, were killed by an Israeli rocket attack this morning in Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip region, while they were travelling home."

There’s an old saying, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” Nowhere is that more true than in the US corporate media’s coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza.   As of this writing, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed, almost all civilians. Mosques, schools, and medical centers have been destroyed. Thirty-two Israelis have been killed, almost all soldiers.

NWU has posted on our social media channels about the murder of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli troops,  and how NBC pulled a reporter from Gaza after he reported that four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing soccer on the beach. A social media campaign convinced NBC to return Mohyeldin to Gaza.

But more significant than how the war is being covered is the war itself and the US complicity in it. Israel has carried out a brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. The occupation is underwritten by $3.1 billion annually in US aid, 25% of Israel’s military budget. And according to If Americans Knew, the US will provide an additional $3 billion per year, every year thru 2018!

Israel’s cries of “self-defense,” amplified uncritically by the US mainstream media, ring hollow; like the “self defense” of the US against Native Americans, or the “self-defense” of the Apartheid regime against the black South African population. 

On July 23, the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate alleged war crimes in Gaza. The US was the only “No” vote.

I urge every member and chapter to join local actions and coalitions to end this brutal occupation now!

NWU President Larry Goldbetter

Photo: Chicago Gaza solidarity march. Image courtesy: Workers World


 

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07/23/2014 - 12:25pm

The Niger Delta. This image is licensed under Creative Commons.

By: Abby Scher, NYC

The NWU and 37 other labor organizations have endorsed the People’s Climate March (PCM) scheduled for Sunday September 21, in NYC (http://peoplesclimate.org/march/). United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called world leaders to New York that week to discuss climate change before a new round of negotiations in 2015. A mass PCM can help create pressure for a progressive global agreement.

Billion dollar oil, natural gas and coal companies, focused only on their bottom line, are using ever more destructive techniques to extract resources from deep beneath the sea and earth. Harmful emissions are growing creating a more endangered planet. Climate change demands that we create an economy that works for all people and the planet, based on green jobs and sustainable resources. Unions need to help create that strategy.

Working people and the poor are worse hit by climate change – not only in Bangladesh and other impoverished countries but in the U.S. as well, as those living on the edges of NYC discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

We hope to have 20,000 union members on the PCM, with an international labor gathering the evening before. For more info contact me at abbyscher@mindspring.com.

 

 


 

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07/22/2014 - 4:32pm
As Detroit's Water Department continued to cut off water to many poor residents delinquent on their water bills, about 3,000 delegates gathered in the Motor City for the annual Netroots Nation conference. The conference was originally launched by writers and readers of the political blog Daily Kos. It has since grown into or one of the largest civil society conferences in the US. Prominent conference speakers included Vice President Joe Biden, Reverend William Barber, leader behind North Carolina's Moral Mondays movement, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
 
The highlight of the conference came when out-of-towners from Netroots joined Detroit locals for a rally downtown Detroit on July 18th to urge the city to turn on the taps to thirsty families and recognize water as a human right. The city's Water Department has said it has given people enough time to pay their bills and that it must balance its books. Critics counter the city has not cut off water to some corporate debtors with the largest delinquent water bills totaling $30 million, and that the city's poor delinquent residents — many of them jobless or living paycheck-to-paycheck — have not gotten the same accommodations or extra time to pay up.
 
The NWU was there, alongside social justice advocates, labor and grassroots organizers, technologists from across the country. We chatted with bloggers, authors and other conference-goers about the NWU's work to advocate for writers' rights and foster a social and professional community for freelance, business and technical, and self-published bloggers, writers and book authors. NWU members from the Southeast Michigan Chapter backed up the effort at the NWU table, signing up new members and sharing information about issues we care about. Also in attendance was a well-known commentator and podcast host, NWU member Monica RW, owner of Independent Underground News & Talk (IU News & Talk), a top political podcast in Michigan. Listen to her radio roundup of the conference on Soundcloud and catch the podcast every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m ET. Follow IU News & Talk on Twitter here.
 
Many people we spoke with were surprised to learn that NWU's only requirement for membership is that writers have published three works in their entire lives or have a work they would like to publish someday. We also talked with them about a major issue in the future of online publishing and digital information mining: the open question of what will happen to so-called “orphan works” when original authors can't be identified for one reason or another (possibly by the very party interested in profiting from the work).

Southeast Michigan Chapter Chair Alecia Goodlow-Young was a driving force behind NWU's success at Netroots Nation. She organized local NWU members to sit at the table. She actively promoted the value of writers both at the conference and off-site, sharing information about NWU with the valet at the hotel (who knew a writer) and tourists at the Motown Museum. She also befriended NWU's conference table neighbors: cutting-edge technologists whose start-up Action Network ended up sweeping top prizes for best overall technology and best start-up technology in a vote by attendees. The interface enables organizing, mass mailing, and fundraising and is free to individuals and groups.
 
Resoundingly, writers who visited the NWU at Netroots want better conditions for freelance writers and bloggers. They realize bloggers and writers are creating economic value. Writers should be paid. NWU will continue to work to grow our membership with the goal of building a world where writers and other creators are compensated for their creative work, which contributes so much to a flourishing and vibrant culture.

 

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07/18/2014 - 2:51pm

 

Tiziana Rinaldi, a New York based member of the National Writers Union, shared a video presentation of Finding Success In A New World, the panel that she moderated at this year's Writing Across Borders. The featured panelists are Dr. Fiona Citkin, a diversiculturalist and author, and acclaimed Mexican-American writer Sergio Troncoso. The writing conference was held in New York on May 18th, 2014, by the the local chapter of the National Writers Union. 

Tiziana Rinaldi lives in New York where she writes and produces Life In A New World, a cable show for America's foreign-born audiences, from which this video is from. Her work is published at www.lifeinanewworld.com


 

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07/14/2014 - 12:32pm

 

We are pleased to report that the time for appealing the Court’s final approval of the class settlement has expired and no appeal of that order was filed with the court. Therefore pursuant to Section 1(q) of the Revised Settlement Agreement, the Effective Date of the settlement has occurred. We are hopeful that payments for works covered by the settlement agreement will happen by early 2015.

If you have any questions or need advice see our FAQ, or write NWU@nwu.org. Congratulations to all those who will at long last receive some compensation for their work.

 


 

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07/10/2014 - 5:40pm

The United Auto Workers today announced the formation of a Local 42 union to provide representation for auto workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga. No workers will be required to join.

The announcement comes just months after the UAW lost a bid to unionize the plant in February shadowed by widespread claims of outside interference in the vote. UAW president Dennis Williams emphasized the union was inspired by the many workers who did vote in favor of organizing.

“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” said Williams. “At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’re keeping our promise.”

 


 

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Union News

04/30/2010 - 11:54pm

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

  

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

04/03/2010 - 9:33pm

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

03/23/2010 - 12:17am

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

02/11/2010 - 1:05am

 Dan McCrory, Recording Secretary, explains this important legislation

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

02/11/2010 - 12:27am

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

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

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

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

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

02/06/2010 - 12:18am

 

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

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

01/29/2010 - 4:27pm

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

01/27/2010 - 12:59pm

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

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

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

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