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

08/11/2014 - 9:44am


On July 22, NWU joined the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) in signing onto an amicus brief on behalf of the families of Superman’s co-creators, Siegel and Shuster, and the children of artist Jack Kirby, who are petitioning to have their appeals of two Circuit Court decisions heard by the US Supreme Court. 

In the first case, Siegel and Shuster signed away all rights to Superman for $130 in 1938. In 1997 and 2002, respectively, their heirs attempted to exercise their right to recover the original copyrights by serving statutory notices of terminations on DC Comics and its parent, Warner Bros.

In DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp., the Ninth Circuit stripped the Shuster estate of its termination rights, making it much easier for large media companies to eliminate, settle or completely circumvent termination rights. This ignores the Supreme Court’s opinion in NY Times v Tasini, (2001) that the termination right is “inalienable.” This decision essentially guts the termination right and hurts authors and artists everywhere. 

In the other case, the children of Jack Kirby sent notices of termination to Marvel to regain ownership of Kirby's share of the copyrights, in accordance with their rights under the Copyright Act. Marvel claimed that Kirby was an independent contractor and that his work fell under the "work for hire" exception. 

The case went before the 2nd Circuit, which has a 40-year record of erroneously determining the work of independent contractors to be "for hire," disenfranchising hardworking authors and their families of valuable property that is rightfully theirs.

According to attorney Hilary Hodson, “On May 14, 2014, the Supreme Court asked Marvel to file a response to our cert petition, meaning they are considering granting cert. If cert is granted, our chances of prevailing are high. A win would have broad implications -- all pre-1978 works by an independent contractor, or non-traditional employee, would no longer be ‘work for hire.’"

 


 

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08/03/2014 - 9:45pm

President
NWU/UAW Local 1981
256 W. 38th St. Suite 703 New York, NY 10018
3 August 2014
 
Dear Larry,
 
I write on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists to thank you and your union for standing up with the global community of journalists in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in Gaza. This morning, I have just been notified by our Palestinian union, the PJS, of the latest grim toll of journalists killed yesterday which now brings the total of journalists killed in the last three weeks to 12 and over 35 injured. As you know, the IFJ deals almost on a daily basis with cases of journalists attacked all over the world just for doing their job. The tragedy of Gazan journalists is that they are not just caught in crossfire or indiscriminate shelling but they are also wilfully targeted.
 
According to the PJS, media offices have been regularly targeted by the Israeli army, in particular Al Aqsa TV and radio whose studios have been repeatedly hit. Also hit were Al Jawharah Tower which houses several media, the offices of Media 1 TV, and even Al Jazeera office in Al Shorooq Tower was shot at, hours after Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the broadcaster to be banned from Israel.
 
The IFJ has no doubt that, according to the Geneva Convention’s Article 79 Protocol Additional I, any targeting of journalist is a serious breach of international humanitarian law and Article 85 of the convention considers this to be a war crime. Materials and facilities used by journalists are civilian objects according to Article 52 and, consequently, the bombing of a TV or radio station, even if it is partly used for propaganda, is not reconcilable with international humanitarian law.
 
We take these breaches of international conventions very seriously and, whenever they happen, we make representations to the Israeli authorities reminding them of their responsibility under international laws. At a time when every attempt at a ceasefire has floundered, we are extremely concerned that the security situation of journalists in Gaza will worsen without a concerted and unified voice to denounce the violations of journalists’ rights in Gaza and mobilise world opinion for change on the ground.
 
We will therefore continue to call on all our affiliates worldwide, including the National Writers’ Union in the US, to provide humanitarian support to their Palestinian colleagues and, most importantly, solidarity from journalist to journalist.
I can assure you that journalists from all the over the world will continue to stand up with our colleagues and help them in their greatest hour of need.
 
Yours in solidarity,
 
 
Jim Boumelha IFJ President
International Federation of Journalists,
 
International Press Centre
Résidence Palace, Block C,
155 Rue de la Loi, B1040
Brussels
Tel: +32 2 235 2200 Fax: +32 2 235 2219
E-mail: ifj@ifj.org
 
 

 

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07/29/2014 - 9:53pm

Photo couresty Workers WorldFollowing the killing of a Palestinian journalist and his daughter, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued a renewed call for the safety and freedom of journalists in Gaza.  The IFJ announced in a press release: "According to IFJ affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), Baha Edeen Gharib, 55, who worked as Israeli affairs editor for Palestinian TV, and his 16-year-old daughter Ola, were killed by an Israeli rocket attack this morning in Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip region, while they were travelling home."

There’s an old saying, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” Nowhere is that more true than in the US corporate media’s coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza.   As of this writing, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed, almost all civilians. Mosques, schools, and medical centers have been destroyed. Thirty-two Israelis have been killed, almost all soldiers.

NWU has posted on our social media channels about the murder of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli troops,  and how NBC pulled a reporter from Gaza after he reported that four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing soccer on the beach. A social media campaign convinced NBC to return Mohyeldin to Gaza.

But more significant than how the war is being covered is the war itself and the US complicity in it. Israel has carried out a brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. The occupation is underwritten by $3.1 billion annually in US aid, 25% of Israel’s military budget. And according to If Americans Knew, the US will provide an additional $3 billion per year, every year thru 2018!

Israel’s cries of “self-defense,” amplified uncritically by the US mainstream media, ring hollow; like the “self defense” of the US against Native Americans, or the “self-defense” of the Apartheid regime against the black South African population. 

On July 23, the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate alleged war crimes in Gaza. The US was the only “No” vote.

I urge every member and chapter to join local actions and coalitions to end this brutal occupation now!

NWU President Larry Goldbetter

Photo: Chicago Gaza solidarity march. Image courtesy: Workers World


 

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07/23/2014 - 12:25pm

The Niger Delta. This image is licensed under Creative Commons.

By: Abby Scher, NYC

The NWU and 37 other labor organizations have endorsed the People’s Climate March (PCM) scheduled for Sunday September 21, in NYC (http://peoplesclimate.org/march/). United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called world leaders to New York that week to discuss climate change before a new round of negotiations in 2015. A mass PCM can help create pressure for a progressive global agreement.

Billion dollar oil, natural gas and coal companies, focused only on their bottom line, are using ever more destructive techniques to extract resources from deep beneath the sea and earth. Harmful emissions are growing creating a more endangered planet. Climate change demands that we create an economy that works for all people and the planet, based on green jobs and sustainable resources. Unions need to help create that strategy.

Working people and the poor are worse hit by climate change – not only in Bangladesh and other impoverished countries but in the U.S. as well, as those living on the edges of NYC discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

We hope to have 20,000 union members on the PCM, with an international labor gathering the evening before. For more info contact me at abbyscher@mindspring.com.

 

 


 

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07/22/2014 - 4:32pm
As Detroit's Water Department continued to cut off water to many poor residents delinquent on their water bills, about 3,000 delegates gathered in the Motor City for the annual Netroots Nation conference. The conference was originally launched by writers and readers of the political blog Daily Kos. It has since grown into or one of the largest civil society conferences in the US. Prominent conference speakers included Vice President Joe Biden, Reverend William Barber, leader behind North Carolina's Moral Mondays movement, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
 
The highlight of the conference came when out-of-towners from Netroots joined Detroit locals for a rally downtown Detroit on July 18th to urge the city to turn on the taps to thirsty families and recognize water as a human right. The city's Water Department has said it has given people enough time to pay their bills and that it must balance its books. Critics counter the city has not cut off water to some corporate debtors with the largest delinquent water bills totaling $30 million, and that the city's poor delinquent residents — many of them jobless or living paycheck-to-paycheck — have not gotten the same accommodations or extra time to pay up.
 
The NWU was there, alongside social justice advocates, labor and grassroots organizers, technologists from across the country. We chatted with bloggers, authors and other conference-goers about the NWU's work to advocate for writers' rights and foster a social and professional community for freelance, business and technical, and self-published bloggers, writers and book authors. NWU members from the Southeast Michigan Chapter backed up the effort at the NWU table, signing up new members and sharing information about issues we care about. Also in attendance was a well-known commentator and podcast host, NWU member Monica RW, owner of Independent Underground News & Talk (IU News & Talk), a top political podcast in Michigan. Listen to her radio roundup of the conference on Soundcloud and catch the podcast every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m ET. Follow IU News & Talk on Twitter here.
 
Many people we spoke with were surprised to learn that NWU's only requirement for membership is that writers have published three works in their entire lives or have a work they would like to publish someday. We also talked with them about a major issue in the future of online publishing and digital information mining: the open question of what will happen to so-called “orphan works” when original authors can't be identified for one reason or another (possibly by the very party interested in profiting from the work).

Southeast Michigan Chapter Chair Alecia Goodlow-Young was a driving force behind NWU's success at Netroots Nation. She organized local NWU members to sit at the table. She actively promoted the value of writers both at the conference and off-site, sharing information about NWU with the valet at the hotel (who knew a writer) and tourists at the Motown Museum. She also befriended NWU's conference table neighbors: cutting-edge technologists whose start-up Action Network ended up sweeping top prizes for best overall technology and best start-up technology in a vote by attendees. The interface enables organizing, mass mailing, and fundraising and is free to individuals and groups.
 
Resoundingly, writers who visited the NWU at Netroots want better conditions for freelance writers and bloggers. They realize bloggers and writers are creating economic value. Writers should be paid. NWU will continue to work to grow our membership with the goal of building a world where writers and other creators are compensated for their creative work, which contributes so much to a flourishing and vibrant culture.

 

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07/18/2014 - 2:51pm

 

Tiziana Rinaldi, a New York based member of the National Writers Union, shared a video presentation of Finding Success In A New World, the panel that she moderated at this year's Writing Across Borders. The featured panelists are Dr. Fiona Citkin, a diversiculturalist and author, and acclaimed Mexican-American writer Sergio Troncoso. The writing conference was held in New York on May 18th, 2014, by the the local chapter of the National Writers Union. 

Tiziana Rinaldi lives in New York where she writes and produces Life In A New World, a cable show for America's foreign-born audiences, from which this video is from. Her work is published at www.lifeinanewworld.com


 

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07/14/2014 - 12:32pm

 

We are pleased to report that the time for appealing the Court’s final approval of the class settlement has expired and no appeal of that order was filed with the court. Therefore pursuant to Section 1(q) of the Revised Settlement Agreement, the Effective Date of the settlement has occurred. We are hopeful that payments for works covered by the settlement agreement will happen by early 2015.

If you have any questions or need advice see our FAQ, or write NWU@nwu.org. Congratulations to all those who will at long last receive some compensation for their work.

 


 

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07/10/2014 - 5:40pm

The United Auto Workers today announced the formation of a Local 42 union to provide representation for auto workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga. No workers will be required to join.

The announcement comes just months after the UAW lost a bid to unionize the plant in February shadowed by widespread claims of outside interference in the vote. UAW president Dennis Williams emphasized the union was inspired by the many workers who did vote in favor of organizing.

“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” said Williams. “At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’re keeping our promise.”

 


 

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07/10/2014 - 11:10am

The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) union in which NWU is also an affiliate, reported that a driver for Media 24 agency was killed by an Israeli rocket while driving in his car in the Gaza Strip on the night of Wednesday, July 9. The IFJ strongly condemned the killing and called for justice for Hamid Shibab.

“We join our affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) in condemning the appalling killing of Hamid Shihab and we send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “We demand that Israeli authorities carry out a thorough investigation into this attack to ensure that justice prevails.”

IFJ urged journalists working in conflict zones to read its safety handbook, which was designed for journalists working in the Arab World, Front Line Journalism Handbook.

The condemnation of Hamid Shibab's tragic death comes just weeks after IFJ and the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) issued a joint declaration of support for all Palestinian journalists and for their advocacy group, IFJ member the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. The declaration came out of a joint meeting of the IFJ and the FAJ in Ramallah on June 21-22.

The Declaration in Support of Palestinian Journalists states:

  1. Their full solidarity with the Palestinian journalists who are continuously subjected to frequent violations at the hands of the Israeli authorities in breach of International laws.
  2. Their support for the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate's efforts to defend journalists, their professionalism, and to enhance their financial and moral rights and their commitment to independence from commercial or political interests.
  3. Their strong condemnation of the Israeli government's systematic policies aimed at preventing journalists from working in parts of Palestine, in particular in Jerusalem, and its full support for the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate's international campaign for journalists' freedom of movement.
  4. That Palestinian journalists who face daily dangers to their lives should be fully protected so they can work in safe conditions and that the Israeli government takes full responsibility for their attacks of Palestinian journalists in breach of international charters and covenants.
  5. Their vigorous condemnation of the continuous imprisonment of 14 journalists, including three in administrative detention without justification and demand their release.
  6. All violations against Palestinian journalists by the Palestinian security apparatus shall stop and that these violations are investigated so that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice.
  7. Their welcome for President Mahmoud Abbas’ declared commitment that his government will respect freedom of journalists and investigate violations that take place against Palestinian journalists and ensure they come to an end.
  8. Their continuous cooperation between the two federations to support the Palestinian journalists and their Syndicate in line with signed agreement

Signed,

Jim Boumelha                                                       Ahmed Behbehani

President, IFJ                                                          President, FAJ

          

 

 


 

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06/27/2014 - 11:35am

Three journalists from Al Jazeera English have been detained in Egypt while doing their jobs. They were sentenced to 7-10 years in prison on June 23rd. The NWU stands with the International Federation of Journalists in calling for their immediate release.

“The verdict of the court, despite the lack of evidence and bizarre court proceedings over more than a dozen hearings, is an appalling attack on press freedom and carries an implicit threat to all media working in Egypt,” said IFJ Senior Vice President, Younes Mjahed in a press release. 

Read more on the IFJ website.


 

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Union News

12/25/2009 - 12:05am

Award Winning Author Supports National Writers Union.  Award-winning author Ursula Le Guin, a member of the National Writers Union since 1990, has resigned from the Authors Guild after 37 years of membership.  Her Dec. 18 letter to the Authors Guild follows:

To Whom it may concern at the Authors Guild:

I have been a member of the Authors Guild since 1972.

At no time during those thirty-seven years was I able to attend the functions, parties, and so forth offered by the Guild to members who happen to live on the other side of the continent. I have naturally resented this geographical discrimination, reflected also in the officership of the Guild, always almost all Easterners. But it was a petty gripe when I compared it to my gratitude to the Guild for the work you were doing in defending writers’ rights. I went on paying top dues and thought it worth it.

And now you have sold us down the river.

11/16/2009 - 7:51pm
           On Nov. 14, 2009, NWU released the following statement:   “The proposed revised settlement of the Google Books copyright infringement lawsuit fails to address the concerns of several writers’ organizations and many American writers, and allows Google to get away with violating writers’ constitutionally protected rights,” said Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union.
            “While the new proposal might appear to answer some objections, it still offers American writers a pittance for their already-scanned books, still requires writers to ‘opt out’ of the Google Books program, and still interferes with author-publisher contractual relationships,” Goldbetter said.
11/01/2009 - 12:23am

Sarah E. Wright, a novelist, poet, teacher, writer, social and political activist and founding member of the National Writers Union died from cancer on September 13, 2009.  A memorial service will be held for Sarah on Saturday, November 14, at the Ethical Culture Center on 64th St. and Central Park West, at 2:00 p.m.

10/24/2009 - 7:55pm

On October 12, 2009, NWU President Larry Goldbetter wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to an OpEd written by Google co-founder Sergey Brin ("The Library That Lasts Forever," October 9). Brin praised the Google Book Settlement (GBS) and boasted of having copied "10 million [books] and counting." He forgot to mention he never got the authors' permission or that the settlement has been opposed by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Copyright Office.

10/07/2009 - 5:54pm

On Oct. 7, 2009, the National Writers Union issued the following press release:

At a status hearing today in federal court in New York City, the Authors Guild, speaking on behalf of Google and the Association of American Publishers, told U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin that a new agreement to a four-year old copyright infringement case could be worked out in a matter of weeks, that the parties involved should be kept to a minimum, and that notification of the new agreement for authors to opt out should be kept to a minimum.

 Also, regarding the Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick case that was argued today before the Supreme Court of the United States, Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union said: “On October 29, 2007, two members of a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that writers who had not registered their works with the U.S. Copyright Office are denied any access to federal court for copyright protection and cannot make claims for damages for infringement of their work. The Appeals Court also claimed the U.S. District Court had been wrong to accept Re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation and approve the settlement."

09/25/2009 - 1:15pm

On September 25, 2009 the National Writers Union issued a statement in response to the Department of Justice filing in the Google Book Settlement.  NWU President Larry Goldbetter stated, “We support the Department of Justice recommendation and call on the Authors Guild to withdraw from the current settlement, so that they can join in new negotiations with the many voices that have up to now been excluded.”

09/09/2009 - 1:11pm

NEW YORK, NY -- On September 8, the National Writers Union filed legal objections to the proposed settlement of the Google Books copyright infringement lawsuit.  In the brief filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the NWU joins as a “friend of the court” in support of objections also being made by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and 58 individual authors.

09/09/2009 - 1:00pm

On September 1, the National Writers Union called on former Vice President Al Gore to use his considerable influence to urge Google Inc. to seek a delay in the proceedings of the Google Book Settlement. 

09/09/2009 - 12:54pm

Submissions are being accepted between September 1 and October 2, 2009, for this year's Bellwether Prize for Fiction. The Bellwether Prize is awarded in even-numbered years, and consists of a $25,000 cash payment to the author of the winning manuscript in addition to guaranteed publication by a major publisher.

08/31/2009 - 12:45am
National Writers Union Opposes Settlement of Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google for Copyright Infringement  (Press release dated Aug. 13, 2009)
 
 The National Writers Union today announced its opposition to the proposed $125 million settlement of a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit brought by writers and publishers against Google because its massive book-scanning project violated their copyrights.