Since 2015, over 1000 workers in digital news and media have organized new unions, negotiated strong contracts, and built industry-wide power and community. In the spring of 2020, with the start of the pandemic and national uprising, WGAE committee members from across different workplaces started meeting regularly to share best practices, brainstorm, and continue to build community and collective power.
If you are interested in learning more about industry-wide organizing, contact the Organizing department.
Diversity, Equity, & Social Justice
Unionizing a workplace is—in and of itself—a mechanism to diversify and democratize an industry.
Union contracts typically improve and preserve important employment issues, including healthcare costs and equitable compensation, and unionized industries have less wage disparity. In addition to the benefits of a union contract, unionized workplaces have a democratic structure in place to support each other, share information, and strategize about how to address issues through collective action.
In a unionized workplace, union members come together to use their collective power to stand together in solidarity to address issues of justice. The fundamental difference between an organized and unorganized workplace is that in a union, members have a mechanism to unite and use their collective power to advocate for shared needs and exercise collective power to get those needs met.
While unionizing shifts the power dynamic in a workplace and industry, there are also ways in which WGAE members are explicitly addressing the issue of diversity. Generally speaking, the word “diversity” describes two concepts:
- Representation – A primary goal is achieving workplaces with enough demographic variety at all levels, including leadership, such that no one person has to bear the sole duty of representing a single group, and
- Power – Who gets to make decisions about which stories get told and how.
Across newsrooms and workplaces, members share common goals and concerns, including:
- Actively increasing the recruitment, retention, and mentorship of people traditionally underrepresented in media
- Sharing information and best practices in writing about specific issues and communities
- Examining and addressing pay equity and disparities along race and gender lines
Union members are addressing these issues in a variety of ways, including:
- Tracking demographic data
- Calling for unconscious bias trainings
- Actively participating in recruitment efforts, including a requirement to inform union diversity committee members of all open job positions
- Demanding clear answers from companies about what they are doing to support employees, regardless of immigration status
Industry-wide Organizing on Diversity
No one contract or worksite can address the structural, societal questions of diversity and oppression in isolation. While we seek to address workplace issues in contracts and shop floor organizing, we are also building an industry-wide network to change the industry over the long-term. By unionizing the industry, we will establish new networks to function as an alternative to the existing power structures and industry “pipelines” that impact who gets what job, who gets promoted, and who gets to tell what stories.
WGAE Safe Workplace Helpline & Resources
Freelancers in digital media have a crucial purpose—they expand the limits of a publication’s masthead, allowing more voices to be heard and more stories to be told.
With every new editor and new publication, their work becomes accessible to a wider audience; with every new byline, their existing readership has the chance to follow them to a site they might not have otherwise visited.
The movement to unionize digital media publications is committed to raising standards for every kind of worker, and the conditions of freelance labor is a top priority for the WGAE. Solidarity between employees and contractors—whether the work is classified freelance, permalance, or temporary—is an essential element to our organization.
Freelancers can’t be included in bargaining units, but there are many ways for us to fight together for better working conditions and equitable treatment. Here are some places to get started!
Freelance Solidarity Project
In the spring of 2018, a group of freelancers began meeting at the WGAE offices to brainstorm ways to build solidarity and raise working standards for freelancers across news and media. The next year the group formalized as the Freelance Solidarity Project and a division of the National Writers Union. Visit the Freelance Solidarity Project website for more information.
Legal Rights & Resources
Freelance Isn’t Free!
If you live in NYC, acquaint yourself with the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, including 30-day payment terms and the right to a written contract (which includes the provision that if you don’t get a written contract for work worth over $800 you are owed $250). The city’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards enforces the law, including processing grievances for late or non-payment and auditing companies that violate the act.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Website: vlany.org | Assists low-income artists (across disciplines) with arts-related legal issues. For example, intellectual property issues, contracts, application for an artist visa, or incorporation of arts-related businesses and non-profits.
Labor Unions & Related Organizations
National Writers Union (NWU)
Website: www.nwu.org | A labor union of freelance writers, affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Currently the NWU holds letters of agreements that govern freelance working conditions at In These Times, Jacobin, and The Nation. The union also can provide press passes, and can help with freelancer grievances (including non-payment) and may use that information to pursue legal action. If you or someone you know hasn’t gotten paid – or experienced another workplace issue as a freelancer – look into filing a grievance with NWU!
Industrial Workers of the World
Website: www.WobblyCity.org | Founded in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World is an international, democratic union for all workers. The IWW’s New York City General Membership Branch began its efforts organizing freelance journalists in September 2018. For more information, contact us at email@example.com.
Website: studyhall.xyz | A listserv, newsletter, and online support network for media workers. You can join by contributing to the group’s Patreon which includes access to discussion boards, resources to help with pitching, and learning tips to navigate the freelance media industry.
Website: www.freelancersunion.org | A non-profit organization with 375,000 members working as freelancers across a variety of industries. Initiatives include health benefits, networking and social opportunities, a co-working space in Brooklyn, and advocacy and policy initiatives including helping to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free Act in New York City.
Who Pays Writers
Website: whopayswriters.com |An anonymous crowd-sourced list of which publications pay freelance writers and how much. You can search by publication and also submit your own information.