April 2017 President’s Letter

Press Freedom

Our most recent Press Freedom Panel on March 10 was a positive step in a number of ways. Trudy Lieberman, (Columbia Journalism Review) spoke from her rich personal experience, about the 30 year Republican effort to attack health care benefits and their attempts to intimidate reporters and editors in order to shape their message. Liza Featherstone (The Nation) , remarked that even in the current atmosphere brought on by the Trump campaign, the greatest threat to journalists might be their ability to earn a living. And Bill Fletcher (Black Commentator and The Nation) added the perspective of a union/writer/activist, pointed to past mass media distorts ranging from the Vietnam War to Malcolm X to say there never really was a ”Golden Age” of U.S. journalism.

While about 45 people attended the event at our New York offices, 650 were there virtually, watching it on our Facebook page. By the following day, more than 1,200 had viewed all or part of it. (In Case You Missed It: Sign into Facebook, go to our page, check it out and, while you’re there, “like” our page.)

Among those in attendance were a group of young freelancers who had attended our NWU meet-up last month. Together, we’re drafting a resolution on press freedom for the upcoming NEB meeting. We’ll launch a national campaign to promote that resolution, and to get it passed by all of the various Central Labor Councils, AFL-CIO State Federations, and UAW Community Action Programs with which we’re affiliated.

We’re hoping to have a panel in May with undocumented and/or immigrant writers that includes both a Hispanic and a Muslim writer, that we’ll also live stream.

Special thanks to the Writers Guild of America East, the Freelancers Union, and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) who helped advertise the event, which was shared with the 80 signers of the SPJ-sponsored letter on press freedom.

Authors Coalition Surveys

I want to thank everyone who submitted an Authors Coalition survey, as well as all those who made calls to members to urge them to do so. The income we get from Authors Coalition is based on the number of surveys we submit, and is extremely important as it goes to educate and advocate on behalf not only of our members, but all writers.

We gave this a lot more focus this year, and it shows in the results. NEC members made calls, as did the NY, Boston, NoCal, SoCal, SEM and Tucson chapters. Then we guaranteed another round from the national office (see Zigi’s piece). An unexpected benefit from all of this is that our members were glad to hear from us, even if it took two or three calls to get them to submit a survey. The moral of the story is we need to stay in better touch.

The Nation

1st VP Dave Hill and I met on March 15 with Erin O’Mara of The Nation to discuss a freelancer’s contract. All in all, it was a very positive session, and the ball is now in our court to submit some specifics. On the whole, The Nation’s standard freelancer contract is pretty good, and includes payment within 30 days, kill fees, indemnification, and language regarding payment for research and rewrites.

They appear to be very open to signing a contract with us. As soon as we get this resolved, we’ll start approaching other progressive publications and hope to spread this contract to other job sites. While it won’t be your standard collective bargaining agreement that requires everyone to join the union, it will certainly make it possible for many more writers to do so.