Strike on June 19 in support of Black Lives Matter
Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union members in the United States have collectively agreed to strike on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the freeing of enslaved Black people at the end of the US Civil War.
On June 19, we will refrain from engaging in any sort of commissioned labor that is unrelated to the ongoing Black Lives Matter uprisings and, instead, participate in local BLM actions or provide support remotely. Acknowledging that many of our Black Fellow Workers are receiving more general assignments ostensibly unrelated to — yet inspired by — the ongoing uprisings, we are considering those BLM-related as well and thus exempt from the strike. We will also be continuing other unpaid journalistic work amplifying actions, such as social media coverage.
We ask Fellow Workers in other sections of the IWW, and workers more generally, to consider advocating for strikes, sick-outs, or similar labor-withholding actions on June 19. We also ask other, non-labor-related organizations to consider calling for a “Day of Action” or similar event on June 19 to encourage their members to get involved, however possible, in local BLM actions.
An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Support your local Black Lives Matter uprising
There are an unprecedented number of uprisings related to the Black Lives Matter movement currently occurring throughout the United States. The Industrial Workers of the World was founded on a commitment to racial justice in 1905, and the IWW Freelance Journalists Union continues to support the working class in its struggle for that justice. Our slogan is: An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
If you are interested in getting involved in local actions, supporting community self-defense resources such as bail funds, etc., we encourage you to contact your local IWW branch to learn more about how to do so in your area. A full directory of IWW branches in the United States can be found here: iww.org/directory
If this is the first time that you are contacting your local IWW branch, they may want some confirmation of your standing in the union for security purposes. If so, please ask them to contact the IWW FJU at [email protected].
Also, we’ve heard, repeatedly, of journalists reporting from these actions being attacked, arrested, or otherwise prevented from covering these historic events. If you are in need of any support — be it professional, legal, or even emotional — please contact us at [email protected].
To paraphrase the preamble to the IWW’s Constitution: We are building the new world within the shell of the old.
Outside Magazine agrees to pay $150,000 in overdue invoices
Collective action by workers yielded results this week with Outside magazine agreeing to pay more than $150,000 in late invoices owed to their vendors after receiving a demand letter from the Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union (IWW FJU). The New Mexico-based magazine has promised to issue the payments within the next week, a significant victory in an industry where workers are often subject to one-sided and arbitrary treatment from their clients.
This development follows months of organizing by the IWW FJU. In June of 2019, the union released a survey to its members and the wider community of freelance journalists, collecting information about problems in the industry. Respondents identified Outside as one of the slowest publications when it comes to paying freelancers, and the IWW FJU followed up on this insight with dozens of conversations with contributors. Through this process, the union learned that freelancers were collectively owed over $100,000 for articles published more than 30 days prior. The IWW FJU approached Outside with this information on April 24; six days later, we received the publication’s response.
The IWW FJU will be following up with Outside contributors to ensure that they are paid within the timeframe agreed to by the publication. We hope that Outside’s commitment reflects a larger change in the publication’s payment practices moving forward. We would also like to thank everyone who helped with this campaign, especially the freelancers who shared their experiences with us, enabling this success. We encourage other freelancers facing significant delays in payment to reach out to us at [email protected].
In solidarity with Popular Front
Popular Front was created in 2018 by freelance journalist Jake Hanrahan with the mission to bring independent, grassroots conflict journalism to the world. Originally a podcast, Popular Front has evolved to include documentary videos, printed articles, news dispatches, and a community Discord to shed light on current wars and military conflicts. @PopularFrontCO takes no money from corporate sponsors and is funded by the growing community of supporters Jake has built in the past couple of years.
His work has come at a price. In September of 2015, Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury and Mohammed Rasool were arrested in Turkey for covering the YDG-H. The YDG-H is the youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and is actively fighting the Turkish military. Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released from maximum security prison after a couple of weeks, however Rasool stayed imprisoned for several months. He was eventually released in February of 2016.
Popular Front’s social media and online presence has been the target of mass reporting and brigading from supporters of authoritarian governments he’s reported on. This has resulted in Popular Front’s Youtube page being demonetized. This financial hit hinders the funding towards producing more independent conflict journalism.
The targeting did not stop there. Popular Front’s Instagram page has been shadowbanned and was removed (and re-instated) numerous times. The only way to currently find it is to type out the entire name in the search bar.
The Freelance Journalists Union (FJU) demands Instagram verify Popular Front’s page and stop the tedious and unnecessary page removals. We also demand that YouTube end the demonetization of Popular Front’s videos.
Support independent journalism. End the silencing of reporters. Let Popular Front exist without hindrance.
IWW FJU wins NLRB settlement over Barstool Sports
On August 13, 2019, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy’s antagonistic, bosses-first mentality came to a head when journalist Rafi Letzler encouraged Barstool employees to reach out to him about the unionization process. Portnoy threatened to fire anyone who works for Barstool “on the spot” if they messaged Letzler. Portnoy continued in this vein, attempting to troll for hate-clicks while very genuinely standing in opposition to his workers’ rights. Seeking to drive home the point, a fake union Twitter account, “@BSSUNION,” was created and Barstool Sports ran an anti-unionization video titled “Professor Nate Explains Unions” the next day.
The Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union immediately responded to Portnoy’s man-child antics by filing a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. While Portnoy attempted to play his behavior off as snark, journalists, media workers, and the world saw Portnoy’s tweets as a clear indicator that Barstool Sports is a dangerous place for any worker seeking to organize.
No, seriously, fuck this guy. https://t.co/x4pEsL4Rmo pic.twitter.com/5rgnfl5hTM— IWW Freelance Journalists Union (@IWWFJU) August 13, 2019
While Portnoy has attempted to use the “it’s just a joke” defense—and will likely continue to do so in lieu of learning how to actually be funny—his behavior indicates a clear effort to establish an anti-union atmosphere at Barstool Sports at a time when media workers are increasingly finding unionization to be their only source of defense against bosses like Portnoy: bosses who are only interested in the false sense of superiority and power that comes from being massive dicks.
In an agreement announced on January 21, 2020, Barstool Sports formally settled the complaint filed by the IWW FJU against Portnoy’s anti-union tactics. Barstool Sports agreed to remove Portnoy’s hostile tweets, delete the fake union Twitter account, and remove the anti-union video the site published.
GUESS WHO GOT FUUUUUCKED?! https://t.co/jK8SbBiGhb pic.twitter.com/yfMqUymIK6— IWW Freelance Journalists Union (@IWWFJU) January 21, 2020
It is the hope of the IWW FJU that workers see the action taken by this union and know that protections against bosses like Portnoy exist. It is additionally our hope that employers and managers like Portnoy realize and learn to respect the unmitigated power of collective action. Media workers everywhere are always welcome to reach out to the IWW FJU for information about organizing.
The Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union