The California Media Workers Guild (now the Pacific Media Workers Guild) voted in the summer of 2009 to form the freelancers unit, the first of its kind that is connected to a local office of The Newspaper Guild, which is part of Communications Workers of America.

Our unit uses the power of numbers to directly support the needs of independent writers and journalists in all media, including hundreds of workers laid off by Northern California media outlets this year. We also aim to build solidarity between staff journalists and freelancers.

The freelance unit is open to journalists of every type, in all media, and a broad variety of writers, including book authors, poets, technical writers, promotional writers, etc. The unit draws membership primarily from throughout the Northern California region served by our Local, which includes the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Modesto and Fresno and Monterey counties, although we also embrace out-of-state members.

Our goal is to provide a broad array of services and referrals to help members deal with many of the hurdles that accompany self-employment, from insuring equipment to preparing tax returns. To that end, we have secured dental and vision coverage and are exploring options for health and liability insurance.

Most of our members also share a passion for projects that establish journalistic standards and promote fair working conditions for freelancers. In addition to issuing credentials to independent journalists, we have drafted a voluntary set of “fair freelance” standards that honor media outlets that pay freelancers well and promptly. We are establishing a code of ethics for bloggers and online journalists.

Like other Guild members, members of our freelance unit are eligible for contract advice and grievance assistance, and can access job listings, professional development classes and other career-related offerings.

We also monitor state and federal legislation to protect the interests of freelance and contract workers in areas such as public records access, First Amendment rights and shield laws.

As our industry changes, The Newspaper Guild must change too. We think the industry will continue to evolve, and we want to be there to help journalists and writers navigate the new realities.

In many ways, efforts to support freelancers and contract workers are a natural extension of the work the Guild has long done to assist laid-off workers and help them transition into new careers.

Losing your job shouldn’t have to mean losing the protections of the Guild. We believe firmly in the power of organizing to improve working conditions, and think sharing information and resources make all of us stronger. Whether staffer or freelancer, we all benefit by standing together.

Contact us: freelance@mediaworkers.org