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

04/09/2013 - 2:58pm

For Immediate Release:  Contact: Larry Goldbetter: 212-254-0279  or  Katti  Gray 917-757-4397

Freelance Writers Organize, Fight Back and Win $125,000 Settlement

New York City, April 2, 2013 –The National Writers Union (NWU) and representatives of Heart and Soul magazine have signed an agreement that will see a dozen freelance writers and editors collect over $125,000 in unpaid fees. Heart and Soul has already made two required payments under this agreement.

NWU President Larry Goldbetter said, “This settlement goes far beyond a national magazine making the long overdue payment to our members for work they performed. It sends a signal to the growing number of freelance writers and the publishers that profit from our work, that—in this new economy of independent workers—we can effectively organize into unions. We can fight to protect our interests.”

The NWU first got involved with Heart and Soul in October 2011, after three union members rallied their colleagues to file a group grievance for articles that had been published but for which they had not been paid. The initial group grievance was settled relatively quickly. Then, a group of 12 more stepped forward. Heart and Soul is a health and wellness magazine whose target audience is women of color; all of the NWU members listed in both grievances are black women. The NWU worked diligently and cooperatively with Heart & Soul's new management team to reach a final settlement amount and pay schedule. While NWU and Heart & Soul’s new management team worked on a settlement for the group of 12, NWU won a $360,000 judgment in a New York federal court for 30 freelance writers, translators, editors and graphic artists who had worked for Inkwell Publishing, a textbook “development house.” NWU also won more than $25,000 for a dozen freelancers at Natural Solutions magazine, based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. All together, our Grievance and Contract Division has won more than $1.5 million for NWU members, a critical victory as the pace of writers not being properly paid seems to be picking up.

“The aggrieved, unpaid women at Heart and Soul, backed by the union’s organizing and legal help, have set an example for all freelance writers. I know, firsthand, of folks who aren’t getting paid and who are saying absolutely nothing about it.  We’ve got to demand that publishers pay for what we’ve delivered. There’s power in that,” said Katti Gray, a New York-based freelancer and one of the three NWU members who helped organize the Heart and Soul contractors.

 The National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981, AFL-CIO) 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, print and email newsletter content providers, bloggers, academic writers, editors, poets, playwrights, screen writers and other writers.


Download press release Word.doc here.

04/09/2013 - 2:49pm

The Slow Death of the American Author
New York Times op-ed by Scott Turow  (published: April 7, 2013)

"Last month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.

"This may sound like a minor problem; authors already contend with an enormous domestic market for secondhand books. But it is the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.

"Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.

"That culture is now at risk. The value of copyrights is being quickly depreciated, a crisis that hits hardest not best-selling authors like me, who have benefited from most of the recent changes in bookselling, but new and so-called midlist writers."

To read the rest of this op-ed, click here

Scott Turow, a lawyer, is the president of the Authors Guild and the author of the forthcoming novel “Identical.”

04/09/2013 - 2:28pm

Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin Among Award-Winning Writers On French “Copyright Theft” List
Posted on April 4, 2013 on the blog, The well-prepared mind)

"While rooting around on the ReLIRE site, I discovered some big names among the English-language writers whose translated works may be found on the list. For those of you just tuning in, the ReLIRE registry is the official list of “unavailable books from the 20th century” that will be digitized under new French legislation and the rights to them transferred to a collective licensing agency. The registry went live on March 21st with a list of the first 60,000 books to be processed.

"Among the authors I found in the registry are Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, and R.A. Rafferty. You won’t find them by searching for their names in the author field, but the anthology in question shows up in a free text search using their names. Although ReLIRE doesn’t present the catalog details, apparently it does use them to present search results. Here is the catalog listing from the Bibliothèque National de France.

"From there I started to wonder which of these authors’ stories were included and how to notify them. The list of titles in the anthology wasn’t available in the library’s catalog, so I tried Google and found the information on the site of a bookseller specializing in rare French books. Unsurprisingly, several other well-known authors are also included in this anthology, including Roger Zelazny, James Sallis and Vonda McIntyre."

For the complete list along with the translated and original story titles click to the original blog entry here.

03/27/2013 - 12:03pm

Copyright Ruling Rings With Echo of Betamax
New York Times March 26, 2013 by Eduardo Porter

"Before Napster and LimeWire, before Megauploads and the Pirate Bay, media companies’ epic struggle against copying, piracy and generally losing control over their creations can be traced to a legal fight more than 30 years ago over a device that has long since passed on to the great trash heap in the sky: the Sony Betamax."

"Last week, the Supreme Court made another call that could have equally far-reaching implications. The ruling referred only to printed books, another technology that predates the Internet. Yet it, too, is likely to reshape the information economy in unexpected ways.

"In a 6-to-3 decision, the court took sides with Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai math student at Cornell who generated roughly $900,000 in revenue reselling in the United States cheap textbooks that his friends and relatives sent from Thailand.

"John Wiley & Sons had argued that Mr. Kirtsaeng was infringing on its copyright by importing the books without permission. The publisher said this short-circuited its ability to segment markets by price — selling the books more expensively to American students than to poorer Thai students who could otherwise not afford them.

"But the court held that the publisher’s right to ban imports was trumped by Mr. Kirtsaeng’s right of first sale. He might not be allowed to make unauthorized copies of the books. But as with old library books or secondhand Gucci bags at a flea market, if the books had been bought legally, whether imported or sold originally in the United States, Mr. Kirtsaeng could sell them."

Read the complete article here.

03/27/2013 - 11:52am

Authors' Rights - Newsletter of the International Federation of Journalists - March 25, 2013
In this edition:
Germany unions demand fair pay over copyright bill
German union reaches agreement on photo fees
French affiliates criticize deal between newspaper publishers and Google
EU copyright reform to guarantee fair pay for authors
and more here!

03/18/2013 - 11:44pm

'Lean In' All You Want -- But If You Want a Better Job, Unionize!  (What the CEOS of Facebook and Yahoo! Won't Tell You)

(By Brigid O'Farrell)

"March 13, 2013  | OK, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg didn’t say “join a union.” But that’s the message the vast majority of working women should be considering this Women’s History Month. The best way for the most women to improve their working lives is through a union.   

"The new PBS documentary Makers: Women Who Make America shows how the women's movement changed the workplace for women, men and families. Two of the young Makers highlighted in the film, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, now dominate the news. Here's what neither of them tell you: union women earn more than non-union women and have better benefits and working conditions.

"Women at Facebook and Yahoo should consider spending their time organizing to have a say in their workplace."

Read the rest of this AlterNet.org article here.

03/08/2013 - 6:36pm

In Celebration of International Women's Day, March 8th (by Brigid O'Farrell)

Eleanor Roosevelt and Walter Reuther, 20th Anniversary UAW Freedom Awards, 1957

In 1957, UAW President Walter Reuther introduced Eleanor Roosevelt to delegates at the union’s convention as the “First Lady of the World.”International Women’s Day is a fitting occasion to celebrate the proud international history of Reuther, Roosevelt, and the UAW; then recommit ourselves to working women’s international solidarity.

Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most admired and controversial women of the twentieth century. She was also a life long advocate for working women and their unions. Practicing what she preached, as a newspaper columnist she was a member of The Newspaper Guild, AFL-CIO, for over twenty-five years. Reuther told the delegates she “carries a union card in her purse”.She spoke that day about foreign affairs and the important role of unions in educating the public. She often challenged union members to take a “world view,” giving people everywhere “hope for better economic conditions”.

Walter Reuther and Eleanor Roosevelt were close friends and allies. Together they argued for a program of full employment at home and economic aid rather than military aid abroad. They exchanged strategies and travel plans to other countries including India, Russia, and Sweden. With a shared vision of unions as critical participants in the fight for social justice they championed not only auto workers, but all workers including immigrants, migrants, and domestic laborers around the world.

For the rest of this article, click here.



03/06/2013 - 3:36pm

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013

Here is an exchange between the Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine and myself this afternoon attempting to solicit my professional services for an article they sought to publish after reading my story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after 25 years of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea”   here http://www.nknews.org/2013/03/slam-dunk-diplomacy/ at NKNews.org

For the rest of this story, click here.

02/25/2013 - 10:25pm

"Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the Book Division in National Writer’s Union, said many authors support the creation of a digital copy of their writings. But the fact that they cannot give their permission is unlawful.

“If you have read many of the legal cases, Google Books and HathiTrust have tried to create an entirely false impression that authors oppose the scanning of the books and want to oppose digitization,” he said. “We very strongly endorse and support digital libraries.”

"Many authors don’t agree with Google and HathiTrust bypassing them when digitizing works, which he feels denies authors and publishers their fair compensation.

“It’s profoundly disingenuous for Google to claim a benign public purpose in its efforts,” Hasbrouck said. “They are investing lots of money in this project because they can make lots of money in this purpose.”

Complete article here.

02/18/2013 - 6:25pm

BBC Journalists Strike Over Layoffs (story from BBC News 2/18/13)

Many BBC journalists have gone on strike for 24 hours in a dispute over compulsory redundancies. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it called the strike after failing to reach an agreement with management. The disagreement was over the redeployment of 30 staff members facing compulsory redundancy.

The flagship Today programme on BBC Radio 4 was dropped from the schedule, replaced by repeats and short news summaries on the hour. On television, BBC Breakfast was broadcast from London by a single presenter, instead of its regular Salford hosts. The usual programme was replaced with a 30-minute bulletin on the hour, followed by daytime programmes including Cash in the Attic and Escape to the Country. On Radio 5 live, the overnight Up All Night programme and Morning Reports were dropped, while Radio 4 news programmes The World At One, The World Tonight and PM were all affected.

The BBC press office is running a webpage with rolling updates of affected programmes and changes to the schedule. The corporation is cutting about 2,000 jobs over five years as part of its Delivering Quality First programme.

More here.


Union News

07/10/2010 - 11:09pm

The National Writers Union joins with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in condemning the brutal murder of Faiz Mohammad Khan Sasolion June 27.

04/30/2010 - 11:54pm

Writers across the country are receiving letters from HarperCollinsRandom House, and other publishers asking them to sign e-book amendments to their book contracts.


 If you receive such a letter from any publisher, please contact the NWU's Grievance and Contract Division right away. The GCD will set you up with an NWU Contract Advisor who can examine your contract and provide you with expert advice. Contract advice is a free benefit available to NWU members. You can contact the GCD via email at advice@nwu.org. If you are not an NWU member, join today.

04/03/2010 - 9:33pm

On March 24 the National Writers Union submitted a brief to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator in response to a request for public comments about “the costs IP infringement imposes on the U.S. economy, the threat to public health and safety posed by IP infringement, and recommendations for a U.S. government strategic plan for dealing with IP infringement.” In the past, publishers have tried to speak for writers on this issue. Now it's critical that writers speak for ourselves about who the real copyright infringers are and what we think should be done about it.

03/23/2010 - 12:17am

On March 2, the US Supreme Court reversed the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and voted 8-0 (Justice Sotomayor did not participate in the case) to uphold an $18 million settlement of a copyright infringement suit between Internet publishers and freelance writers.

02/11/2010 - 1:05am

 Dan McCrory, Recording Secretary, explains this important legislation

 The U.S. Senate will soon consider a proposed federal shield law that provides the same protections to freelance journalists as to writers employed by newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and online publishers. The Free Flow of Information Act, S. 448, could have implications for all media workers, legislators and government officials, opinion leaders and the general public.

02/11/2010 - 12:27am

A message to NWU members from Edward Hasbrouck (co-chair Book Division):

We saw many lapsed and former NWU members at recent events about the Google Book settlement in New York and Berkeley. Here's what one of them, a member of the Authors Guild, wrote to the court after the NWU event:

http://thepublicindex.org/docs/amended_settlement/borsook. pdf

Our work on this has been for all writers, not just our members.

Please tell your friends about what we've been doing, and let them know: If you want to make a living from writing -- books, articles, blogging, technical writing, Web content, any kind of writing in any medium, genre, or format -- the NWU wants and *needs* you back!

02/06/2010 - 12:18am


On February 4, the U.S. Department of Justice broadened its opposition to the proposed Google Book settlement, including key objections raised by authors. Click here for the DOJ brief.
01/29/2010 - 4:42pm

Howard Zinn, historian, activist, and a member of the National Writers Union and the Boston Chapter for almost 20 years, died on January 27, 2010. But his life and writing will inspire grassroots activists for many future generations.

01/29/2010 - 4:27pm

New York City - January 28: The NWU's objections to the revised Google Books settlement proposal were filed with the U.S. District court today by our pro bono counsel from the Fordham University Law School.

01/27/2010 - 12:59pm

 At 10:00 PST/1:00 EST, Apple is unveiling its long-awaited somewhat mysterious new reader (code name: tablet). This isn’t just a new techie gadget, but a big story for writers.  In addition to the new reader, Apple is coming up with a new business model.  Unlike Amazon’s fixed low book prices, Apple is allowing publishers discretion and book prices are expected to be higher.  The split will favor publishers: Amazon splits revenue 50/50 with publishers, Apple’s model is expected to be 30/70. This sounds good, but it may not translate into higher royalties.  What else is new? 

Here are a couple of links about this subject.  The WSJ is a preview (they’ve recently started charging for content), but it explains the model pretty well, so if you are interested I recommend reading the full article (the comments attached to the preview are free):
Back to Amazon’s e-books: Publishers have been giving away some authors’ e-books as a free download on Kindle. The other day, the New York Times ran an article (With Kindle, the Best Sellers Don’t Need to Sell) about the impact on writers when their books are being given away for free as e-books. It tackles the question of whether or not writers are benefiting from their books being given away for free.  While at first blush we would disagree, it really is a lot more complex of an issue.  Some writers are seeing a bounce in sales of their newer books when their older ones are being given away as free e-books.
Please join us in talking about these issues.
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