MICHAEL O'CONNOR fulfilled his end of the contract: Earlier this year, he submitted freelance stories about beer, bartenders, and comic books to PDX Magazine, a glossy magazine "highlighting the best events, services and people that Portland has to offer." The pieces were published, and then he waited and waited to get paid.
Finally, this week, O'Connor took the monthly mag, which has been published since October 2005, to court.
According to the magazine's own submission guidelines posted on their website, "freelance writers are paid on or about 30 days after publication date." O'Connor says his first two checks were each a few weeks late, but he was eventually paid for his work.
"It was on the third paycheck that the problem started," O'Connor says. His pay for a story about saké, published in the March issue, was already four weeks overdue when the publication's accountant told him his check was ready, but "the owner has been out of town and they're just waiting for his signature," says O'Connor.
O'Connor also found other writers and photographers who weren't getting paid by PDX Magazine, "all of whom had the same story. They'd gone in, hadn't received payment, sent emails, called, and showed up at the office, just to be brushed off," he says. Usually, staff would say the checks were just waiting for the publisher, Brett Beber, to sign. (Beber did not return the Mercury's call for comment.)
Photographer Matt D'Annunzio also no longer freelances for the magazine, after a scrap over payment in January. "Every time they owed me money, it was like pulling teeth," says D'Annunzio, who shot for the magazine for two years. "[Beber] was about two months behind on paying me, and I really needed the money to go to Thailand."
The day before D'Annunzio was slated to leave, he still hadn't been paid, and he refused to turn in his photo assignment for the next issue until he got his check. "I got the check at the very last minute, like literally right before I was about to fly out."
Writer Angelo De Ieso invoiced the publication last summer for pieces he'd written—but still didn't get paid. He emailed, called, and finally hired a lawyer to send a letter on his behalf, and was finally paid in November, "100 days after I invoiced them," he says. "I wasted a lot of time and energy."
When O'Connor's March payment was two months late—and payments for three other stories were one month and a few days late, respectively—he "decided I better do something about it." He filed in Multnomah County's small claims court, and the sheriff served papers on PDX Magazine. At that point, O'Connor says he was owed "almost exactly $800 not including the court fees."
Within a few days, PDX Magazine paid up—but O'Connor still showed up in small claims court on Monday, August 25 with De Ieso to recoup court costs. Beber, however, was a no show. Judge Randall Weisberg found in O'Connor's favor, and ordered PDX Magazine to pay him $160.50 in court costs.