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Rep. Leger Fernández Voices Support for Creative Workers and Importance of Collective Bargaining Rights at Authors Guild Event

During a March 21, 2022, Authors Guild webinar titled “Stimulating the Creative Economy,” Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-3), member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, discussed what she is doing in Congress to support creative workers through her bill, the Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA), as well as the 21st Century Writers’ Project Act, which she cosponsored with Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA-33).

Rep. Leger Fernández also expressed strong support for the rights of authors and freelance creative workers to engage in collective bargaining. Responding to a question about Congress’ role in supporting workers in the creative industries, Rep. Leger Fernández said that she was in discussion with the Authors Guild about legislative solutions that would allow freelance creative workers to discuss rates and engage in concerted activity for their mutual benefit.

“Art helps us build empathy and build bridges,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. “Workers in the arts and creative industries work on a temporary basis without the ability to collectively bargain or know what’s being paid to others, which leads to their exploitation. It is very important for creative workers to be able to either unionize or have discussions among themselves without the punitive effects of other laws.”

Creators across various industries lack the bargaining power to meaningfully negotiate with the buyers of their services, which has led to exploitative practices and an erosion of creators’ rights. Current labor and antitrust laws prevent creative workers from engaging together to improve working conditions, including setting minimum pay rates and boycotting bad actors. This results in a grotesquely imbalanced marketplace that negatively impacts the advance of both commerce and culture to the detriment of creators and consumers alike.

A coalition led by the Authors Guild recently drafted a legislative amendment to the National Labor Relations Act that would give professional creative workers, including authors, the right to engage in collective bargaining. The legislation, titled the Freelance Author and Artist Labor Act of 2022, would amend Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act—the provision granting collective bargaining rights—to include the category of “professional creative worker,” covering freelance writers, journalists, translators, graphic artists, photographers, dramatists, songwriters and musicians, choreographers, and others.

“Creative industries—publishing, film, music, software, newspapers, and magazines—contribute more than $1.5 trillion annually to the U.S. GDP and form about 7.41 percent of the U.S. economy,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Yet very little of that goes to the people who actually create the works that inspire, enlighten, and entertain us all. We are looking forward to working with Rep. Leger Fernandez to empower professional creative workers against the big businesses who use their works and grateful for her sponsorship and spirited support of the Creative Economy Revitalization Act and the 21st Century Federal Writers Project—two important grant-funding programs for authors and creative professional that the Guild has endorsed.”

Read the coalition’s draft amendment