Writers, especially freelance writers, have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as publications looked to trim back costs in the wake of lost revenue. But new federal legislation unveiled last month could give those working in the sector an economic lifeline, and the Teamsters are strong supporters.
The union’s Graphic Communications Conference (GCC), partnering with the 1,200-member National Writers Union (NWU), are calling on Congress to approve the 21st Century Federal Writers Project Act. The measure would create a $60 million grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor to employ that nation’s unemployed and underemployed journalists and writers.
The legislation is modeled after a similar program implemented as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression that helped address the mass unemployment of writers during that time by having them document both America’s past and present during the 1930s.
“The freelance storytellers of this country provide an invaluable service that shapes how Americans understand their communities, their nation and the world around them,” GCC President Kurt Freeman said. “Tens of thousands of U.S. writers have lost their ability to earn a living because of the fallout from COVID-19. It is in all of our interests that we make sure they get back to work.”
The GCC – which represents some writers, as well as many working in printing and packaging – is working with the NWU as part of a service agreement to assist them on legislative issues so they can continue to grow their membership. The Teamsters have previously entered similar agreements with worker groups in other sectors.
Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), co-sponsors of the bill, said the legislation won’t only employ writers, it will also help Americans get a better sense of themselves.
““Our communities rely on reporters, writers, and poets to inform us and open our eyes to the realities of the world around us,” Rep. Leger Fernandez said. “As we rebuild from this pandemic, writers will play an essential role in telling our stories and tying our communities together around a shared history.”