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Freelance Writers, Unions & Labor Day

Unions For WritersLabor Day was established as a federal holiday in 1894 following a nation-wide strike by the Pullman Palace Car Company and The American Railway Union against the owners of the railroads when wages were lowered. The strike shut down rail transportation west of Chicago and ultimately involved over 250,000 workers.  The holiday was designed to both appease and celebrate labor.

Merriam-Webster defines a labor union as: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

Not a bad thought actually. At least not in my opinion.

Oh I know there are examples of abuse of power by unions, but when I remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or the more recent mine disasters caused by owner’s failure to provide safe working conditions and failure of government regulation to do its job, I come down on the side of unions every time.

Which brings me to attempts to unionize writers and other freelancers.

I’ve been a member of the National Writers Union off and on for years. Although I’ve never used them in a negotiation or a collection or a rights action, I know that all that and more is available to me as a member.  I like being backed up that way. They also offer health insurance in every state now.

The Freelancers Union is another option – addressing all freelancers, not just writers. A newer organization with different benefits it too is worth considering.

Unions can provide the ability for workers to band together and challenge the often seemingly monolithic corporations hiring them. A union can give voice to the previously voiceless.

What do you think?

No  matter which side you believe in, have a great Labor Day.


Image adapted from: Attribution Some rights reserved by Fibonacci Blue

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Wow, Anne, I didn’t know the NWU offered insurance in every state now. I kept my eye on it for a while, but missed this. Depending on what I can get, I might need to seriously consider joining soon. Thanks so much for posting it!

  • The history of the workforce is certainly an interesting one. Funnily enough I was pondering on unions yesterday when watching a movie involving striking coalminers! So true how they give a voice to the previously silent though. Sadly there’s a negative side to anything, as you mention with regards to unions, but their positives certainly give members bright rays of sunshine. I’d never even considered the NWU, but I think I’m going to look into it – you never know when you need their backup. And the best time to get it is before you need it, I suppose!
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