Thursday, December 02, 2010

Make It Your New Year's Resolution to Join the National Writers Union




I'm a proud member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981 and today I'm asking you to join, too.  We represent both fiction and nonfiction writers.  But, you may say, I became a writer/poet/screenplay writer/ magazine freelancer to be a creatively independent professional. Why should I join a union?

Put aside your stereotypes for a minute and I'll tell you why.  This isn't about politics- it's about protecting your work and your income as a writer no matter which end of the political spectrum you embrace.

It's a fact.  In this day and age, writers need representation.  I know from first-hand experience.  When I needed help, the National Writers Union was there for me.  But do you need to join this union?  I think you should because of the benefits.  This quote from the NWU Home Page makes the case:

"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."

Corporations are taking over the publishing industry like never before.  The National Writers Union has stood up to the likes of the New York Times.  They raised the warning flag about Google moving in on our copyrights.  Believe me, they can stand with you for fair treatment from your publisher, no matter how big or small that publisher or media giant is. 

And writers suffer financially as much and sometimes more than the rest of the workforce during these difficult times. Many of us don't have health insurance, dental and/or vision insurance. We can't always afford lawyers.  We don't know where to go for contract advice. When our work is being threatened by plagiarists, copyright infringment or publishers that don't respect our electronic rights, most writers stand alone. When we're not paid on time or at all by publishers, what can we do? What do we do?

Most writers can't afford to stand up to an Indie Press publisher when they're not paid on time or at all, much less stand up to a large publishing house. In fact, most freelance writers can't even get a press pass.

Regular readers of this blog know that I was plagiarized a while back, and after it sunk in that someone had stolen from me,do you know who I turned to for both advice and moral support? It was to you, my fellow bloggers, and the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981. So I thought I should bring the two of you together. Why might my fellow bloggers/ writers be interested in the NWU?  Because the internet is still full of scam publishers and plagiarists and because the NWU is still the only labor union that represents writers.


My father was a Union President at the Post Office. He also owned his own business, repairing appliances at night. He believed in the right to being an independent, and he also believed in collective representation. The two are not mutually contradictory.  As writers, most of us work independently at our writing business, but, like my father, I believe we still have the right to benefit from professional collective representation.

Stay with me for the next two posts and I'll tell you why being a Union member doesn't take the romance out of writing for me, it puts the excitement back in it!

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22 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Rick I am currently Vice President of Local 114 of the American Postal Workers Union and yet I'd never heard of the writers union. thanks for the info.

Rick said...

You're welcome, Travis! I'm trying to get the word out and am glad to help.

Jai Joshi said...

You make a lot of very good points. Thanks for this post, I'm going to look into the union details. I didn't even know that it union existed until just now.

Jai

Ocean Girl said...

Is this the same writers union that went on a strike in New York?

Hello Rick, how are you?

G said...

This should be interesting. Most of the labor (white collar exclusively) unions I've dealt with or currently participate with have left me with a collective sour taste in my mouth and an upset stomach.

And yeah, I am a union member.

But I will read your posts with an open mind just the same.

Rick said...

That's one of the reasons I'm writing about thiss, Jai. for most of my working life before starting my own business (I own an analytical standards company), I was in management. So my experience with unions was strictly from the management side of the table.

What I leaned from my employees and experiences was that union or nonunion wasn't the issue. Stereotypes aren't what being productive is about. There were enough excesses and mistakes on both sides of the table. But in the end, even as a manager, I saw that I was happier with a balanced workplace than one where all the power was on one side the way it is in the publishing world today.

Rick said...

Hi G! Thanks for sticking with me on this. As I told Jai, my work background has been almost exclusively from the management side, and yet as a writer- even though I now own my own company- I am a union member and glad of it.

And the National Writers Union is unique in the world of organized labor. It's a living, growing organization working to give real value to its members. The more members we have, the better job we can do for writers.

Rick said...

I'm just fine, Ocean Girl, although working too much. How are you? I haven't been by to visit in a while, but I'll be by to visit you tonight. You have a delightful blog and I always feel better after stopping by.

About the strike, I don't know if it's the same as you're mentioning, but will ask. I do know that we fought the New York Times to victory in a landmark settlement for freelance writers and our copyrights. That would have been a tough fight for an individual writer to win.

laughingwolf said...

good stuff... how much are the dues?

Rick said...

The dues are scaled on how much writing income you make, laughingwolf. The average writer makes less than $5,000 per year income from their work. That costs $120 per year ($10 per month). The highest membership cost is for people who make over $45,001 per year writing. That costs about $28.00 per month. So, depending upon the size of your car and the cost of fuel on any given month, we're talking the cost of a tank of gas.

Charles Gramlich said...

You know, this is a good idea. I'm gonna look into it. I am a member of HWA and SFPA.

Rick said...

Great, Charles. I hope you like what you see, particularly their support of their writers who have suffered copyright infringement and their work to take on big publishers who publish our work electronically without permission. Take a look, if you have time, at Tasini vs. the New York Times. The Google issue is also worth acquainting yourself with.

Vesper said...

In this day and age, writers need representation. - rings very true to me, Rick. A very interesting post...

On the topic of plagiarism... guess what I've discovered... The same "Joss" who has stolen from Nevine has stolen from me too. His post from November 25th, "Beloved Memory" is stolen from my August 28th, "Beloved Delusion".
(lovelyandforever.blogspot.com)
I'm speechless... :-(

Rick said...

I'm so sorry, Vesper, that this kind of thing has touched the two of you. I'd emailed you this morning to let you know about it after Nevine alerted me, but I don't know if you received it yet.

Later, after I get some sleep (still on the road), I'll email you a tool that might help you track down other infractions. Your work is so good that I suspect there are more people taking advantage of it than you know.

Again, I'm so sorry, Vesper.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm a UAW member and belong to the smallest collective group of teachers in Michigan - prison educators. Without union representation we'd be toast. I don't always agree with how negotiations are handled, but I support my union 100%. I'll look into the NWU as well. Now I'm starting to wonder whether any of my material is floating around cyberspace with someone else's name on it.

Rick said...

NWU is a great group, JR. And an amazing concept. Independent business owners (writers) that can collectively bargain for their rights and contract compliance. It proves that "inconsistencies are the hobgoblins of little minds" better than any other example I can think of.

I have your email somewhere, and I'll send you a tool that will help you see if your stuff has been plagiarized. Considering the quality of your writing, you can bet it will be if it's not already. I'm worried about Mark as well. And K. Lawsen Gilbert.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I never even knew there was a writer's union!

Rick said...

Hi Kathryn! How goes your world? Fantastic, I hope.

And until I stumbled across the NWU, I didn't know about them either. What a fantastic writer resource to go so unnoticed- which is why I'm trying to get the word out.

Travis Cody said...

I had no idea there was a union for writers. At first glance, it seems counter-intuitive, since writing can be a very individual and lonely business.

But thinking it through with the points you make, I see how it could be beneficial.

Rick said...

It is kind of counter-intuitive, isn't it Travis? But I think that's what makes it such an effective organization- it's members are both independent and diverse and it is what gives us strength.

Christopher said...

I hate that unions have gotten such a bad rap over the years. This country was made great by them and you better believe if I ever actually get serious about writing I'll be signing up. Great post!

Rick said...

Hi Christopher! I hope you do get serious about writing and join- every member counts. And you're right about unions getting a bad rap. They've been a vital factor in bringing fairness to the workplace.