When this election for president of The NewsGuild-CWA began, we knew to expect attacks on Bernie Lunzer’s leadership. After all, he’s been an officer of the international forabout 30 years and has a record that his opponent can misconstrue and criticize.
But we didn’t expect that the opposition would attack the Guild itself and the constitution that’s the basis for our union democracy. In a breathtakingly biased piece for CJR, reporter Lyz Lenz purposely ignored the democratic underpinnings of The Guild.
And to our dismay — and to their shame – both the opponent and his supporters participated in this hit piece, which only can have the purpose of undermining trust in the Guild’s election process.
Even if we ignore that the reporter quoted four people who either support the opponent or criticized Bernie and no one from Bernie’s side, the story had errors and purposeful mistruths about the election process.
For example, Bernie chose not to comment because the reporter questioned Executive Vice President Marian Needham, who said the reporter was indifferent to her answers about the Guild’s true election process.
The reporter’s tone and her willful ignorance of the truth convinced Bernie that it was futile to comment for the story.
For example, the reporter ignored that the sector conference delegates elect the members of the Sector Election and Referendum Committee. No officer chooses them. Members were nominated and properly elected. Other delegates at the sector conference could have nominated other members for the SERC, including the delegate who nominated Bernie’s opponent. But they did not.
Instead of legislating from within the Guild, they are taking the coward’s way out and trying to blow it up.
When the opposition attacks the SERC members, they are not attacking just the integrity of these hard-working Guild members. That would be bad enough. They attack the integrity of our democracy, and that is unforgivable.
In addition, she didn’t want to hear that both sides can bring up to three observers to the ballot count. The candidates can be one of the observers.
And we see that the story has already been corrected twice, once for the correct name of a local and once about the voting process in that same local.
Comments from the opponent’s supporters are allowed in the story as facts, when they are wrong.
For example, The NewsGuild-CWA will have spent some $200,000 on the organizing and bargaining at the Los Angeles Times by the end of May, not including the costs of two staff reps assigned to the local. That includes paying for a full-time administrator to manage the local.
As far as the accusation that Bernie alone is responsible for the decline in Guild membership, that’s ridiculous. This union has survived during industry cutbacks, losing far fewer members percentage-wise than the media industry as a whole.
Meanwhile, Guild-covered journalists at many news outlets represented by TNG, including The Associated Press and the New York Times, continued to negotiate wage increases during this difficult time for journalism.
As we defended and improved contracts, The NewsGuild has achieved historic levels of organizing. And yes, Los Angeles is a large part of that. The members there stood together and got great results in their election and continue to remain united during difficult bargaining.
But the Los Angeles Times folks weren’t the start of our organizing. Information distributed to members over the past four years show that TNG has organized or achieved first contracts for 55 new workplaces since mid-2015, providing Guild representation to nearly 3,000 employees.
While the opponent claims that the victory at the Los Angeles Times “triggered a wave of successful organizing,” more than half of those shops — 32 workplaces covering 1,230 employees — were organized before the Los Angeles Times joined TNG’s ranks.
That’s hardly the passive leadership that the opponent claims
And we have continued to organize since they joined the Guild, and the LA folks have provided advice to the new units. But the opposition has created a false narrative about the organizing in Los Angeles and the level of the support that they received from the dues monies of other members because those dues are the way we fund all organizing.
Bernie and his supporters have ignored the opposition’s attacks on him because, unlike his opponent, he has decades of experience and a record that’s open for analysis. But we will not stay silent when they attack the Guild itself. In this era of contempt for journalists and unions, we stand strong for both.
Martha Waggoner, TNG international chair
Michael Cabanatuan, TNG vice president
Elizabeth Regan, administrator, Providence Newspaper Guild
John Hill, TNG vice president
Bill Ross, executive director, The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia
Melissa Tkach, 2ndvice president, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
Jill Bleed, president, News Media Guild
Nolan Rosenkrans, president, Toledo News Guild
Erie Russ, TNG vice president
Kevin Flowers, TNG vice president