Cali Freelancers Unite!

We reported earlier this month on the California Media Workers Guild’s new freelance unit. Then, it was just a mote in organizers’ eyes, but now? We spoke with Sara Steffens, organizer for CMWG, to get the deets.

First, yes, this is totally unprecedented. The freelancers unit is the first of its kind connected to the Newspaper Guild. “We intend to build a unit that uses the power of numbers to support the needs of independent writers and journalists in all media, including hundreds of workers laid off by Northern California media outlets this year,” Sara says. Already, they’ve heard from more than 75 journalists. “Many have told us, ‘We’re so glad to see someone doing this.'”

And while health insurance is a top priority (do you have any idea how much healthcare costs in Cali? Yikes), the guild’s more ambitious than that. They’re looking into tax return preparation help, insuring equipment, and financing maternity leaves; freelance members will also have the same access as other Guild members to job listings, contract advice, professional development classes, and more. And the freelancers unit is also looking into projects that promote fair working conditions for freelancers. Though freelancers can’t really go on strike or demand a minimum wage, the guild’s thinking about things like press passes for independent journalists, a blogger’s code of ethics (this has been tried before), and promoting fair rates to local media outlets.

Membership is open to journalists, poets, book authors, technical writers, promotional writers, and more, in the Bay Area, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Rosa,  Modesto and Fresno and Monterey counties. And remember, Sara says, “Whether staffer or freelancer, we all benefit by standing together.”

The next meeting is this Friday, April 24. Contact Sara if you’re interested in joining the guild or volunteering.