Posts Tagged ‘workers rights’

Could freelance writers offer a promising future for unions?

January 10, 2012

I suspect not. The freelance market is fierce, and for a paper to be forced to bargain, a union would have to convince a widely-dispersed, unorganized group of individuals to join its cause. Currently, the National Writers Union (which is an affiliate of the United Auto Workers!) is only about 1,300 strong.

Let me explain:

Many papers, especially weeklies such as Isthmus, draw upon a large group of freelancers to produce regular articles. While it’s convenient for a paper to have a group of regular contributors whose work it can depend on, if the regular contributors demanded higher pay, the paper could probably function for a period of time with outside contributors, even if that meant a little extra work for editors or even lower quality. The damage would probably not equal that incurred by a factory if a large number of its workers walked out on the job.

As a result, the freelancers union advocates for its members differently than traditional unions. Whereas the chief goal for most unions is to bring collective bargaining to a workplace, the NWU is more of an advocacy organization that aids individual writers in understanding contracts, filing grievances against papers over backpay and providing health care options for freelancers.

Did SLAC actually accomplish something?

December 1, 2009

Though it hasn’t received much play, it looks like that campus left which everyone loves to hate may have accomplished more than holding a sit-in or talking to the Chancellor.

The article in The Cap Times seemed to miss the boat a bit, but they at least got the gist.

Using a series of pressure tactics, an anti-sweatshop coalition of students from across the country on Nov. 17 succeeded in persuading Russell Athletic, one of the nation’s leading sportswear companies, to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who had lost their jobs when Russell shuttered its factory shortly after workers unionized.

Remember that UW dropped its apparel contract with Russell back in February for these very reasons. While I don’t doubt student activism played some role in all of this, I’m sure it wasn’t the students that persuaded Russell overall, it was their bottom line. And Russell’s bottom line was only affected because, as the NYT noted, this was a “nationwide campaign against the company.” Dozens of large Universities took actions similar to our administrations.

Most relevant sources seem to be framing this as a landmark event in workers rights, which is why I am so confused that this hasn’t been receiving more coverage around Madison. But, this also presents a certain template proven to work for organizations interested in these kind of issues.

How have we not heard more about this from SLAC and their allies?