July 31, 2019 – The NewsGuild won the prestigious President’s “Hat” Award, which honors outstanding achievements in organizing, at the CWA convention on July 31.
The award is named for CWA’s founding president, Joe Beirne, and is the union’s highest honor.
NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer, joined by several Guild delegates, accepted the award.
The award is shaped like the hat Beirne wore and often passed around at meetings to collect funds for organizing. The amount raised would determine just how far he could go.
The award commemorates the organizing efforts that have brought more than 2,000 journalists, editors and media workers into CWA’s ranks since its last convention in 2017.
Announcing the award, CWA President Chris Shelton noted devastating economic conditions in the news industry that have deprived many journalists of raises since before the 2008 financial crisis.
“Adding to this slow burn of resentment and exploitation, we see an all-out attack on the principle of the free press itself. Journalists find themselves targeted as scapegoats by corporate-backed cowards unfit to hold public office. Donald Trump has gone so far as to refer to journalists as ‘enemies of the people,’” Shelton said.
And, he said, “When a hedge fund shuts down local papers, these bloodsuckers create what are being called ‘News Deserts’ where communities have no local news reporting to speak of.”
“Facing such existential crises, media workers have built a movement to organize print newsrooms, digital media, and new media platforms. These efforts are as much about improving working conditions as they are for journalists to take their destinies and the future of the Free Press in their own hands,” Shelton pointed out.
“In Allentown, PA where management successfully pushed a decert back in the 1980s, workers have once again organized their newsroom and re-established themselves as a NewsGuild Local. After decades of trying, nearly 400 journalists at the LA Times won their union, and just months later nearly 300 more journalists at the Chicago Tribune followed suit.
“In so-called “Right-to-Work” states like Virginia, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Florida where many, have been terrified into thinking that starting a union is ‘illegal,’ newsroom staff are overcoming their fear and organizing.
“And the Guild is doing this work as it should be done – with members taking the lead in reaching out to non-union contacts, building capacity, learning skills, becoming long-term rank-and-file organizers.
Citing Guild organizing committees from Allentown, the Virginian-Pilot, the Florida-Times Union, and others, Shelton said they “showed us the lesson that working people have learned time and again: If ordinary people have any hope of protecting ourselves and building brighter tomorrows it takes joining together, hand-in-hand, to organize, organize, organize!”
A second “Hat” Award was presented to Tennessee United Campus Workers Local 3865, which has grown from just 22 members in 2002 to 2,200, adding 400 new members since the last convention. Their efforts have inspired other campus workers to organize with new locals established in Georgia and Mississippi.
Photo above: From left, Shannon Duffy, United Media Guild Local; Steve Cook, Washington-Baltimore News Guild Local; NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer, Diane Mastrull, NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia.
Photo below: The NewsGuild and several Guild locals were honored at the CWA Convention for their organizing efforts.
Photos below: Guild delegates with organizing awards, flanked by CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens and CWA President Chris Shelton.