Why Workers (Yes, Writers) Should Write the Rules

by State Senator-Elect Lydia Edwards

As inequality afflicts our society and as the physical, digital and financial platforms for communication evolve, it’s more important now than ever that workers have an organized voice and representation in government. Literature, journalism and entertainment will continue to exist; what happens to the people behind their creation depends entirely on what we fight for.
Prior to public service, I represented nannies and housecleaners in court. Their labor rights were literally written out of the New Deal, and it took nearly a century–in Massachusetts, until 2014–to rewrite that wrong. But until we won new legal protections, we had little but words to compel the judiciary to treat these workers with dignity. To win legislative changes, we brought their stories to everyday people, to writers in the media and to lawmakers.
Laws are, at their core, aggregations of words, intentions and interpretations. Yet their ramifications are enormous for compensation, healthcare, protection against discrimination and the right to own and protect one’s ideas. If the words behind the law don’t value your labor, then your situation as a worker is precarious. If you have no voice, the rules are written without you.
Today, we know major industry changes are affecting workers, from the consolidation of media outlets and purchase of newspapers by the owners of Amazon and major sports teams, to digital publication and myriad issues affecting freelancers. Gig workers across sectors, from publishing to ride share, are under attack by powerful interests who are seeking to exploit workers–and workers need to band together to protect and advocate for themselves.
If the past years have taught us anything, we’ve learned just how much words matter. As a municipal official, I’ve been proud to stand up for journalists in collective bargaining fights and gig workers as they seek stable and sound working conditions. I’m pleased to be headed now to Beacon Hill and I’ll be proud to work with the NWU to advance writers’ rights.