NEW YORK, NY (September 12, 2017) – The National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) announced today that they have reached an agreement with The Nation over a contract that covers freelancers for the publication’s print magazine and website. The contract is one of the first of its kind for freelance digital writers, who have so far been left out of the recent surge in organizing among staff writers of digital publications.
The agreement includes minimum rates for various types of freelance writing done for The Nation, kill fees, an expectation of payment within thirty days, and a grievance procedure for handling any disputes, among other protections.
“I’m happy to see NWU and The Nation reach an agreement for its freelance contributors. It’s especially important at a time when payments for independent writers in the US media are at an all-time low and so many publications treat freelancers as free laborers without rights of any kind,” said Tim Shorrock, a contributor to The Nation since 1983. “This agreement will improve relationships between freelancers and The Nation by providing transparency to all writers and creating a dispute resolution system that is fair and equitable. Thanks, to The Nation’s publishers and editors for making this a reality.”
“I’m hopeful that other publications will follow The Nation’s lead with this agreement and work with the National Writers Union on standards for their freelancers as well,” said Steve Early, a past Nation contributor, and author of Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City. “When it comes to organizing writers, freelancers are the final frontier.”
Freelance writers account for two thirds of all professional writers in the United States, and according to a survey done by Contently last year, as many as 46% report earning less than $10,000 per year. Low rates of pay means freelancers have to work for a large number of publications, and often wait long periods of time to receive their pay.
“Freelance writers live precarious professional lives without the protections and opportunities to organize available to our staff writer counterparts,” said David Hill, a freelance writer and a Vice President with the National Writers Union. “This agreement with The Nation shows that there is a path forward for freelancers, but it will require action from more publications like The Nation who care about fairness and the rights of all of their writers, not just the ones on staff.”
The National Writers Union was founded by writers in 1981 as, in the words of Toni Morrison,
“an accessible organization that is truly representative of the diverse interests of all writers.” It is
affiliated with the United Auto Workers as Local 1981.