New York Chapter Report to the 2021 Delegate Assembly

Current Number of Members: 358

Local Labor Movement Observations

  • Although one can see that people are exhausted due to the pandemic, economic uncertainties and constant feelings of insecurity about their futures, whoever spoke during our recent membership meetings gave very concrete examples for action.
  • The George Floyd protests electrified working class people to act for their rights. This is also apparent with Strikectober.
  • The NWU is a unique union among all other strictly centrist unions. We are already in a lot of areas: legislative and collective actions and professional services to list only a few. The union takes an internationalist action too. While we are actively monitoring situations such as forced immigration, the union also takes courageous stances, such as the treatment of Palestinian journalists under the apartheid. We are helping to foster a new generations of union members who are coming out with a stronger voice against capitalism, racism and police brutality.

 Recent Organizing Success

  • Brooklyn Book Festival was our first in-person activity after so many months of the pandemic, and it was electrifying. Many attendees expressed interest in NWU after they heard that we are a labor union for unprotected freelance writers. More than 80 people signed up to stay in touch and to learn about our public events. They were impressed by how the union is taking care of group non-payment grievances, fighting for the PRO ACT, providing free contract reviews, and standing for writers and journalists around the world.
  • A group of 12-15 members (mostly current and former NWU members) have been meeting weekly online to share their works since March 2020. Though a few new/renewed members have came from these gatherings, it offered a way for writers to find a caring community in the depths of the COVID pandemic. The comradery led some members to work together to perform in-person at the NY Poetry Festival. The ongoing interest in sustaining this group was a good reminder that our work is not always a number game. Projects like this and the individual advisement by GCD demonstrate how we understand writers need personal support too.

Recommended Actions

Regularly contacting lapsed members and maintaining a contact list of interested writers

  • The NY Chapter maintains in CiviCRM a NY Contact List of over 2,500 email addresses which includes all lapsed members and those writers who expressed interest in the NWU at our public events. Though messages sent to this list have an expected lower open rate (12-14% versus 30-35%), it has led to lapsed members contacting us about issues they had with renewing their memberships online. For instance, our current website seems to prevent lapsed members from updating their records without calling Jeanise.

 Using email less, meeting more often.

  • A few other national activist organizations use other communication tools other than email and Facebook. The chapter will soon test two such platforms: and Slack to see how they can help us recruit and retain volunteers.
  • We need to enter into a working style that doesn’t only rely on emailing but calling people one by one. Or if we have opportunity to meet with them one by one, we should do this. This method of communication will empower our union and make a strong body of union militants. Different hardships and tight schedules may make organizing such gatherings daunting, but the few members who attended one of our recent general membership meetings expressed a desire to meet more frequently.
  • Our union has to have goals of democratization meaning we need to build up union hubs since we are not a workplace-based movement. If clusters of writers and journalists can meet in their neighborhood, in their streets, it would build up our union from up to bottom then bottom up. These local hubs will allow more autonomy for members to take creative actions in their very own hoods. Forming such hubs will help us to elect our town, city and state committees and will create a more dynamic union of cultural workers.
  • At our last general membership meeting, the ongoing request was to offer more workshops about marketing, copyright, and similar practical topics. Other recommendations were to form a writers’ workshop and mentorship program. We’re currently seeking members to lead these efforts, and not only in NYC but in NJ and southern CT.

Explore a new structure for steering committee

  • Though too early to recommend a formal bylaw change, we may want to explore having shorter terms for our steering committee members like FSP does for its organizing committee. Our members have answered calls for short-term needs and a few served key leadership positions when they knew the commitment would end within a couple of months. Part of the reason is a notable number of our members are writers who retired from other jobs and now want to focus on their writing. Shorter terms may encourage such members to serve without feeling as though doing so would pull them away from their newly discovered book or blog. Right now, our steering committee is composed of two people, the co-chairs.

Increase members’ profiles on

  • Many members aren’t aware they can submit kudos or articles for our national newsletter – and how those appear on and social media. We try to encourage submissions anytime a NY member mentions that they have a new book, etc. Wonder if there is a better way because our members have such broad range of accomplishments.
  • Consider giving members a dedicated page where they can post their biography and links to their blogs, personal websites, etc. instead of the “Find a Union Writer” list. There are a number of members whose only online presence is a listing on Amazon. This may be an appreciated benefit but will require maintenance.

One member’s request – health insurance

  • One volunteer at our Brooklyn Book Festival booth made this observation:
    “A number of writers who approached our table on Sunday asked me about being able to buy reasonably-priced group health insurance through the union. We don’t have such a program. I did direct two of them to the Freelancers Union, which does have a group health insurance program. If we could connect with the Freelancers Union in such a way as to offer new NWU members the opportunity to buy into a group health insurance plan in addition to their having access to the services we already provide, we could make membership in our union more attractive. I had conducted research on people who work in solo businesses, which is what many writers do. Health insurance is a big deal to people working solo or as contract workers.”