As the NewsGuild election reaches its last week of voting, embattled Old Guard NewsGuild President 61-year-old Bernie Lunzer appears to be in a desperate struggle to stay power as he faces 31-year-old LA Times reporter Jon Schleuss for President of the NewsGuild.
In a sign of contempt for his own journalist membership, Lunzer has so far refused to answer questions from reporters and NewsGuild members about voting irregularities and the possible illegal use of internal union funds to help his campaign.
He is also facing criticism for not allowing a motion at the Sector Conference that if passed would have allowed 2,000 new union members organized at more than two dozen major outlets in the last few years could vote, who won’t be allowed to vote because their bargaining units haven’t the first contract yet. The refusal to allow a motion means that 10% of NewsGuild members won’t be able to vote in this election including Schleuss’s base at the LA Times. (See Payday’s story “2,000 New Members Barred from Voting in NewsGuild Election”.)
In a page ripped out of the union busters’ playbook of shock and awe threats, Lunzer has now taken to warning voters that if he’s not elected it could spell doom for the newspaper industry.
“[Schleuss] might be a good organizer, but he would be dangerous as president of the Guild. He might even put the future of our sector at stake,” said Lunzer on his campaign website. “He doesn’t understand the internal union politics at all, and really doesn’t understand power dynamics.”
“Who is better for the future? I am. I’ve looked out for every local and I don’t think my opponent will because he will be large unit-centric, and LA-centric” wrote Lunzer on his website.
To campaign for President, Lunzer’s competitor Jon Schleuss has had to raise thousands of dollars. While Lunzer is simply able to travel the country on union time and clock out to campaign for President.
Payday Report has received multiple reports that Lunzer has also deployed staff members to campaign on his behalf to attack his opponent. Lunzer’s campaign website even features testimonials against his opponent Schleuss, given by professional union staffers, who have never worked in the news industry.
It’s not clear how much campaigning has been on official time. Over a period of two weeks, Lunzer refused to answer questions about how many of his trips around the country where being done on official union time or out of the pocket of his campaign.
On Monday, the Columbia Journalism Review broke the story that there would not be independent oversight of vote counting. The board charged with holding the election is composed of officers and staffers who have all backed Lunzer.
Opponents of Lunzer also expressed to the Columbia Journal Review concern that not all members have received ballots and that sufficient notice of the election has not been given to NewsGuild members.
When reached by phone for comment, NewsGuild Executive Vice President Marian Needham hung up on the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).
The lack of transparency exhibited in discussing the election is emblematic of a much larger problem with the NewsGuild, many journalists say.
“We are journalists, we are professional communicators. But the lack of communication from the national organization is trickling down to the locals and making our job so much harder,” Washington Post union chair Katie Mettler told CJR.