Welcome to the National Writers Union

The National Writers Union UAW Local 1981 is the only labor union that represents freelance writers.

Now, more than ever, with the consolidation of power into the hands of ever-larger corporate entities and with the advent of technologies that facilitate the exploitation of a writer’s work, writers need an organization with the clout and know-how to protect our interests. One that will forge new rules for a new era.

Combining the strength of more than 1,200 members in our 13 chapters with the support of the United Automobile Workers, the NWU works to advance the economic and working conditions of all writers.  Our members also directly benefit from the many valuable services the Union offers—including grievance assistance, contract advice, and much more—while actively contributing to a growing movement of professional freelancers who have banded together to assert their collective power.

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Special Announcements

12/05/2014 - 10:09am



In this interview with Carolita Johnson, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, she shares about her experiences as a writer and an illustrator; side gigs she takes to keep the lights on; and her other long-running career in the fashion industry.

NWU: How are rights different for visual artists than they are for writers?  
CAROLITA JOHNSON: They’re not really that different. Writers can often make a better living than most cartoonists. Most writers at the New York Times don't need a day job, for example. But most of the cartoonists at The New Yorker, from my generation, have to have another source of income. Some of the luckier ones among us write for TV; I’m not sure if that really qualifies as a day job or just a darn good gig. Others of us teach cartooning or illustration. One cartoonist told me about working at an STD clinic, and another made his living engraving tombstones. There are those who work in retail, and even a few who are doctors. 

Even as a cartoonist for The New Yorker, I've had to work nights for a few months at a call center, selling season tickets to the Washington Philharmonic, I think it was. I also earn some of my income trying on clothes for patternmakers—as a junior medium—in Manhattan’s Garment District, which is pretty good work, but I'm getting too old for it, and will soon have to find something else. Anyway, that's all to say that even the most successful cartoonists at the best publications can't ever rely on their income from cartooning. Unless they live with their parents or have a rich spouse.

NWU: What's different in creating a cartoon—which is a certain form of narrative—from writing an article? 
JOHNSON: The creation process is similar, unless it's an article based on heavy research. Ideas come to you, you write them down to work on them later. What’s different is that cartoons are rarely edited once they’ve been submitted and bought. Maybe someone will say, “add more people,” or “that jacket should be buttoned on the other side because it's a man,” but that's pretty much it. Writing with an editor can be a long, painstaking process, but I enjoy the editor-writer relationship. There's more interaction, which is kind of nice for someone like me who works alone in my room. My editor is my first audience, and I always appreciate her/him. I say "him/her," although I've only had women editors so far.

NWU: How did you get into creating cartoons?
JOHNSON: Apparently I've always drawn cartoons! I'd forgotten this until my first new cartoon was published in 2003, and my old school friends came out of the woodwork with cartoons I'd drawn in class for their amusement. I even had a strip, called Snurfuls, about a shaggy dog, which my dad reminded me about. But I'd forgotten all about that by the time I came back from over a decade abroad traveling, trying lots of things, and just basically getting what they call, "a life."

I spent most of that time in France, with six months in London at first, then six months in Madrid in the middle. I was modeling and had to travel for a month or two at a time to Milan or Tokyo. To renew my visa in France, I had to leave every three months and get my passport stamped, so I'd take a bus or train to Amsterdam or Madrid, where I had friends who'd let me crash for a weekend. 

I would do any job I could get. For a while I did mosaics for a mosaic studio in Clichy, but got fired when my papers didn't come through. Another time, I babysat an old lady on her caregiver's day off—using her bathtub to wash my clothes and hair as soon as she fell asleep. I lived in a garret with no heat or hot water at the time. I typed 80,000 words a day for a translator for a couple years, until I got ganglion cysts. For all those years I had a gig twice a year at Jean-Paul Gaultier as a showroom model, the shortest one there. That put me through school, since my part time work never could have, and I made the money last for months at a time, living very modestly in varying degrees of Spartan comfort. I always say JPG was my college scholarship.

The second five years in, I spent at a French university. (In desperation I lied about my residence status, and for some reason they didn't catch up to me until I was on the verge of a doctorate, which I really had no business pursuing anyway.) I was lucky that a few of my key teachers were impressed enough by my glamorous gig that they let me be absent for almost two weeks every semester. Although, I was also a very good student.

When I went back to New York, I was a studio manager for a photographer and later his wife, a big stylist at Italian Vogue. I worked as a hostess in restaurants in Paris and in New York, saving up for my first computer. Then I got a software-testing and network-installing job in Paris for two years. Here's a piece on all the jobs I had.

So, when I came back to the States after 11 years, I met a New Yorker cartoonist. He encouraged me to try cartooning as a profession—something I'd never thought to do. He was also the first person I'd ever met who made a living from cartooning. To me he was like a mythical beast. I really liked him, and just wanted to go out with him. I didn't even take the cartooning that seriously at that time, but I did think it would be good practice to submit 10 cartoons a week, raise my productivity, and learn to meet deadlines. I was surprised when I sold a cartoon in the fall of 2002.

NWU Did you go to school for it?
JOHNSON: No, my parents made me go to art school, but they wanted me to be a "commercial artist." I took fashion design at Parson’s in New York City in rebellion. Then I studied Modern Letters  (comparative literature) in France. The fashion degree came in handy for my day job over a decade later. I don't think there were cartooning courses in colleges back when I was in college, but there certainly are now. Tons of them, everywhere. I might even try to teach one myself.

NWU: Did you grow up reading The New Yorker?
JOHNSON: My parents are strictly right-wingers, not The New Yorker type, so I never heard of the magazine until I met the cartoonist who got me to do cartoons for them. We live together now and compare cartoons. We tell each other if we think the other's cartoon is funny or not, but we're not competitive. Sometimes, when only one of us sells a cartoon, the other will pay for lunch at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan. It's always great when we both sell. But more often than not, Michael (Crawford) sells and I don't, or neither of us do. That's when we both walk around the house griping for a while, and then we get back to work.

Once in a while, we switch cartoons for fun: I'll redraw one of his, and he'll redraw one of mine, just to see if it'll sell that way, but so far no luck. Or sometimes I'll give Michael an idea for a job if a client calls for lots of ideas. And sometimes he'll help me with my perspective or architectural details, because I'm not good at those things. But as far as drawing goes, personally, I don't like collaborating on drawings with people. I just don't like drawings with mixed styles unless it's purely for fun, like at a party or something.

I still mostly only read the cartoons in The New Yorker—ha ha—unless I'm on a long subway ride to the beach. Then I read the magazine from cover to cover, until the sun goes down. It's a great publication.

NWU: What's your favorite New Yorker cartoon from over the years?
JOHNSON: Gotta say that the first one that comes to mind is Barsotti's "Fusilli, you crazy bastard!", but I have other favorites, depending on the day. It's too hard to choose just one. There are so many good ones. But I think almost every cartoonist you meet will point to "Fusilli, you crazy bastard!" as at least one of their favorites.

NWU: How do you work? What's your work space like? 
JOHNSON: For cartoons, I work on letter-size paper. I do my rough drawings on resume paper, so that if there's any rush, they can be used as final drawings. Unless I'm in a real rush, or low on ink or the proper materials, I draw my roughs almost as carefully as a "finish." I only redraw if I'm not happy with the drawing. I use a lightbox only for reproducing a drawing that I think is perfect except for some major flaw that makes it need redrawing, otherwise I prefer to sketch in non-repro blue, then ink it in. I used to use water with a little ink in it for grays, but I discovered black watercolor when I noticed other cartoonists had much nicer shadows and black contrasts.

My workspace consists of a drafting table and an office desk, but I can work with very little for cartooning. I write at my office desk, so I try to keep the computer there—away from the drafting table. That way I don't get distracted while I draw. For writing, it's easy not to get distracted. Once I start, I just forget everything.

NWU: What need does creating cartoons fulfill, and what need does writing articles fulfill? 
JOHNSON: I think I became much easier to get along with when I started doing cartoons for The New Yorker, mainly because all my observations and pet peeves were sublimated into funny or odd little cartoons, instead of complaints to my friends, family, the world. Cartooning is almost like emotional and behavioral therapy.

Writing is different. I've always tried to write, even as a child. I never could, though, until computers came along. I remember trying as a child, many times, but then giving up. My thought process is aided by the computer, by cut and paste, and by multiple records of the same story. The computer freed me from my writing handicaps. My typing is fast, lets me keep up with my disorganized thoughts. And words are very important to me. I don't just love putting them together or seeing beautiful sentences; I need to do this. So writing is just an outgrowth of a love of reading and writing, really. I was a big reader as a kid, and I'm an even bigger reader now. I think I'd write no matter what. 

NWU: Will you continue to do both, do you think, given that conditions for writers are not as good? 
JOHNSON: I think the wording of that question proves that writers have no idea how good they have it! Or at least how just-as-not-good things are in the other creative professions. Cartoonists do not have it "as good" as writers, or vice versa. Sure, as a New Yorker cartoonist, I'm one of the few privileged cartoonists who work under a decent contract, with my copyright intact, and my work respected.  However, cartoonists in general do not have it good at all. We're asked to work for free just as writers are. And cartoons are just unpaid-for spaces in magazines and newspapers, and more and more they're being dropped from publications. I even pretty much had to persuade a local newspaper to take my cartoons for free! It's a point of pride for me to be in my local paper, but unpaid print space is tight. 

As long as I find things funny in life, I'll sit down and draw cartoons about them, as a matter of desire and habit. I can't really stop myself. I do my own webcomic sometimes, for free. (Oscarinaland.com). And I like to illustrate my own essays. So, yeah, I'd continue to do both until some philanthropic urge possesses me to go dig ditches in a third world country, or feel I can be more useful doing something else. But for now, this is my contribution to the world. 


12/05/2014 - 9:56am

The Boston Chapter has worked out an agreement with Porter Square Books in Cambridge—one of the Boston area's leading independent bookstores—to collaborate on a quarterly reading that features an NWU writer. The series kicked off Monday, November 17, with chapter co-chair Charles Coe reading from his new novella, Spin Cycles, the story of a homeless man on the streets of Boston and his daily struggle for survival. Spin Cycles is part of the "Open Door" series by publisher Gemma Media, which publishes fiction on adult themes that are written at a third- to fifth-grade reading comprehension level. The series is aimed at "new readers." such as individuals in English as a Second Language programs and newly literate English speakers.

Greg Evans did a presentation about Amazon's Kindle KDP Select program at the Tucson Unit's monthly reading and open mic event in mid-November. The focus was the problematic contractual conditions of Kindle’s Direct and Select programs. A summary of the presentation can be found at NWU-Book Yahoo Group under the "A few notes on Kindle Direct and Select Contract Language."

Attending the National Executive Board meeting in NYC, Gordon joined the organization’s other elected leaders on a visit to the Ralph Fasanella exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum. He also caught a Soviet-era opera at the Met:


Ursula LeGuin:
Member Ursula LeGuin gets a loving appreciation in People's World:


Writers Rights:
This article concerns freedom of speech issues that directly affect our profession and our members. NWU national recently took a strong stand on this: http://www.peoplesworld.org/making-new-victims-out-of-revictimization/
Feel free to circulate it widely.  —Eric Arthur
The Health and Environment Funders Network has created the new position of program director to develop webinars, plan events, write and shepherd social media as it relates to environmental health and justice. Apply only if you have five years of experience in one of those two area. A strong enough candidate may be able to work from home, rather than in the organization’s Silver Spring, MD, offices. See the DC Chapter website (nwu-dc.org) for more details and links.
Call to NWU Science Writers:
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will be heading the American Association for the Advancement of Science beginning in February, and wants to expand the organization’s communication, which is currently "print-centric." NWU science writers might be able to help him with that. If you’re interested in meeting with him or in otherwise impressing him with your smarts, contact Ann Hoffman, annfromdc@aol.com.
PhotoSoCal members attend an event for Lillian's Last Affair by Sue Katz, at end of table with arm around Sarah Forth's shoulder. Left of Katz, Marilyn Grunwald, right of Sarah, Joe Maizlish and Eric A. Gordon, with other attendees at the reading.



12/05/2014 - 9:42am

One of the most vital things the GCD (NWU Grievance and Contract Division) does is review contracts and advise members on terms. But we don’t tell members what to do. We expect members to become proactive after reading the NWU Guide to Book Contracts and learning why terms are good or bad. For instance, a writer should never, ever assign his or her copyright to a publisher! Negotiating changes in contract language in the writer’s favor is challenging, but it’s also essential if writers want to protect their rights and make more money.

Members of the GCD give contract workshops at the NWU offices, and other writer or academic conferences. We’d like to make them available to all members via webinars, and we’re rolling out our first one on e-books in early 2015. A chapter can also sponsor a contract workshop for its members via Skype. While we can give all-day or half-day workshops in person, 60-to-90-minute sessions are best via video conference.

First we need to know what topics interest members. For instance, I’ve given an hour-long workshop on copyrights, and how to prevent digital piracy for our New York chapter. Other potential topics might be academic contracts; why warranties and indemnification are important; and/or strategies for negotiating better contract terms.

Want to host a contract workshop? Contact me at sednyc@rcn.com, and check out the latest GCD semi-annual report for January-June 2014 at tinyurl.com/qcx264k.

Susan E. Davis



12/04/2014 - 6:06pm

(Ctd. from newsletter...)

And, all things considered, that still seemed pretty exciting.

During the term, I completed my assignments for the course (see my blog for the course), and embraced Twitter, which later empowered me to take the lead on social media innovation for several publications and organizations, including the NWU.

After the course, imagine my surprise when the course organizers asked me my preferred airport for departure to Alexandria, Egypt! In my five-day tour of the city, I networked with other journalists and heard a famous Egyptian writer speak. I also enjoyed the opportunity to dialogue with journalists from around the world, including an Iraqi with whom I still stay in touch. (He secured a visa and now lives in the United States.)

Throughout our stay, we feasted on seafood from the Mediterranean; talked about our own subjectivities; and explored Alexandria’s back streets. We were issued a backstage pass to the beautiful city locals affectionately call “Alex” only a year before Egypt erupted in violence during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

A highlight of the trip was our visit to the great Alexandria Library (pictured above), one of the oldest in the world and a symbol of freedom of information and scholarship in the Arab world. Read my take on the library here.

Although that part of the world has changed dramatically in the last five years, my newly acquired social media skills, lifelong friendships, and glimpse of a multi-faceted Muslim world will stay with me forever. And the experience underscored my inherent connection—as a writer and a journalist—to other people and cultures around the globe.

Photo: Alexandira Library. Credit: Creative Commons


12/04/2014 - 5:56pm

By Susan E. Davis

Transgender pioneer and global icon, Leslie Feinberg died at home with the love of her life, Minnie Bruce Pratt, in Syracuse, NY, on Nov. 15. Feinberg had endured a long illness with multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, but the author, in her signature wit, attributed her catastrophic health crisis to “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science.”

During her 65 years, Feinberg profoundly influenced the national and international movement for Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) liberation, particularly through her groundbreaking novel Stone Butch Blues. Released in 1993, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and was translated into seven languages, including Chinese and Hebrew, with royalties donated to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women (www.aswatgroup.org/en).

“Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of ‘transgender liberation,’ and her work impacted popular culture, academic research, and political organizing,” Pratt wrote in the Nov. 17 Advocate. A poet and professor, she was Feinberg’s spouse of 22 years.

An anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, revolutionary communist, Feinberg was a proud member for many years of the NWU and Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group. A member of Workers World Party (WWP), which she discovered at a demonstration for Palestinian self-determination in the early 1970s, Feinberg participated in hundreds of anti-war, pro-labor, anti-racist and pro-choice demonstrations. One of her last protests was in defense of CeCe McDonald, a transwoman sentenced to jail in 2012 for defending herself against a bigoted attacker.

Feinberg began writing in 1974 as a WWP journalist, editing the political prisoner page for 15 years and becoming a managing editor in 1995. She wrote two nonfiction books, Transgender Warriors: Making History and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, as well as a second novel, Drag King Dreams. From 2004-2008, her 120-part WWP series, Lavender & Red, explored the links between socialism and LGBTQ history. The book, Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba, was excerpted from that series.

Leslie was my comrade and my role model in being an up-front communist. From some obituaries I’ve read, it’s obvious that she educated, inspired and dared many progressive people to see commonalities among oppressions, and to be bold in fighting for social justice and economic equality. Pratt said that Feinberg’s last words were, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Leslie Feinberg, live like her!

Susan E. Davis, an NWU member since 1987, is the author of four nonfiction books and a self-published novel; she’s NWU’s National Contract Advisor and co-chair of the Book Division.



12/04/2014 - 5:54pm

1. Use Who Pays Writers - report your rates so other writers can have better information about payment: whopayswriters.com 

2. Always ask for more. When negotiating your rate, ask for what you want. Even just a little bit more. Nobody's going to give you more money or better terms unless you ask.

3. Know yourself. Are you a writer who has another job and just writes sometimes for 'fun'? Do you have other people who rely on you for financial support? Do you do well with multiple clients and constant hustle, or do you prefer the security of a steady paycheck? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? An expert or a generalist? All these things matter to your career. Know your preferences and limits, and plan your career in a way that will play to your strengths but still challenge you. 

4. Talk to each other "IRL." The internet is great, but real power comes from people talking with each other and sharing their experiences, then building on those experiences and relationships to take action. 

5. Read. Go beyond your own echo chamber. Read critically and enthusiastically. Read everything, everyone, always. 

Photo: Left to Right - Manjula Martin, David Hill (NWU J-Div Co-chair), and Ari Paul (lecturer at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs) at a recent NWU event.


12/04/2014 - 12:35am


There really are no words to describe the anger, frustration, and rage at the two grand jury decisions in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY. Grand juries, which indict 99 out of 100 times and only need to establish probable cause, have failed to indict the cop who shot and killed unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown from 150 feet away with his hands in the air, or the cop who choked Eric Garner to death, a young father of four, also with his hands in the air, for selling loose cigarettes. The murder of Eric Garner, ruled a homicide by the coroner, was caught on camera!

The fact that one horror unfolded in suburban Ferguson, MO and the other in New York City reflects how racist police brutality has become the norm, that black lives are cheap, not just to the police, but to prosecutors and many who serve on the grand juries.

In 2013, there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police, the highest number in more than two decades. Since Eric Garner was killed in July and Mike Brown in August, a partial list of those killed covers Brooklyn, LA, St. Louis, and 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH. In the past two years, the NYPD killed teenager Rahmarley Graham in the Bronx, and Shantel Davis, Kimani Williams, and Kyam Livingston in Brooklyn. Not a single cop has been charged with a crime. And of course, there was Trayvon Martin.

Recently, I attended the 2nd World Human Rights Forum with the International Federation of Journalists. Our delegation held three panels on impunity against journalists. I talked about the brutal murders of freelancers Foley and Sotloff in Syria, the bugging of the AP Washington bureau phones and the case of NY Times reporter James Risen, facing jail in a federal leak investigation, even though he is not part of a criminal investigation.

I also said that I couldn’t talk about impunity and human rights without talking about the Michael Brown decision and the rebellion that erupted in its wake. When I said, “Our union stands with all the victims of racist police terror,” the room of international journalists burst into applause.

The struggle against racism, from the abolitionists to the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, has always brought out the best in us. And it has been a tide that raised all boats. While racism hits black people first and hardest, it is an attack on all of us, and must be ended by all of us, together. I urge every NWU member to engage your colleagues, friends and family on this vital issue. And I urge every Chapter to reach out and join rallies and marches going on across the country, especially the national march on Washington, DC called for Saturday, December 13. We will be a stronger union for it.

In Solidarity,

Larry Goldbetter

National Writers Union, President



12/03/2014 - 7:52pm
By Edward Hasbrouck

Readers, like writers, have been caught in the middle of a feud over e-book distribution terms and pricing between the Hachette book publishing company and Amazon.com.  On Nov. 13, the two announced they had reached a settlement. But the terms were not disclosed, and there's been nary a word about its implications for readers and writers.

If you suspect that this has been a turf war between big companies, you're right. And if you also suspect the interests of individuals – readers as well as writers – have gotten lost in the shuffle, right again. Both Amazon and various publishers tried to enlist writers in their dispute. But neither side is serving readers' interest in lower-priced e-books or treating writers fairly.

Many publishers of print books have deals with Amazon to license e-book editions of their entire older “backlists” of printed books. Amazon makes no attempt to verify whether print publishers actually hold e-book rights to these works, much less what percentage is supposed to be paid to authors. In many cases, the rights to license those e-books belong to authors, not publishers.  The writers should be able to negotiate their own deals with Amazon or other distributors of electronic versions of their books. However, that means writers might be competing with bootleg editions issued by publishers of their print books.

This may sound complicated, legalistic, and irrelevant to the reading public.  In practice, it may greatly impact both the prices readers pay for e-books and the earnings of authors. Amazon offers self-published authors 70% of the e-book list price in certain price ranges.  For example, if a reader pays Amazon $5.99 for a self-published e-book, Amazon keeps $1.79 and passes on $4.20 to the author.

For the same $5.99 e-book licensed to Amazon by a print publisher, Amazon keeps the same $1.79 and passes $4.20 on to the publisher.  Amazon tells readers in its terms of service that e-books are licensed, not sold   But almost all print publishers treat e-book licensing revenue as “sales," rather than licensing of a subsidiary right. Instead of the author receiving $4.20 (or even 50% of revenues usually due to the author of a licensed work), most publishers keep $3.78 and pay the writer the same 42 cents they earn from the sale of a printed book (10%).

Authors should receive a larger share of e-book revenues than of print book sales. The publisher of printed books incurs costs to produce, warehouse and ship the books.  Publishing an e-book version of a print book costs next to nothing.

When authors control their e-book rights, they can set lower prices than print publishers would.  At the same time, when authors earn a higher percentage of e-book revenues from self-published e-books, or e-books for which they are properly paid based on subsidiary rights licensing, that leads to lower prices for readers and higher earnings for authors.

If Hachette and other publishers really wanted to serve writers, they would:

1.  Withdraw e-book editions they have issued for print books whose rights belong to their authors;
2.  Pay authors of backlist e-books at least the 50% share of revenues due them for standard subsidiary rights licensing; and
3.  Pay authors for e-book revenues publishers have previously collected in violation of the authors’ rights.

If Amazon wants to show that it supports writers, it would:

  • Verify who holds the rights to backlist books offered in electronic form and deal only with bona fide holders of e-book rights;
  • Pay writers directly their share of e-book revenues; and
  • Provide authors with the same reporting on sales and revenues that it provides publishers.

Edward Hasbrouck, the co-chair of the Book Division of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, is the author of the Practical Nomad series of travel books.


12/03/2014 - 7:49pm

Whereas at its 36th Constitutional Convention the UAW resolved:

“We must win justice for our brothers and sisters around the world, if we
are to win justice for American workers,” and

“We must change the behavior and hold accountable employers that cast basic
labor standards aside and deny workers their rights, regardless of where
their headquarters are located, to ensure that everyone who works for the
same employer enjoys job security, a voice at work and a living wage” and

“We will engage in struggles for human and labor rights around the world,”

Whereas many hundreds of Colombian GM workers have witnessed their basic
labor standards rights cast aside, resulting in serious workplace injuries
and subsequent mass dismissals,

Whereas the injured workers’ association ASOTRECOL, along with the union,
SINTRAIME are fighting for justice for the injured and dismissed workers,
and have appealed for support and solidarity from the UAW,

Whereas UAW rank and file members have responded to that appeal with over
$10,000 of plant gate collections, local union donations and other acts of

Be it resolved that the UAW:

Hold GM accountable and change its behavior regarding its callous disregard
for the rights of its Colombian workers,

Demand that GM re-initiate the mediation with ASOTRECOL begun in 2012 with
the intent of reaching a fair and final settlement,

Use its website and publications to publicize the heroic struggle of the
Colombian GM workers and encourage local unions to engage in acts of
solidarity to support them in their fight for job security, a voice at work
and a living wage.


12/03/2014 - 7:42pm


November 16, 2014

Resolution by the National Executive Board of the National Writers Union to sign the Call to Action (initiated before the bill was signed into law) which defends the right of free speech for Mumia Abu-Jamal and all prisoners in the state of Pennsylvania as delineated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in the Pennsylvania Constitution

Whereas, every person in the United States is guaranteed the right to free speech, which may not be abridged for any reason:

Whereas, the Revictimization Relief Act (HB 2533/SB 508), signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett on Oct. 21, seeks to silence all Pennsylvania prisoners if, by exercising their right to free speech, they allegedly cause “mental anguish to their victims”;

Whereas, the act is clearly unconstitutional and is being challenged by legal experts from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Center for Constitutional Rights;

Whereas, as noted in the Call: “This legislation emerged as a politically charged response on the part of the Fraternal Order of Police and its political allies, because they failed to stop Pennsylvania prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from delivering his October 5, 2014, commencement address at Goddard College in Vermont, from where Abu-Jamal earned his BA in 1996 while on death row. Students at Goddard collectively chose Abu-Jamal as their commencement speaker and the administration supported the invitation. In this case, this law would deny the school the right to hear from its alum, Abu-Jamal.”

Whereas, the National Writers Union believes in the right of all people and members of all communities, especially those that are oppressed, including prisoners, to practice journalism and to write and express themselves in their own words, in addition to having their stories told by outsiders;

Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal, known as “the voice of the voiceless,” was invited to become an honorary member of the National Writers Union in 1995 when the state of Pennsylvania first tired to put him to death, and has since received the support of the union over the years as an exemplary broadcast journalist and author who tells the truth about the prison-industrial complex from behind the walls;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the National Executive Board of the National Writers Union continues that tradition of social activism and signs the Call to Action (attached) which defends the right of free speech for Mumia Abu-Jamal and all prisoners in the state of Pennsylvania as delineated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in the Pennsylvania Constitution;

Further, be it resolved, as stated in the Call: “We oppose and protest Pennsylvania’s abuse of state power and its trampling of the fundamental human rights of all — of students to hear Abu-Jamal, of teachers and journalists to access perspectives of the imprisoned, and, by extension, of everyone who deserves the free flow of information in society.”

Respectfully submitted by:

Irving Jones, Philadelphia Chapter
Susan E. Davis, NY Chapter
Janet Mayes, NY Chapter
Ellen Cohen, NY Chapter
Eleanor Bader, NY Chapter
Edward Hasbrouck, San Francisco Chapter 



Union News

03/11/2011 - 8:45am

NWU member Ted Fiskevold and Mark Froemke from the Twin Cities, are going On the Road Through the Working Family Class Warfare Zones of the Midwest.  This union travelblog will take you to the class war battlefields of Madison, Indianapolis, Columbus and back to Madison, with stories and photos.  If you like what you read and see, pass the link on to your union, activist, and political friends and their blogs, Facebooks and online newsletters.


You can join them by clicking: http://midwestuniontravel.wordpress.com/. Also go to  WeAreWisconsin.org for more information.

03/10/2011 - 11:01pm

Kathleen McElroy

National Writers Union/ UAW Local 1981

Folks from outside Wisconsin are contacting me and asking how to help with the battle to save collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin.


People of generally modest means, including many college students, are continuing the occupation of the Capitol and the daily picketing in resistance to the Governor's plans. Most teachers have had to have chosen to return to their classrooms, but many other union members remain, people from private sector unions and public unions including police and firefighters. There are many private citizens, often seniors. Those remaining in the capitol and on the picket lines need food, water, transportation and housing. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is coordinating much of that support. No matter how small, financial support is welcome:

ONLINE: The AFL-CIO is accepting donations online through PayPal or any major credit card. Please go
to http://wisaflcio.org for the link.

CHECKS can be made payable to the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Defense Fund, 6333 W. Blue Mound Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53213 (Please indicate the purpose, e.g. "Capitol protests" or "Madison rally", on your check.)


These two close-by shops will supply food and water to those in the Capitol or on the picket line:

03/10/2011 - 10:56pm

Originally called International Working Women's Day, March 8 is celebrated the world over. It was established in 1911 (the same year as the Triangle Fire happened) by European and America socialists, and became forever identified with the activism and tragedy of the women garment workers.

Nearly 150 sweatshop workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women, died 100 years ago in the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Most of the deaths occurred among those working on the crowded 9th floor where the bulk of the sewing machines were located. People on the other floors were told of the fire and escaped outside, but for long crucial minutes, no one let the seamstresses know. By the time they became aware of the smoke, a guard had locked one of the two doors, a routine "anti-theft" action - i.e. act of owner greed - that cost many women their lives.

02/25/2011 - 3:57pm

The Controversial Lahore With Love Now Available on Amazon.com

NEW YORK CITY, Feb. 22, 2011 -- Ten months after Syracuse University Press pulled the critically acclaimed Lahore With Love: Growing Up Girlfriends Pakistani-Style from the shelves, Dr. Fawzia Afzal-Khan has self-published her fictionalized memoir, making it available to the public through Amazon.com.

Originally published in April 2010 by Syracuse University Press, Lahore With Love received glowing reviews in Booklist, FeministReview.org, and Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates Jr. called it  "a tale that is marvelously compelling and endlessly entertaining, at once poignantly personal and richly political." Acclaimed Egyptian novelist and women's and human rights activist, Nawal el Saadawi writes, "Afzal-Khan's is a gifted dissident voice and I hope many people will read her beautiful memoir which challenges stereotypes, universal fanatic fundamentalism, and religious, political, and sexual taboos."

02/21/2011 - 1:44pm


In Wisconsin, tens of thousands of workers, teachers and students are fighting Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip 200,000 public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Just as Reagan’s wholesale firing
of striking Air Traffic Controllers in the ‘80’s led to decades of attacks on private sector unions, what we are seeing in Wisconsin is PATCO II: The Public Sector. If Walker wins, the labor movement can look forward to even more setbacks for a long time to come.

02/18/2011 - 2:28pm

Dear Members:

The IFJ will no longer issue paper press passes, but is upgrading to a photo ID card. This upgrade by the IFJ office has resulted in a substantial cost increase to NWU and will result in an increase in our workload and price as well.

As we incorporate the new required changes, we will place all international press pass applications on hold. We will advise you of the new price and any other requirements for the international pass as soon as we have them.

The NWU press pass for use within the United States is still available.

Thank you for your patience. We look forward to issuing the new IFJ press passes as soon as possible.

In solidarity,

02/17/2011 - 4:37pm

NWU is starting a new service, replacing the old Job Hotline with Hire A Union Writer, a space where members can market themselves for work as a writer with a link to their blog, website or resume.

While we don’t expect it to be an overnight hit as a hiring hall, it can be a place where other unions and progressive organizations can find union writers. Over time, we will try to promote the site to other potential employers. Also, some BizTech writers and others are eligible for unemployment insurance which they may find easier to collect if they are registered as available for work with their union.

On the Members Only section of the website, you will find a short form to fill out, including room for a 50-word description of the kind of writing you do and your experience. That will go to our webmaster who will post it on the public Hire A Union Writer page along with the link of your choice.

We especially want to thank veteran member/activist Bruce Hartford, who helped to establish the original Job Hotline and who suggested this new service for our members. Credit goes as well to the members who have urged us to revive the Job Hotline. When members speak, we listen.


02/15/2011 - 6:07pm

Cartoon by Ted Rall - Waiting for the Phone to Ring
Friday, February 11, 2011 - (C) 2011 Ted Rall, Distributed by Universal Uclick - AAEC Ref Num: 95663

The National Writers Union is launching a campaign to raise the pay scale for online content writers. If there was any doubt as to the need for such a campaign, look no further than the recent purchase of the Huffington Post by AOL for a cool $315 million.

In an excellent Op-Ed piece in the LA Times (2/9) Tim Rutten writes, “To grasp [HuffPo’s] business model, though, you need to picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates Given the fact that its founder, Huffington, reportedly will walk away from this acquisition with a personal profit of as much as $100 million, it makes all the Post's raging against Wall Street plutocrats, crony capitalism and the Bush and Obama administrations' insensitivities to the middle class and the unemployed a bit much.”

02/04/2011 - 5:26pm

04 February 2011
H.E. Ahmed Shafiq
Prime Minister
Arab Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the National Writers Union, I am writing to protest the attacks by supporters of your President on journalists covering the events in Egypt.

According to our affiliate unions and press reports, we know that journalists have been the targets of violent attacks:

  • Ahmed Bajano, an Al-Arabiya correspondent, and his camera crew were attacked in Mustafa Mahmoud Square by security men in plainclothes. He suffered a concussion.
  • Al-Arabiya's Cairo office was attacked and its windows broken
  • Ahmad Abdel Hadi was seized by pro-Mubarak supporters near Tahrir Square, forced in a car, and driven away.
  • The headquarters of Al-Shorouk was attacked by plainclothes police in Cairo. Reporter Mohamed Khayal and photographer Magdi Ibrahim were injured.
  • Belgian journalist Maurice Sarfatti was beaten and arrested in central Cairo.
    • CNN's Anderson Cooper was attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters in Tahrir Square.
    • Two Associated Press correspondents were attacked covering a pro-Mubarak group.
    • Danish senior Middle East Correspondent Steffen Jensen was beaten by pro-Mubarak supporters with clubs while reporting live on the phone to Danish TV2 News from Cairo.
    • BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes had his car forced off the road in Cairo. He was then handed over to secret police agents who handcuffed, blindfolded and took him to a three hour interrogation.
    • Iceland's RUV national broadcaster, Jon Bjorgvinsson was attacked as he was filming with his crew. He was knocked to the ground, his camera destroyed.
    • Three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested by Egyptian secret police.
    • Swedish TV correspondent Bert Sundström has disappeared, while his colleague Sid Ahmed Hammouche, special envoy of Liberté newspaper was arrested.
    • One Greek photographer was stabbed in the leg by pro-Mubarak demonstrators.
    • Washington Post Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel and photographer Linda Davidson were among more than 20 journalists arrested yesterday by the Egyptian interior ministry. They are currently in custody.

    These were the first. As the situation sharpens, we fear that many more will follow. These premeditated attacks to intimidate journalists from reporting what is happening must stop. You have apologized for these attacks and have offered to investigate. We hold your government responsible for the safety of these journalists.


    Larry Goldbetter, President
    National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
    New York, New York

02/04/2011 - 1:29pm


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The International Federation of Journalists is partnering with WageIndicator, a global wage survey that measures wages of over 1,500 different occupations and 400 industries in over 48 countries around the world to date.

With the participation of the IFJ and your union this year, journalists’ salaries will, for the first time, be assessed on a global scale...