First and foremost the Guild is a community. It’s a good community, so much so, that folks want to join it and make it even better. We are in the midst of the most historic expansion since Canadian locals were organized in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
The workers who are joining are tired of any negative attitude and the belief that we can’t do better. I believe we can and so do they. As the Guild president I want you to understand the organization’s commitment to current and new members and to fighting back.
We are busy expanding our organizing capacity. We’ve got the attention of all of CWA. We just won the “Hat” award for our successes (it’s called that because the CWA’s first President, Joe Beirne used to pass his hat around at organizing wins to get money to pay for the next drive). And that’s what we’re doing. Current members pay to organize newer members, who then start paying dues to organize even more new members. And it’s working.
We started a program of paying rank-and-file workers to pair with professional organizers to spread the word. Our very first such hire, Dean Olsen of Illinois, had proved that he could cultivate strong interest over social media and phone lines. Imagine what we could do sending other workers to locations to talk to other interested workers.
Among organized labor’s bleak landscape, TNG’s organizing has been an inspiring success story and I intend to continue adding new chapters.
I continue to secure strategic funding for our drives. We’ve pledged over $400,000 in Los Angeles where negotiators are working diligently on a first contract. And we’ve put money forward in several locations to assist new groups to become either new locals, or part of a current local. Our professional organizers have the tools necessary to either answer questions directly or get the answers.
Marian Needham and I make certain that every strategic fund request involves substantial membership involvement. We take recommendations and plans from folks that have ideas and then shape those ideas with the support of CWA. It’s my mission to make sure these requests get the proper support on the CWA Executive Board and on the Defense Fund Oversight Committee. We have an excellent representative on the DFOC in Bill O’Meara and Bill and I share the same values on organizing and mobilization. Bill’s expertise from years of experience along with similar experience with Marian and myself has made our documented requests among the most compelling that committee receives.
As your president I work to ensure that our requests are focused and that we don’t overspend. I make sure that we lay out specific, achievable goals and measurable metrics. In achieving this we earned the respect of the DFOC and are able to get our plans implemented. See the attached listing of funds we have requested. It is one of the most important functions we have.
As your president, I also oversee bargaining and contract struggles. Performing a power analysis with locals of how they can secure a contract is critical. We remain clear with locals – no, we don’t rule out a strike – but we know what works short of a strike and that is always our priority. I called the last strike in the Guild. I explained to the unit officers that the news organization would restructure in the event of a strike. They did understand but made a convincing argument that they would not achieve their economic demands without a work stoppage. The bar was high but I was convinced. This type of power analysis is one of the toughest things we do as leaders and making the right choices comes from experience. It’s not something one can pick up overnight. I started at the national level at age 35. By that age I had been involved in twelve major rounds of bargaining, several as the lead negotiator. I had served six years as my unit’s chairperson and dealt with grievances and arbitration. I had also worked on a major organizing campaign and served as a strike captain. These experiences helped shape my ability to function as a trusted and effective leader.
That trust has served me well, by the way. A leader can’t just make promises to people. Leaders must listen and give honest answers formed around proven methods and then deliver. Marian Needham and I understand that tapping into the energy of the membership is the most powerful tool a local has and we also know the best ways that energy can be harnessed.
I will also continue to lead on stopping hedge funds from continuing to decimate journalism. We must help create and demand sustainable business models. Journalism is a social good. It is key to a democratic society. The Guild should use its leverage and help to lead this fight. We’ll work with any allies that share our values.
I seek reelection. Again. I understand why a new election was called but I also think I won the first one fair and square. Still, you can’t have a large local disenfranchise that many of its members and not have to do it over and I welcome this opportunity to again demonstrate that Marian Needham and myself, working closely with the Guild’s Executive Council led by Martha Waggoner and working closely with CWA Canada President, Martin O’Hanlon are the best at what we do and earn your support.
This is not a generational fight. And it’s not about having someone new for the sake of newness. In these tumultuous times, I believe it makes sense to double down on what’s been working for our union. I intend to provide ample space for a discussion about future plans for our union in this coming term.
Lastly – perhaps most importantly – our CWA is under significant stress that will continue. Other parts of the union are losing members, especially in the Telecom Sector. That creates financial challenges. We have immense funds that help us with projects and strategic initiatives. But the General Fund of CWA that pays for the regular budgets is very tight (which is why some wanted to do away with certain sectors at this year’s convention). But they went at it with a political axe.
Our identity as a sector of journalists is critical to our organizing and bargaining. We can’t let anyone take that away. But there are also reasons for geographic districts. My deep knowledge of the union will allow me to start a fair process of reimagining the structure of CWA. I believe I can get a process started that will allow members throughout CWA to have a real member-driven conversation about the future. I am in a very unique position to be the one that can make that happen. Sometimes it does take that one leader. And in this case, it’s a leader that believes in the full membership discussion – believes that it takes the rank and file to make these decisions from a fully informed place. Yes – the union is changing. Yes, the Guild is rebuilding.
Please – make a conscious decision to educate yourself on the myriad of issues that confronts our union. Once you do, I believe you’ll support Bernie Lunzer for Guild President. The future of the Guild depends on it and it’s the only way to continue the progress that Marian Needham and I have built. I ask for your vote. Let’s talk about building the Guild. Together.