NWU Statement on the Freelance Isn’t Free Act

Katrina, Desiree, Jo Anne (me)

The National Writers Union/ UAW Local 1981, supports the Freelancers Union’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, and we urge the New York City Council to make it law. Our members, who are writers in all genres, in all media and on all platforms, are no strangers to nonpayment. We know how hard it can be to collect money you have earned from clients, whether your work has been published electronically or sold on newsstands. New York’s 1.3 million freelancers, including tens of thousands of writers, need a law that guarantees our contracts, holds our clients accountable and makes them aware that there will be consequences if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain.
One of our members you will hear from today worked for a NY publishing company that closed its doors owing about 60 freelance writers, editors, graphic artists and translators more than $350,000. It took years for the union to win a federal judgment against the former owner, but there is little there to collect. One big reason writers join our union is because we help our members get paid for their work. It is also one of the reasons they stay. By handling thousands of nonpayment grievances, our Grievance and Contract Division has collected about $2 million — money our members would not have been able to collect on their own.
In the past decade we have witnessed a sea change in the publishing industry, going from print to digital. This has meant the loss of tens of thousands of jobs for staff writers at major publications resulting in the increased reliance on freelance writers. In New York, the Daily News and El Diario have both recently had major cutbacks in their newsrooms. Also, as major media outlets have withdrawn from some of the more dangerous places on the planet, people get the news in many cases from freelance reporters. James Foley and Steven Sotloff were freelancers killed by ISIS in Syria in 2014.
It is expected that by 2020, 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be made up of independent, freelance contract workers. New York City, quite possibly the capital of independent contract workers, can take the lead in passing a law that reflects the real changes taking place in our economy. We urge you to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.