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My NUJ

The union has a broad range of members and can explain in their own words why they joined and why you should join the NUJ. 

I joined the NUJ because I believe a united voice and action is more powerful than an individual.
Nicola Corless

I have been a member of the NUJ for nearly 50 years, and I and my late husband, Gavin Lyall, reckoned we'd worked for some half a dozen papers that went bust - including Picture Post and Homes Notes – not, let's hope, owing to employing us. But it's when a paper or a magazine is in trouble that you really know why you joined: there's someone there to fight your corner, get some sort of pay-off, maybe soften the blow. Apart from that, the fact that the NUJ has journalistic standards means you have something to refer to if the people running the mag or the paper want you to do something shady. And sometimes it's even fun: I was once the NUJ representative to the women's TUC in a seaside resort - quite an eye-opener in many ways. With the NUJ, you never have to go it quite alone.
Katharine Whitehorn

I joined the NUJ because I believe the union is necessary and fundamental in protecting workers wages and conditions. For me, the NUJ is a bulwark against exploitative employers and unethical journalism.
Norma Prendiville

Usually the people at work who ask for the union's help come in a state of distress about an individual problem: they've been harassed, passed over for promotion, listed for redundancy, found out they're being grossly underpaid. Then they often say: can I join the union? It hasn't seemed relevant up to then. We always help. But just to point out: the wages we earn, the conditions we enjoy, the pensions we saved from being stolen, the respect our union has among industry bodies - all happened because we didn't wait until there were just 'me' issues to get organised. If you don't join, you are getting a free ride on the hard work of generations of journalists who did. So just join.
Paul Mason

Joining the NUJ is one of the best career decisions I've made. Both as a staffer and now as a freelancer, when you can feel on your own, I've found the sense of a support network invaluable. I've seen the value of the bursaries they offer young journalists starting out and appreciated the courses and information on rates, rights and keeping up to date with technological changes. There is great peace of mind in knowing expert specialist support and advice is there if you need it.
Samira Ahmed

The changing nature of journalism and journalistic employment and the individualisation of work has created a cheaper market for all media outlets by way of journalistic competition. As a cub reporter I was lucky to see a demonstration of the strength of numbers. My senior colleague was turned down for a £1 raise the week before he got married. Three months later he got a rise of £5 a week because of an NUJ agreement with the provincial newspaper sector in which we were employed. I never forgot that. I was an NUJ member virtually from my first six months of work until the end of my career 50 years later. The NUJ stood me in good stead through several economic collapses of newspapers when hundreds of journalists, my colleagues, lost their jobs. Union membership gave me an increased sense of self-respect and encouraged me to value my labour highly. I did.
John Devine

Well, the day may come when you are unfairly treated, even dismissed, and you'll have to get a lawyer to defend you. Even these days, when lawyers are more likely to take a no foal - no fee case, the cost will run to a couple of hundred euros at the least. The fee goes up with every small complication. There's no guarantee the lawyer you get will be proficient in employment legislation.
But union dues come to less than a fiver a week; about the price of a pint, and your union is up to date on every piece of employment legislation, it's the business they are in, and all unions all have their own lawyers on board these days, if required. All at no cost to the union member.
Mary Maher

Quite simply “United we stand, divided we fall”. Many companies have a divide and conquer strategy, so solidarity is vital. I also believe in the unions principles and that these need to be fought for, especially now when there is such an onslaught of money before all and cheap sensationalism. Journalism is – or should be – a noble profession. Our union must champion and protect that ideal.
Sue Doherty

I joined the NUJ because it's vital for journalists of all kinds to support one another. As a freelancer, it can be easy to feel isolated; the NUJ is full of like-minded people who believe in the future of our industry. Right now, journalism is changing fast - and the working conditions we insist upon will determine the future shape and content of the press.
Laurie Penny

I joined the NUJ at university because I wanted to be part of an organisation that stands up for journalists and their interests. I would recommend the NUJ to anyone thinking of working in journalism because you never know when in your career you’ll need someone fighting your corner.
Dom Senior

I joined in the 1980’s because I was a freelance on zero hour’s contracts. The NUJ seemed a good place to start changing that. Also I saw the union as another successful (in some ways) defender of human rights and I wanted to be part of that.
Therese Caherty

After two months in my first job and with no training, I was threatened with summary dismissal  and told by a bully that I would never make it as a journalist. The local NUJ rep recognised this and negotiated money, a compromise agreement and, more importantly, gave a voice to how I had been treated. If it hadn’t been for the NUJ, perhaps I would never have made it as a journalist.
Michele Paduano

We're stronger together so journalists who don't join the NUJ are daft. I signed up as a trainee on a journalism course and have remained a member during 30 years spent on a local paper, in trade press, a news agency and three national titles. I urge everybody to join out of professional pride and the reality we all may one day need the union's help.
Kevin Maguire

People need unions for lots of things but in, my experience, the most important thing the union does is fight bullying in the workplace. Even in the most enlightened companies, the best managers come under pressure to 'get results' - and they resort to bullying. The union keeps them honest.
Don Brind

I joined as I knew I would be working as a freelance when I finished college so felt that the union could be a support since I will be working on my own. Also, feel it will help with, and know other journalists.
Maria Delaney

I wanted someone to stand by me and help me fight when my rights are/were/could be violated. A career insurance policy maybe and a sense of others in the same boat.
Sandra Murphy

I joined the union because I believe in collective bargaining, about the protection of jobs and the rights of everyone to fair pay. The union membership ensures I’m informed on issues affecting other journalists and gives an opportunity to discuss these issues and instigate change.
Carol Byrne

I joined while I was a trainee journalist on a local weekly in Wolverhampton and saw it as a no-brainer. My annual salary was £7,500 and, no, it wasn't the dark ages - it was 1996. I could only afford to live at the YWCA. That didn't seem right.
Why did I join, stay a member and become active? Because I didn't think some magic fairy was going to come along and sort everything out. We had to stay together as union members and speak up for ourselves. Management and owners were not going to give us pay rises or better conditions out of the goodness of their hearts, were they?
When I later joined the BBC, conditions were better than in local newspapers. We could have all rested on our laurels but we didn't - those conditions were always under threat of being eroded, or worse.
I think when you join an organisation and you know that the pay and conditions have been fought for and won by negotiation, by action and by standing together as union members, it is beholden on everyone to maintain that strength and keep passing it on down the generations. I never wanted to feel that we had let it fall apart on our watch.
Paula Dear

For me, joining the NUJ was a no-brainer. The NUJ gives BBC staff a say they wouldn’t otherwise have in the running of what’s supposed to be "our BBC". This year my subs have already paid for themselves due to the unions’ work in improving our pay offer, and we still haven’t settled. There’s a reason some employers don’t like unions: they work. Employees enjoy better terms because of them. That’s why we have to defend our union in the BBC.
Becky Branford

When I was fighting a court battle to protect my sources from being made known to the police, the NUJ was right behind me in court. Without its work, journalism in this country would be a far weaker institution. No self-respecting reporter should be operating without having already signed up to enjoy its protection and aid.
Shiv Malik

When I was a student journalist an NUJ official visited us - and showed us two charts. On one were all the companies where the NUJ had negotiating rights, on the other the ones they didn't. In the first list pay was higher, holidays longer, working hours shorter and terms and conditions better. It was an easy decision. We all joined - and to this day the fact remains whether you are seeking better pay or facing problems at work, having the NUJ on your side delivers better pay, better conditions and a better outcome.
Jeremy Dear

I joined the NUJ on my first day at my first local newspaper - on the orders of the editor! The office NUJ rep took me to the local pub and got me to sign a form - not a bad introduction to unions. I think every journalist should join the NUJ on their first day in work so they can stand alongside colleagues in seeking decent pay and conditions, campaign for better rights, support the union's wider work in defending good quality journalism - and to ensure they are never alone if a problem crops up.
Alan Jones

I joined nearly 40 years ago and since then the NUJ has always been there for me - protecting me in the workplace and fighting to improve standards in journalism. You can tell the union is important to ordinary journalists by the way bosses try to stop people joining. If the union didn't provide vital support for its members fighting for better wages and conditions why would they bother?
Chris Frost

No matter where I've been and what I've done, I've joined the union.
It's the right thing to do. Today I'm a freelancer, tomorrow I may be an employee. Either way, I know that my interests lie with my fellow workers and that's where my solidarity lies, too.
Cory Doctorow

I joined the NUJ in 1981 when I became a journalist on The Observer and at that time getting your NUJ card was a badge of honour, a rite of passage, and evidence of your entry into proper journalism. It is a symbol of aspiration to best practice in journalism and I am proud to carry my NUJ card wherever I go. When I moved for a period into TV there was an attempt to bully me into defecting to a TV union. I refused on the grounds that the NUJ is a professional body promoting the highest standards of journalism, regardless of whatever media you happened to working in. Most importantly, there is the code of professional ethics, conspicuous in its absence in the TV union, and to me vital. There are many other good reasons to be a member of the NUJ. Importantly, it allows established journalists to help protect those more junior and vulnerable in the face of what are too often appalling employment practices.
Paul Lashmar

I changed jobs in the then Irish tourist board in the late 1990s - moving into an editorial role in Ireland Of The Welcomes magazine and our in-house photographer at the time encouraged me to join the NUJ, suggesting that I’d be better represented by the NUJ in the publishing industry. Since then, this has indeed been the case, as many of the issues pertaining to both my previous and current role in international publicity are unique in the public sector and they have been handled expertly by the NUJ throughout.
Antoinette Reilly

I wanted to be part of something bigger than just my local newspaper, so I joined the NUJ to be part of the only union that works for journalists and journalism. You insure your home and your car, so it’s important to insure your job – and being part of the NUJ helps to do that. But it’s more than just job protection – it’s standards, ethics and equality, all values that the NUJ fights for in the workplace and beyond.
James Doherty

I joined the NUJ during a 'recruit a colleague' push. A journalist at work asked if I was a member but, being quite new, I hadn't yet joined the NUJ. I work as a press officer in a small comms team in a big, not-for-profit membership organisation. I really value the industry and career-related information, networking and support I can access through the NUJ. The events and training opportunities are all relevant to my work life, and I've met some brilliant people through involvement in the union. I'd encourage anyone working in the media industry to join, not just for the excellent employment and legal protections on offer, but also for the professional networking, campaigns and policy work the union leads on.
Sian Jones

I joined the NUJ originally because a recognised press card was important for the press corps members working in Brussels. Since that time I've become a much more active member and believe that the work of the union is essential to the continued existence of professional journalism.
Philip Hunt

I joined the NUJ on day one and have never looked back. I started my career on a local paper where pay was very low. By standing together we won big rises and achieved far more than we ever could have done individually.
Richard Simcox

I joined the NUJ on the first day of my first job as a reporter. The MoC at the Essex Chronicle called me and asked if I wanted to join the NUJ, and I said, "Yes, of course." I was just starting my career and I needed the assurance that somebody was looking after my interests at work and that I would have the support of a strong body, should I ever need it. And I did. Five years later I was on the picketline, fighting for my rights to be represented by my union, along with a small number of colleagues, one of whom turned out to be a future general secretary. Thirty years later and having spent hundreds of hours representing and supporting my colleagues as an MoC at the BBC World Service for 20 years, I am sure, more than ever, that I was right.
Arjumand Wajid

I joined the NUJ on my second day in the newsroom. It would have been sooner, but nobody asked me. Through a long career the NUJ has been a constant source of professional guidance, encouragement and security. Anybody who takes journalism seriously should join and participate.
Eddie Barrett

Joined in 1970 as an apprentice and the NUJ has always been a source of support and, in fact, inspiration as well as an outlet for the part of me that wants to do something useful beyond the actual writing. It became even more crucial to me after I went freelance more than 30 years ago - staying in touch with fellow journalists (doncha just love us?) for one thing and then the chance to take part in and benefit from all the campaigning work for freelances which, be it noted, absolutely nobody else will do, ever. Jump in, the water's lovely!
Phil Sutcliffe

I have been a member of the NUJ since university (nearly 20 years ago) and the union’s so important because it gives such great protection to journalists and there is a feeling of safety in numbers. It has helped with my career and I have been able to turn to them on so many occasions for much-needed advice.
Claire Savage

I’ve been in the NUJ for nearly 40 years and I still believe in chapel power. Without it the concerns of journalists regarding their pay and terms and conditions will never be met. A vibrant NUJ chapel is the only recourse to challenging owners and management in their drive to the bottom.
Bob Miller

I joined without hesitation the first time I was asked. We had hardly any members, no chapel and, obviously, no relationship with management. We soon changed all of that.
Andy Smith

I joined the NUJ when I really needed help, it looked after me.
And now as an FOC I try to do the same for others.
Denis Nightingale

The NUJ was, is and will continue to be, one of the very few credible checks and balances there are against the opaque and corrupt BBC hierarchy and bureaucracy.
Howard Zhang

It offers another voice, other than management, to explain what's really happening with changes to employment practices at the BBC. The NUJ is a fantastic union for getting your voice heard, working with talented union reps and members to make the BBC a better place for all.
Ben Toone

The NUJ is about defending jobs, pay and conditions in the media industry, but it is also much more than that. Members engage in debates about the sort of media we want and how media serves our society. The union played a crucial role during the Leveson inquiry and the NUJ has a long and proud record in campaigning for quality journalism and against monopoly ownership. Too much power in too few hands hinders public debate, democracy and press freedom, which is unacceptable.
Barry White

I joined the NUJ as a student in Dublin. It wasn't really a choice, it's what journalism students did - our ethics course was based on the NUJ Code of Conduct. When I started work as an online journalist in 1998, I proudly exchanged my student card for a full membership card. Even though I was among the first of a new breed of journalists, I felt it was still incredibly important to be part of an organisation dedicated to protecting journalists and journalism. I also accepted that, if the NUJ was to become more relevant to young journalists working on the web, we had to join and get involved to make it so.
Donnacha DeLong

It has never been more important for journalists to organise: to fight for a press free of government and politically motivated wealthy individuals; to win a conscience clause as a block on immoral practices; to defend low-paid and exploited media workers; and to take on the scandal of unpaid internships, which are exploitative and turning journalism into a closed shop for the privileged. It is the NUJ's fight on these issues that make me proud to be a member.
Owen Jones

Because I realise there is strength in numbers.
Rose Commissky

Joining the NUJ in the late 1960s made me a genuine trainee. It identified me as a real journalist; it gave me the security and protection of a chapel and branch and conducted important negotiations on pay and conditions on my behalf; it backed me with a code of ethics; it offered a cushion in times of need and, throughout my career, provided wonderful networking and lasting friendships. Can't imagine life without the NUJ!
Pauline Norris

It’s all too easy to think that your problem at work is yours alone. The NUJ both stands behind you with personal support, but also ensures your employer is held to account for how it acts towards you as an NUJ member.
David Campanale

I joined the NUJ on my first day at work, as an 18-year-old, and have never regretted it. The union has been a loyal friend during my 25 years in journalism, improving conditions in newsrooms, chasing up freelance payments and, perhaps most importantly, providing a voice for journalists seeking to improve professional and ethical standards throughout the industry. I joined, paying a monthly cheque, after I was asked by the NUJ rep at the newspaper and because joining the journalists' union made me feel like a proper journalist.
Tim Lezard

Free-marketeers think that fair and decent terms of employment, laboriously acquired through the struggles of generations of trade unionists, are 'unjustifiable privileges'. A French economist recently denounced the 'fantasy' that they are 'a heritage to be preserved' (la notion fantasmée d'un héritage à préserver). Economists want us to abandon these privileges, so that we may be 'competitive' with countries where they do not yet exist. Workers throughout the world must combine to demolish this nonsense.
Angus Sibley

I belong to the NUJ because I believe in the importance of collective strength and action to protect workers’ interest and a trade union does that. As a union for journalists, the NUJ has been my voice in the workplace when I was a staffer and it is now an important mouthpiece for me as a freelance as it strives to offer an equivalent of sorts to the chapels for those of us who are self-employed, in the form of advice, support and training. Louise Bolotin

Professionally, the NUJ’s had my back for 44 years now, 35 of them in freelance mode – and I’m still here. It’s the only way we can put our individual mini-strengths together into one mighty maxi-strength to promote and protect our interests on 'pay and conditions' – our living and our right to earn it via such important matters as copyright ownership. Phil Sutcliffe

I suppose I belong because I believe it’s right and just for anyone who works to have a voice in their workplace (even if that workplace is the rather indefinable virtual workplace of freelancing). And since one lone voice is not likely to get anyone anywhere, joining a union, and working collectively, seems the right thing to do. Jenny Vaughan

I belong to the NUJ because I believe in the principles of mutual support, camaraderie and joining together in pursuit of shared goals. Mark Fisher

Quite simply, I can’t afford not to be. As a freelance I don’t have employment law to protect me. I don’t have a building full of co-workers to strengthen my voice. But I do know the NUJ will always be there to provide help if I need it. We all need our comrades in the NUJ. Di Harris

Why do I belong to the NUJ? So I can actually get paid for the work I’ve done. The accounts department of one regular client I work for is so afraid of even the mention of the words 'I don’t want to have to call the NUJ…' that I get paid before their usual monthly pay run. Matt Salusbury

I belong to the NUJ because: I believe in the trade union movement; I need contact with other freelances; I need access to professional training and advice when faced by problems; I believe journalists need a strong union just as much now as in the days when it was founded. John Chapman

I’m a member of the NUJ because, as a freelance, I am a vulnerable worker. Thus I need the collective strength of the union to defend me. Within NUJ, there is still much of that old spirit – an injury to one is an injury to all. Additionally, the union is protection against all that is worst in society: the agenda of greed and bullying that is now on the offensive. The union stands for the opposite of that, for the values of humanity. Anton McCabe

NUJ membership often gives me an edge over non-members. It: validates my credentials as a professional with editorial commissioners; gains me admission – because of my recognised press card – to national and international conferences that often have limited press places; keep my skills up-to-date through affordable (and occasionally free) professional training courses in London and Wales; enables me to network professionally and socially with fellow freelances; gives me satisfaction knowing that my membership fees not only support my personal interests but the Union to campaign on many important issues. Jenny Sims

I belong to the NUJ because as a freelance it’s given me a place to feel connected. Not only this, the NUJ offers excellent courses and advice. The freelance office helped me early in my career when a major publication reproduced an article without permission. The NUJ also provides support for funeral costs, should your family be unable to afford it, and the NUJ charity will give financial help if you fall on hard times. The NUJ fights for all journalists, writers and photographers best interests, and it gives me pride to hold my press card and be part of it. Hina Pandya

Read more reasons to join the NUJ - from the #heartunions campaign week