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!
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 https://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) 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Study Hall http://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.
Freelancers Union https://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 http://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.