New York (October 16, 2018) – Ebony Media Organization (EMO) and its parent Clear View Group (CVG) have failed to honor the terms of a February agreement with the National Writers Union (NWU/UAW) and 44 freelancer writers for about $80,000 for unpaid work that was contracted and published.
The union filed a case in Cook County Court against EMO and CVG in September, 2017. In February, 2018, EMO and CVG signed an agreement to make four quarterly payments, with the final installment due on or before December 31, 2018. According to the terms of the agreement, Ebony agreed to pay all of the freelancers 100 percent of their unpaid invoices in four quarterly payments, starting with the oldest invoices first. Almost half of the invoices go back to 2016. The payments are guaranteed by Ebony’s ownership group, CVG, who also signed the payment agreement.
The first and second quarter payments, covering 14 writers for $30,000, were made on time. The third quarter payment, covering another 14 writers for $30,000 was due on September 30, and has not been paid. Efforts to contact EMO and CVG by lawyers for the union have gone unanswered. To date, about one-third of the writers have been paid just over 35% of the total owed.
NWU President Larry Goldbetter says the union is prepared to file in court to have the agreement enforced if the September payment is not made this week. If it has to be court enforced, it will be more costly for EMO and CVG and will include court costs and attorney fees.
“This is just a huge disappointment,” said Goldbetter. “Some of the Ebony freelancers have been waiting nearly two years to receive the money they’re owed and others have experienced significant financial hardship as a result of the non-payment. For Ebony to stop paying and stop communicating at the same time, is not the sign of someone acting in good faith. However, we aren’t going away until every writer is paid what they are owed.”
For writers at the center of the case, the non-payment that originally took place is compounded by Ebony’s failed commitment to serve their core audience at a critical time.
“In this political climate where the media is constantly being attacked by a sitting president, and mainstream publications are moving towards stories that elicit sympathy for Trump supporters, Black freelancers have fewer outlets to publish articles that challenge the narrative of this current administration,” said Shanita Hubbard, a freelancer writer and plaintiff in the case. “This is bigger than EBONY’s failure to remain consistent with the agreement. This is about EBONY’s failure to remain consistent to their commitment to elevating Black voices at a time where it’s desperately needed.”
The union got involved in the suit after after #EbonyOwes became a trending topic on Twitter. In response to nonpayment, the Ebony freelancers have revived the hashtag and have added #EbonyStillOwes.