Art & Architecture Writers Demand Fair Pay, Common Edge, Aug. 13, 2023.
Art and design publications devalue the essential work of writing. Low pay rates and flat-fee payments amount to freelance writers generously subsidizing publishers, who in the worst cases compensate writers less than a minimum wage for work. Art and design writers demand pay rate increases and improved editorial practices that compensate them for all of the time required to produce content for well-established publications.
Art, architecture, and design magazines often cover labor issues in these fields—most recently, unionization efforts at SHoP, Bernheimer, and Snohetta, striking graduate students, and advocacy projects of the Architecture Lobby. They cover abusive working conditions within the industry, exploitative hours at boutique firms, abuse of internships for free labor. Increasingly, they concern themselves with equity, racial discrimination, disability, inclusion, and predatory sexual abuse. We believe the exploitative labor practices of the architecture and design magazines themselves need to be made public, creating a mandate for increased pay rates and minimum assignment fees, late payment charges, and making publishers aware of the actual costs of the labor they ask us to do for free, so they will budget these costs into assignment rates.
Current industry standards are unsustainable and punitive for writers. The lack of consideration shown for working hours, last-minute requests, additional services with no additional pay, lack of timely payments of contracts, invoices, and fees, and lack of responses to pitches all amount to abusive practices. We recognize that many magazines operate on narrow margins and cannot pay at the same rate as commercial trade publishers. We all do pro-bono advocacy work at times, donate time to support emerging publications, or collaborate with publishers who offer editorial help and visibility to developing projects. But after a few years, even non-profit and emerging magazines need to raise money to adequately pay writers.
The National Writers Union represents freelance journalists of all types, including stringers, feature writers, and editors, for both print and the web, organizing national initiatives to raise standards. But freelancers may be prevented from setting common rates by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which treats price coordination among independent contractors as an illegal antitrust activity. Yet we can join together to make demands for minimum standards, inflation-based rate increases, prompt payment of invoices, contracts, and fees, and improved labor practices, and if necessary, to daylight bad actors.
We acknowledge the pressure that’s been put on publications over the last 15 years from lost advertising to the internet. But without writers, there’s no magazine. The response to pushback from writers about uncompensated labor cannot be to cut off assignments. As an industry, we are obliged to figure out a business model that doesn’t systematically exploit people.
Signed (listed alphabetically),
Jared Brey, Lisa Chamberlain, Eva Díaz, Billy Fleming, Deborah Gans, Sean Hemmerle Studio, Cathy Lang Ho, Aaron King, Elizabeth Harrison Kubany, Karen Kubey, Mark Lamster, Jeff Link, Bart Lootsma, Sam Lubell, Carlo McCormick, Samuel Medina, Bill Millard, Zach Mortice, Jess Myers, Enrique Ramirez, Timothy A. Schuler, Matt Shaw, Natalia Torija, Lisa Owens Viani, Ian Volner, Kate Wagner, Jenny Xie, Stephen Zacks, and Mimi Zeiger.