Jonathan Tasini, the high-profile and recently embattled head of the National Writers Union, is leaving his post to start the Creators Federation (www.creatorsfederation.org), a group that will serve as a kind of umbrella union for people in a range of creative fields, including photography, art and music. "There's a creator on every block in America," Tasini said. "From a public policy standpoint, if we had a network connecting these creators, we'd be an incredibly powerful force." A legal defense fund, strategic planning and health insurance are among the programs Tasini said he will push at the new group.
Tasini will officially leave the NWU in six weeks. He has served as president of the union for more than a decade, gaining attention most notably through a long-running suit against the New York Times and other publications over fees for electronic redistribution.
Tasini would have been up for re-election in the fall of 2003. Although he had said he wouldn't run, some members had believed until last week that he would change his mind.
Taking over on an interim basis is Marybeth Menaker, v-p of external organizing and a Tasini ally in the union's internal political battle. Menaker said she may be interested in running for the full two-year term in the fall, when the presidency and the executive board seats are put in play, and the balance between pro- and anti-Tasini forces could shift. Asked about taking over for someone as galvanizing as Tasini, Menaker said, "It's not about the techniques but about the goals," which includes, especially, the group's push for legislation that would allow for writers to collectively bargain.
As for Tasini's best-known cause, the case against the Times, he said he will continue working on it even after he leaves. There have been reports that the sides are close to agreeing on a settlement sum. Tasini said that he couldn't discuss details, but sounded confident of success. "I'm optimistic that we'll come to closure in the near future" he said, adding that there was no doubt that "Writers will be getting money."