Letter of Intent
We, the members of the Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union (also known as Industrial Union 450: Printing and Publishing Workers of New York City), hereby state our intent to form an Industrial Union Branch.
Though the unemployment rate in the United States is at its lowest since 1969, journalism has not shared in the boom. In fact, the journalism job market is at its weakest point since 2009, during the Great Recession. More than a third of large US newspapers have experienced job losses between January 2017 and April 2018, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, which estimated that the number of full-time newsroom employees dropped by 15 percent between 2014 and 2017, from 46,000 to 39,000.1 The outlook hasn’t improved in 2019. More than 7,200 journalists have lost their jobs so far this year, including staffers at BuzzFeed, CNN, Condé Nast, The Dallas Morning News, Deadspin, Digg, First Look Media, Gannett, GateHouse Media, Groupe TVA in Canada, The Huffington Post, McClatchy, New York Media, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Sports Illustrated, and Vice.2
Many of those journalists have sought to continue their careers in a freelance capacity, which means they work as independent contractors, with no employee benefits or protections as part of the collective bargaining units that represent salaried employees. Although it’s difficult to estimate the exact number of freelance writers, bloggers, and other journalists, it is clear that freelance labor is increasingly important to news media outlets as they reduce salaried employees. The growing number of freelance journalists means more competition for assignments paid out of dwindling freelance budgets—practically a prescription for exploitation. Many freelance journalists deal with long overdue payments, low rates, vast pay disparities, unfair contracts, and convoluted invoicing systems at publications throughout the industry. While nearly every news outlet relies on freelance labor, few are committed to treating workers with dignity and providing fair compensation. The IWW FJU formed in direct response to these concerns.
We, the members of the IWW FJU, believe in the efficacy of solidarity unionism and collective action in confronting unfair and illegal labor practices. By taking direct action against news media outlets that treat freelancers unfairly, we believe it is possible for freelance journalists to improve their working conditions. While the IWW Constitution requires us to charter as IU 450 NYC, the decentralized nature of freelance journalists as a workforce necessitates that we organize nationally or even internationally in order to be effective. Therefore, we see this only as the first step to chartering an Industrial Union that extends well beyond New York City. Furthermore, while our current efforts focus on freelance journalists in particular, we are committed to assisting all other workers seeking to organize throughout printing and publishing.
The Members of the IWW Freelance Journalists Union