The IWW FJU is a group of freelance journalists, bloggers, and other writers in news media from all around the world, organizing to improve our working conditions and assert our rights. The union is made up of freelancers who work in the industry, have experienced its exploitative conditions, and were thus inspired to to come together to improve our working conditions. These are some of our stories:
I organize because I believe a different world is possible. The epidemic that is capitalism is not something we have to accept. I became a journalist because I wanted to expose the truth, and I became an organizer to help others expose the truth with me.
I have spent my entire career as a freelancer. Freelance journalism has always been a precarious field, but it has gotten more brutal and unsustainable each year. Journalists are often expected to put up thousands of dollars to report their own stories, to work 16-hour days reporting stories on spec, to sign exploitative all-rights contracts, and to work for rates that come out to less than a dollar an hour. Since we are not staff, we get no health insurance, no disability benefits, no unemployment benefits, no severance, and no retirement. We do it because we love it, but we need to organize in order to fight against poverty wages, nonpayment, and exploitation.
I'm a freelance writer interested in building collective power for us, the writers and content creators. As contract workers, we face an unfair set of 'standard practices' in our industry: slow pay, low pay, no pay, lack of transparency in contractual terms, contracts that prevent cooperation and collaboration between workers, predatory intellectual property theft, and much more. I joined the IWW FJU so that I could stand with my fellow workers to change these practices, build solidarity between working people, and hold publications accountable for their abuses of power.
As freelancers, we aren't protected by the labor laws that apply to organizing employees, but since those are constantly under attack, no workers can rely on them. So it's up to freelancers to lead the way in showing how new forms of organizing and collective action can be effective and to put power in the hands of workers. I'm excited to see how we can work together and potentially inspire other independent workforces.
I've worked as a freelance journalist for four years and contributed to a number of different media outlets, large and small. A common theme among nearly all of my experiences is various degrees of exploitation and a feeling of powerlessness to adhere to inadequate pay, a lack of support in travel expenses, or having stories accepted by a publication only for an editor to either take weeks to publish it or renege on its acceptance. For the past year, I've personally contributed to one of the largest publications in the world on a regular basis, but still live in poverty, consistently receive pay weeks late, and have stories sit in editing backlog without any communication into why publication is delayed. I've found myself on several occasions being sent out to different areas to cover a story for this publication with barely enough money in my bank account to eat and cover transportation costs while I'm there. Organizing is a mechanism to fight back, improve the industry, and fight for rights myself and other freelancers deserve as workers.
I want to organize because, due to the nature of freelancing, I can't even do it full-time. Problems with articles getting posted and getting paid makes it really hard to rely on freelancing as a primary source of income. As much as I'd love to chase stories and think up more pitches, I also have a full-time day job I need to work. By organizing, I think that we can make freelance journalism a more viable career option for those who want to write, but don't want to be beholden to any particular website.