NewsGuild Election Likely to Face DOL Investigation – AFL-CIO Slashes Organizing Budget – RIP Larry Hanley

NewsGuild President Bernie Luzner is facing allegations that he broke federal law in attempt so steal the NewsGuild union election (Facebook).

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Embattled NewsGuild Prez Wins By 261 Votes Amid Voting Irregularities

Yesterday, 11-year incumbent NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer won re-election to serve another 4-year term by a margin of 1282-1021 votes defeating 31-year reformer Jon Schleuss of the LA Times.

Only 13.9% of all NewsGuild eligible voted in the election with 2,303 voters out of 16,626 voters eligible voting.

While Schleuss won big locals in D.C, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and even Lunzer’s home state of Minnesota, Lunzer was able to pull of nearly 5 to 1 margin in resource-starved cities like Toledo, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Erie, Chicago, and Puerto Rico.

With many small local leaders thinking Schleuss had no shot at the election, they backed Lunzer out of fear that if they did not, they would not receive resources in the future.

Nearly 2,000 new members were not eligible to vote as Lunzer wouldn’t let a motion proceed to a vote at the Sector Conference last January to allow them to vote. With 500 members in his home local at the LA Times that weren’t allowed to vote, Schleuss likely would have defeated Lunzer if these voters had been allowed to vote.

See the full local-by-local voting results here.

DOL Investigation of Voting Results Likely

Late Thursday night, many reform-minded NewsGuild members started calling for a re-vote citing election irregularities that they feel hurt them.

Over a 1,000 members of the NewsGuild primarily in Schleuss friendly territory did not receive ballots according to a letter issued by Jon Schleuss. Additional irregularities including the handling of ballots exist and the independence of the voter oversight committee. (Read the full letter here).

Under federal labor law, a re-vote could be ordered if enough election irregularities are found. WIth Schleuss trailing by only 261 votes; a new election could give new energy to efforts to defeat the long-criticized Lunzer.

Reform Caucus Likely to Be Launched in Wake of Contested Election

While Schleuss, who launched his campaign only 4 months ago, lost the election, the closely contested election should that there was a deep desire for change among many NewsGuild members.

In the wake of his defeat, many disgruntled NewsGuild members have called for launching a reform caucus in the wake of the close election.

The union has faced heavy criticism for having no people of color in top leadership positions, failing to organize freelancers in existing bargaining units, and failing to lead national conversations on rebuilding the media.

Trump Launches Largest Crackdown on Undocumented Workers Yet

Today, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration sent letters to hundreds of employers across the country informed them that over 570,000 workers they are employing may be using fraudulent Social Security numbers.

The letters could be seen of a deepening crackdown on employers for hiring undocumented workers. Already, the Trump Administration has quadrupled the number of workplace raids and has signaled that they intend to take more action against employers, who use undocumented workers.

Many in the labor and business community protested the letters.

“At a time of low unemployment, we need to be out there finding workers and lobbying for sensible immigration reform instead of reacting to no-match letters,”  Stan Marek, chief executive of Marek Brothers construction company, told the New York Times.

The University of Pittsburgh Paid $239K to Hire Union Busters to Defeat Grad Student Election

Last month, Payday reported on how a graduate employee union election at the University of Pittsburgh was defeated by 37 votes.

Now, the Pitt News has obtained new evidence that the University of Pittsburgh paid $239,000 to the union-busting law firm Ballard Spahr to defeat the union drive.

“It is a disgrace that the University has already spent nearly a quarter million dollars on union-busting lawyers to prevent its own employees from having a say in their workplace, while increasing tuition for in-state students by nearly 5 percent over the same period,” Abby Cartus, a Pitt Graduate Employee union activists told the Pitt News. “This is simply another example of the University wasting valuable resources to fight an unnecessary battle to silence its own workers.”

Trumka Slashed the AFL-CIO Organizing Budget by More than ⅔

Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan has been tearing it up on the union democracy beat. This week, he has a look at how AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has slashed the AFL-CIO’s organizing budget by more than 2/3rds:

The document projects $113 million in total revenue for the fiscal year, and about $123 million in spending. The distribution of that spending, though, is a bold depiction of the federation’s move away from its Sweeney-era prioritization of organizing. Now, total organizing spending—listed under “Economic Power & Growth”—accounts for less than a tenth of the budget:

The percentage of the budget dedicated to all organizing activities is about the same as the portion dedicated to funding the offices of the President, Secretary-Treasurer, Executive Vice President, and Executive Councils and associated committees.

The largest portion of the budget—more than 35 percent—is dedicated to funding political activities:

For more, go to Splinter.

Bernie Uses Email List to Drive Supporters to Picket Lines

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been using their email list to do something unique: persuade their supporters to turn out and support union picket lines.

HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson has a look at how Sanders helped turn supporters out to picket lines at the University of California this week:

The Sanders camp’s collaboration with California strikers was apparently weeks in the making. The candidate delivered a speech to some of the workers during an earlier one-day strike in March. The campaign told representatives from the union to keep in touch and let them know if they could help further.

The Sanders campaign then recruited 12 college student leaders, who relayed information from union organizers to Sanders supporters on their campuses. They also sent texts to supporters in their database who live near planned picket lines.

Although it’s impossible to say what impact the outreach had, the Sanders campaign says 1,000 people responded with interest or committed to go to a protest.

For more, go to HuffPost.

NJ State Senate President and Ironworker VP Stephen Sweeney Gets Suprise Protest from Union Members

On Thursday, New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat and Vice President in the Ironworkers union, meet with state workers to pitch his plan to slash pensions for new employees. In the midst of his speech, he faced quite a surprise. has the story:

Then, as Sweeney took the microphone, a recording of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” mysteriously began playing. Crowd members sang along.

The music came from a speaker hidden underneath the stage. Police officers found it and dragged it away.

Sweeney stayed seated.

“You can yell all you want,” he told the audience. “You’re not shutting me down. The people of this state need a solution.”

“I’m gonna stand up and fight for the taxpayers of this state,” the lawmaker continued. “Do you think this is scaring me?”

Rest in Power: ATU President Larry Hanley

Last week, the labor movement lost one of its most progressive leaders, ATU President Larry Hanley, who lead the fight against construction unions favoring the Keystone Pipeline.

Chris Townsend has a moving remembrance of Hanley’s work and the lessons to be learned from it in Labor Notes:

Larry was visible; for countless ATU members, he was the first international president they had ever met, seen, or heard from. He always had something to say to educate and motivate the membership. He always had a sense of how the union could push forward in tough circumstances. Waiting was not an option. Giving up was impossible.

Previous ATU presidents were not like Larry. To one degree or another they preferred their roles as labor statesmen, running the union from the comfortable shadows. Larry Hanley was determined to wake the union from its slumber, both organizational and political.

He challenged many of the old business union methods that had permeated ATU for decades. He pushed adamantly for a more vigorous collective bargaining policy to deliver better results. He publicized the struggles and programs of the union like never before, to show the members that their union was out there pushing back.

He dramatically expanded the ATU’s programs for safety, training, and communications. He revived its organizing and mobilizing capacity. And he pushed its political action away from the stagnant dollars-for-Democrats model.

For more, go to Labor Notes.

Bruce Hamilton also has a moving remembrance of Larry’s work as a reformer in the labor movement.

Weekend Reads

— This week, Biloxi remembers a historic wade-in of people trying to integrate. WLOX has a look at the event:

On April 24, 196, Mason led about 125 volunteers in a peaceful wade-in on three separate areas of the segregated Biloxi Beach. The protesters were trained in non-violent passive resistance and expected to be arrested. Instead, they were violently attacked by a group of white people armed with pipes and chains as police stood by without intervening.

“I got all my teeth broken real bad, and I got hit in the head… big cut in the head,” said Dolores Stewart Shealy, who participated in the historic “Bloody Sunday” protest.

The violence spread throughout the city, leading to the arrests of mostly black people.

“The police officers allowed us to be attacked,” remembered Le’Roy Carney. “We were just down there playing ball and trying to swim and enjoy the beach.”

For more, check out WLOX.

— The Latino Media Project has launched an infographic map trapping the news deserts in the Latino community across the U.S. Check it out here.

— As communities innovate to fill the gap for news deserts, Corey Hutchinson over at the Columbia Journalism Review has a look at how Longmont, Colorado is trying to use its library to rebuild local reporting:

Voters in Longmont—who previously approved a publicly owned fiber-optic broadband network, and now have some of the fastest internet speeds in the nation—could be asked to consider new taxes to fund a “library district,” a special governmental subdivision that would operate a community library. Roughly a dozen residents are pushing to explore the library district to include some form of community news component.

“A thing like a modern library can fund news,” says W. Vito Montone, who moved to Longmont from California two years ago and is helping organize the project. “It’s just a function that belongs in modern information.”

What a tax-funded, library-governed local news operation would actually look like in practice is so far unclear—it’s early and the group is still hammering out ideas. Some proponents have talked about the possibilities of a newsroom, a print publication, and doing audio and video production. On his personal blog, Longmont resident Scott Converse, who runs the local nonprofit site Longmont Observer, recently suggested the community write editorial independence “into the library tax district bylaws…to ensure the newsroom focuses on the needs of the community and not any special interests.” Newspapers, he wrote, “are on that same continuum of knowledge sharing and learning that libraries have been brilliant at for centuries.”

For more, go to the Columbia Journalism Review.

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. 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]

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