As CWA Elects Union Prez, CWA Fails to Meet Discovery Deadline in Violent Intimidation Case

Top NewsGuild official in CWA Sara Steffens was defeated amid controversy about covering up sexual misconduct & violent intimidation in the union (CWA)

PITTSBURGH, PA – As over 1,000 union delegates of the Communication Workers of America meet this week at its union convention in St. Louis to elect its President, the union leadership is failing to comply with a legal deadline to produce documents as part of discovery in a high-profile sexual misconduct whistleblower case here in Pittsburgh. 

Shocking new details of violent intimidation and sexual misconduct revealed by the Emergency Mutual Respect Committee, compromised of 9 CWA local officers, and Payday Report has rocked the three-way presidential election between 51-year-old CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, CWA District 2-13 President Ed Mooney, and CWA District 6 President Claude Cummings. 

(Read our full story “Rival Candidates Cover Up Sexual Misconduct & Violent Intimidation”)

This week, retiring CWA President Chris Shelton has sought to assure the approximate 1,000 convention delegates voting in the election that he and his chosen successor, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, did everything they could to investigate violent intimidation and sexual misconduct within the union.

Shelton said he would launch an investigation headed by retired CWA Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Reichenbach, a union insider. Much like in the case of sexual assault cases and violent intimidation in Pittsburgh NewsGuild, CWA has refused to allow an independent investigation by a neutral third party with experience during third-party investigations. 

In an attempt to win votes, Shelton and Steffens have repeatedly assured union delegates that they would release all information regarding sexual misconduct within the union. 

However, before the union convention, CWA repeatedly failed to meet legal deadlines to comply with discovery deadlines in a high-profile sexual misconduct whistleblower retalation case here in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh NewsGuild CWA President Zack Tanner is facing a whistleblower lawsuit for physically assaulting me, which was caught on tape, and sending me graphic emails depicting how he wanted me raped.

In May, CWA was obligated to provide all documents in discovery to our legal team here in Pittsburgh. Our discovery requests were extensive and brought potentially damaging questions about instances of the cover-up of sexual misconduct and violent intimidation within the union. 

In May, the lawyers for the CWA asked for a one-month extension, which we granted. Ryan Allen Hancock of Williams, Witting, & Davidson informed my counsel Louis Kroeck that all documents would be provided by June 16th. 

However, CWA’s legal counsel has “ghosted” from communication with my counsel since then. 

Given that these documents could contradict the claims of Shelton and Steffens that they did everything they could to combat sexual misconduct and violent intimidation, it seems likely that they are being withheld not to hurt Sara Steffens’ bid for CWA President. 

In December 2019, emails showed that Steffen was made aware of sexual misconduct against former Pittsburgh NewsGuild CWA President Michael Fuoco and refused her constitutional duty to investigate them for nearly a year. 

In February of 2021, Steffens also declined to investigate an email from current Pittsburgh NewsGuild CWA President Zack Tanner sent to me entitled “You little bitch ass autistic motherfucker”. In the email, whose IP address was traced to Tanner, the local NewsGuild CWA President graphically depicted how Tanner wanted me to be raped and violently killed. 

(Read a full copy of Steffen’s letter refusing to investigate violent intimidation against a union dissident in Pittsburgh)

Given what we already know about Steffen’s failure to investigate sexual misconduct and violent intimidation within the union, it’s incredibly suspicious that CWA is failing to release these documents ahead of the union’s presidential election this week in St. Louis. If we had obtained the documents on time, we have published them so that CWA union members could decide for themselves the role Sara Steffens played in covering violent intimidation and sexual misconduct. 

The failure to meet this legal deadline makes me suspect that CWA is attempting to hide something from union delegates as they meet this week in St. Louis to elect a new union president. 

If CWA does not provide these documents, we intend to take legal action to force them to produce them. Every member of our union deserves to know how the nation’s largest journalist covered up sexual misconduct and violent intimidation within the union. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]