Today, a group of dozens of prominent journalists and NewsGuild union activists released a letter calling for a new election for NewsGuild union leadership. The letter accuses 11-year NewsGuild incumbent President Bernie Lunzer, who won his re-election bid by only 261 votes, of violating federal labor law in multiple instances in order to disenfranchise over 3,000 eligible voters.
“We believe thousands of NewsGuild members were disenfranchised during and after this election, due to improper and unfair actions carried out by parties connected to the election’s administration. To remediate this ongoing injustice, and to ensure our leaders are elected fairly, we believe you must re-run the election,” wrote the journalists in an open petition to the leadership of the NewsGuild parent’s union, the Communication Workers of America.
The journalists signing the letter are some of the most prominent names in the NewsGuild. They include Washington Post Union Chair Katie Mettler, LA Times Union Chair Anthony Pesce, Bloomberg BNA Union Chair Fatima Hussein, Indianapolis Star Union Chair Katie Hopkins, Andrew Pantazi, chair of the Florida Times-Union Guild, Lainna Fader, Vice Chair of The New Yorker Union, veteran labor journalist and former CWA international representative Steve Early, as well as three dozen other prominent names in the journalism industry.
(You can read and sign the petition here)
The letter accuses NewsGuild leadership of violating federal labor law on multiple instances.
Under federal labor law, all members of the union are required to receive notice of the upcoming NewsGuild election, but scores of members were not sent ballots. Furthermore, over a 1,000 ballots were returned because they were sent to bad addresses.
Additionally, over 2,000 new members, who do not have first contracts yet, were not sent instructions on how they could begin paying dues yet so that they could vote.
Under the NewsGuild constitution, only dues-paying members are allowed to vote. However, until, new members get the first contract they are not required to pay dues; therefore many new members don’t pay any dues at all until contracts kick in.
Instead of informing new members of how they could pay dues to qualify to vote, the incumbent NewsGuild leadership failed to notify over 2,000 new members from units such as the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, Buzzfeed, the New Yorker, and nearly 2 dozen publications; thus excluding many new younger more militant members including the 500 members of the LA Times, the home local of Lunzer’s opponent 31 year old Jon Schleuss.
Many argue that if the new younger members largely located in major media cities had been allowed to vote that Lunzer, whose base of support was among older journalists in Midwest, surely would have lost. Reporters argue the fact that both new members and existing members didn’t receive their notices may have been intentional.
“As a result of these events and many more, less than 15 percent of members turned out for this election. A turnout so low indicates a severe or intentional lack of communication from the NewsGuild leadership regarding the details of the election,” wrote the NewsGuild leaders in a letter released today.
Additionally, the reporters protested the failure of the NewsGuild to hire an independent agency to oversee the election. Instead, the incumbent leadership appointed an election committee to oversee the election.
“If any other national union conducted an election this way, the journalists in our guild would be the ones charged with shining a light on that impropriety. This election was not democratic, transparent or just — the antithesis to what many of us strive for in our jobs every day,” wrote the journalists calling on the NewsGuild to hold a new election.
Neither NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer nor NewsGuild Administrator Tim Shick responded to request for comment.