This article is from the Natl Writers Union FAQ, by Vicki Richman firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
o The answer by Mike Bradley, Chief Grievance Officer:
The line between professional associations and unions may have been
clear at one time, but no longer. The difference has become one of
degree, not kind. The laws that define the organizations just hasn't
Both types of organization work to advance their profession's prestige,
lobby legislatures, and help members improve their skills and income.
For instance, both the union and the Authors Guild have supported
programs aimed at making writers more valued in society, gone to
Washington to lobby Congress, helped members with contract problems, and
founded projects to collect royalties.
Unions were once the working class counterpart to upper-middle class
professional associations, but no longer. Doctors are in unions and
secretaries are in professional associations. Class and occupational
barriers have been transformed. So should our thinking about the
o Vicki's answer:
Writers are not a monolith. We are a diverse group. Some of
us are rich and famous. Some are poor and struggling to be
heard. Some are middle-class, with families and lawns. Some
work alone in cold, drafty garrets. Some writers employ
other writers as researchers, copy editors or (shudder)
ghosts. The NWU unites all of us. It protects the integrity
of the whole writing profession, not just a segment of it,
against exploitation and injustice. It protects our right to
a decent living.
A union like Actors Equity crosses class and salary -- from
the superstar who is also a producer of the show to the boys
and girls in the chorus. Likewise, the NWU brings blockbuster
authors -- who are also publishers of a sort -- in common
cause with poets or technical writers working for only
pennies a word.