Writers Union Protests Firing of Jeff Schmidt

Contact: Jonathan Tasini (212) 254-0279

New York, June 12, 2000 -- The National Writers Union today protested the firing of Jeff Schmidt, a Writers Union member, from his job as a staff editor at Physics Today magazine, a step that was apparently taken in response to the recent publication of a controversial book that Schmidt wrote. "The firing of Schmidt is an affront to the principles of open inquiry and free speech that a magazine of science such as Physics Today is supposed to uphold," said Writers Union President Jonathan Tasini.

On May 31, Schmidt, a member of the Washington, D.C., Local of the Writers Union, was suddenly fired after 19 years on the staff of Physics Today, which is published by the non-profit American Institute of Physics. The dismissal came, Schmidt says, right after his supervisors learned that he had written a book called DISCIPLINED MINDS, which was published last month by Rowman & Littlefield. An article about the book had appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and was making the rounds at the offices of Physics Today.

Schmidt admits that his book, whose subtitle is "A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives," was written in a provocative tone. In fact, in the book's opening lines, he declares that the book was "written in part on stolen time," i.e., during free time at the office. Schmidt sees his dismissal from Physics Today "as further proof of the book's thesis: that management's paramount concern is always the political content of the work -- even spare-time work."

"The content of Schmidt's book does not justify the actions of Physics Today management," Tasini stated. "Schmidt has a right to be provocative in his outside writing without suffering the loss of his job."

The National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers, is a labor union and advocacy organization for freelance journalists, authors, technical writers, poets and other types of writers.

Copyright © 2000 by National Writers Union.