One activist’s view of the election for Guild president
If you’re waiting until 2020 for an election that matters, an election with sharp contrasts, keep in mind there’s another national vote, this one right around the corner and equally deserving of your full-throated participation.
A full year ahead of next year’s presidential election, Guild members find themselves in the midst of a contest for control of our union and, like Trump versus whoever, the consequences are immense.
The contest is for the highest position in our union and, in my eyes, the choice could not be clearer – current president Bernie Lunzer.
There is no denying the dismal state of our industry and the everyday impact it has on our members, but we should also be celebrating our successes. By my count, there have been 62 of them the past five years.
I’m talking about successful organizing drives. At a time of downsizing and retrenchment in the newspaper industry, our union is fighting to survive and doing it by adding new members – 3,200 of them over that five-year period.
Even more significant, perhaps, these organizing victories are happening at both digital companies – BuzzFeed and Law360 come to mind – and at more traditional news organizations such as the Chicago Tribune and New York magazine.
The effort also produced an historic first in 2016 when workers at the Lakeland Ledger and Sarasota Herald-Tribune voted in our union and became the first Guild newspapers in Florida.
For the first time in my memory, and my involvement as a Guild activist goes back three decades, my union is aggressively pursuing new members.
Here in Buffalo, we’re on the verge of adding 60 members as part of a long-awaited merger with another CWA union at The Buffalo News. It was the first major organizing effort by our local in decades and we did it with the help of Guild headquarters.
I’m not suggesting Bernie is alone in all of this and, yes, we were slow to catch up with the Writers Guild. But as they say, numbers don’t lie. The Guild is finally serious about organizing and that renaissance began with Bernie at the helm.
Under his leadership, the Guild secured four organizing grants from the CWA totaling $2.1 million. The first of those grants set aside $478,000 to organize digital journalists. The effort now includes five and soon to be six full-time organizers.
There is opposition, and while Jon Schleuss can boast of taking part in a successful organizing drive at his paper, the Los Angeles Times, a huge win for the Guild, his inexperience is troublesome.
The two of us spoke recently about why he’s running and I came away seeing Jon as a credible candidate for president – in 10 or 20 years. His ideas for improving bargaining and mobilization services to smaller locals are interesting, but good ideas never supplant experience and a track record of success.
The fact is Jon is brand new to the Guild. He paid his first dues last year. He has never filed a grievance, never mind settled one, and he has never bargained a contract.
Jon acknowledges his inexperience and and says he would rely on the people below him when it comes to serving as a pension trustee or on the CWA’s national board.
Frankly, too much is at stake these days to risk putting a newcomer, however well-intentioned, in charge of our union.
As most of you know, the election next month is a rerun of an election Bernie narrowly won in May. When it became clear that thousands of Guild members did not receive ballots, largely because of wrong addresses provided by certain locals, the Guild ordered a new election.
Not surprisingly, Jon was among the first to call for a new election, but he also threatened to involve Trump’s Department of Labor.
When I asked Jon about it, he said it was a threat he felt he had to make to insure the integrity of the election and that it never went beyond a threat. Headquarters claims Jon sent a complaint to the DOL at the same time he sent his complaint to the Guild.
In Bernie, we get a president we know can do the job, a leader with the background to continue us on the path to organizing even more new members.
And remember, it is Bernie who fights for the Guild Sector, especially if we’re feeling short staffed.
One more reason to return him to office.
Buffalo Newspaper Guild