Learn About the National Writers’ Union

The National Writer’s Union is a labor organization that protects the interests of freelance writers, contract writers, journalists, novelists, authors, poets, short story writers, web content writers, technical writers and business writers. Membership in the NWU is available to writers who have published any of the following:

  • A play
  • A book
  • Five poems
  • A short story
  • Three articles
  • Or, an equivalent amount of technical, business, newsletter, government, commercial, industrial, advertising, publicity, or institutional copy.

Unpublished writers who are working and actively attempting to publish their work may also join. Membership in the NWU is also extended to non-U.S. writers, as long as they publish in U.S.-based media outlets. Membership dues are based on the writer’s yearly income from writing. Writing does not need to be the writer’s only job.

The National Writer’s Union seeks to protect writers’ intellectual property rights and First Amendment rights. The NWU believes that free speech rights are especially crucial for writers, who depend financially upon their right to free expression. The NWU recognizes copyright infringement and intellectual property theft as serious threats to economic well-being of writers, especially with the recent proliferation of digital media outlets. The NWU also feels that the increasing consolidation of the media into huge conglomerates like Time Warner Inc. threatens writers’ economic security, since it can force them into a choice between accepting an unfair contract or getting no contract at all.

The National Writer’s Union works to improve the working conditions and economic circumstances of U.S.-based freelance writers and journalists by:

  • Representing writers with grievances. The NWU has helped its members recover more than $1.4 million. The NWU’s grievance officers are also ready to help members with non-monetary complaints.
  • Spearheading campaigns to help protect writers’ rights to fair compensation and freedom of expression, for instance, by advocating the passage of the Freelance Writers and Artists Protection Act, or through the Supreme Court case Tasini vs. Times, which upheld the right of writers to withhold permission for the republication of their works in electronic form, or to receive just compensation for such republication.
  • Providing press passes to freelance journalists.
  • Offering health, dental and vision insurance in some locations.
  • Educating members on the basics of writing contracts, grievances, marketing, and publishing.

The National Writer’s Union currently has 16 local chapters across the United States. The Delegate Assembly (DA) is in charge of setting union policy and strategy, chartering new local NWU chapters, and creating national bodies to work on union objectives. Each delegate is elected by the members of his or her local chapter and serves a two-year term on a volunteer basis. Eleven elected officers make up the National Executive Committee (NEC), which oversees staff, activities, and implementation of policies and projects. The President receives a full-time salary, while the Vice Presidents and Treasurer are paid part-time salaries. The NEC’s 11 officers and the chairs of the 16 locals sit on the National Executive Board (NEB), which sets the budget and reviews the DA’s policy implementation.

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