Consumers Digest: Pay Your Writers What You Owe Them

The National Writers Union/UAW 1981 is representing 17 freelance contributors to Consumers Digest Magazine who are owed more than $63,000 for stories that were contracted, completed and published. Some writers have waited more than a year to be paid by a publication that presents itself as a champion of consumers and ethical business practices. On May 29, NWU and Consumers Digest signed a payment agreement for the full amount which, like the freelancers’ individual contracts, has not been honored.

“It’s a bit ironic that a publication supposedly dedicated to consumer advocacy is treating its writers so poorly,” said writer Arthur Levine, who specializes in theme parks and travel.  “We wrote articles informing readers how to make informed consumer choices, how to get the most for their money, and how to hold businesses accountable. Yet the very business that hired us has not honored its own contracts.”

Writers began organizing with NWU this past March, after months of having their individual calls and emails ignored, or being told that their overdue payments were on the way, and after two writers won default judgments in court. “Freelance writers deserve to be paid on time for complex work that we pour our hearts into creating,” said Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto, a freelance writer, editor and author who was one of the lead organizers.  “Our rent and other bills haven’t been put on hold while we wait to be paid,” added freelancer Sara Bongiorni.

NWU President Larry Goldbetter said, “It’s easy for deadbeat publishers to ignore individual freelancers. Often each one thinks they are the only one. But when 17 writers who are owed $63,000 unite and act as a union, it changes the equation. You can’t ignore that!”

NWU has settled a series of successful group non-payment grievances. Since January 1, we have collected more than $113,000 for more than 50 freelancers, including an agreement with Ebony Media Organization for more than $80,000 owed to 48 freelancers.  

The National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) is a national labor union and advocacy organization for freelance and contract writers in all genres, media, and formats. The NWU works to defend the rights and improve the economic and working conditions of all writers. The NWU’s members include journalists, book authors, business and technical writers, Web site and email newsletter content providers, bloggers, academic writers, editors, poets, playwrights, and other writers.