Aug. 21, 2017 – With President Trump’s attacks on journalists as a backdrop, the Guild’s August conference took on a sense of urgency. Delegates discussed the best ways to respond, approved a resolution to Defend the Right to Report, and urged its adoption by the CWA convention that followed.
They also took an in-depth look at pay disparities affecting women and minorities in newsrooms across the country, and emerged with a renewed commitment to eliminate them.
“The work we do has never been more important,” said Executive Vice President Marian Needham in opening remarks.
A Change in Culture
Among the most significant changes since the Guild’s last conference two years ago, has been the shift to a culture of organizing, Needham reported.
The union has organized 26 new units since 2015, and first-time delegates, especially those from newly-organized units, were lauded throughout the meeting. The Guild is also currently hard at work on other big unionizing campaigns, Needham said.
“We’re trying to build a community,” said President Bernie Lunzer.“It’s not about having an office or a file cabinet… It’s about being a community.”
Guild delegates also embraced the CWA Strong campaign, which is designed to activate current members and sign-up new members in organized units. The union is targeting several low-density locals and will train people in those units in the fine points of organizing, said Tim Schick, TNG-CWA Administrative Director.
That is the best way to neutralize a national “right-to-work” bill, Schick said. Unions are bracing for the possible passage of such anti-union legislation from the anti-labor Congress and White House.
Delegates to The NewsGuild-CWA conference approved a resolution on Aug. 5 that endorses the “exclusive use of certified interpreters and translators as providers of interpreter services in the government and health care sectors to the extent that certifications apply,” and advocates “for proper certification standards where they do not yet exist.”
The NewsGuild-CWA currently represents more than 1,000 interpreters at courts in California and Illinois, and at a hospital in Minnesota.
The resolution enjoyed wide support. It was submitted by Juan Ramirez of the California Federation of Interpreters, and was supported by other locals that represent interpreters as well as the Interpreters Guild of America (IGA), a NewsGuild unit that advocates for independent interpreters.
“Language access is a fundamental civil right that enables minority populations to enjoy the benefit of government and health care services and meaningfully participate in civil life in our democratic system,” the resolution notes.
The use of properly qualified interpreters and translators affects the quality of language access and the exercise of fundamental rights for millions of people in courts, the immigration system, health care sector and other civic institutions, it asserts.
The use of certified interpreters is a “best practice” that government and health care providers should uphold and employ whenever possible, the resolution says.
“Many contractors in government and health care services use unqualified and uncertified interpreters to lower the cost of interpreting and translating services, which has the effect of lowering the wages of interpreters and translators, many of whom are union brothers and sisters,” it asserts.
“Without a certified and qualified interpreter, the rights and benefits of clients could be harmed,” the resolution says.
And the Winner Is…
Delegates also honored several members whose work has earned special attention.
The Guild Service Award was given to Diane Mastrull, the unit chairperson at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she represents more than 200 journalists.
Mastrull was nominated by Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia for her “accomplishments as an outstanding Guild leader, co-worker, volunteer and inspiration to the readers of the Philadelphia Inquirer.”
“Diane Mastrull is that rare breed of union leader who’s respected by management and beloved by her peers,” said Local President Howard Gensler. “Part watchdog, part bulldog and constant mother to the multitude of dysfunctional human beings who populate a newsroom. Diane works like crazy as a reporter and editor and sets and an example for her colleagues. When she’s not working, she’s cooking and when she’s not cooking she’s volunteering to help others less fortunate. And, with all of this, Diane has also managed to spearhead one of the newsroom’s most successful initiatives, STELLAR START-UPs, highlighting new and emerging companies in our area. She’s one of a kind and we’re lucky to have her on our side.”
Dean Olsen, of the United Media Guild local, was the recipient of the Guild’s Larry Cohen Movement Building Award, which is named after the former president of the Communications Workers of America, the Guild’s parent union.
Olsen led the Guild’s victorious organizing drive at Missouri’s State Journal-Register, served on the bargaining team during negotiations with GateHouse Media, and coordinated successful campaigns for public support – staging demonstrations, conducting outreach, giving media interviews and launching an advertising campaign.
He followed that with “a textbook external organizing effort” in central Illinois, where he helped guide leaders at the Rockford Register Star during a successful organizing effort there. He was also instrumental in identifying and nurturing activists at the Lakeland Ledger and Sarasota Herald-Tribune, two Florida newspapers that unionized in August 2016.
At the CWA Convention that immediately followed the Guild conference, several locals were honored.
The Canadian Media Guild and the NewsGuild of New York won awards for organizing 100 or more new members over the last two years.
In addition, the Toledo Local was honored by the CWA and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation for 100 percent participation for five consecutive years (2011-2015) and for 100 percent participation in the 2016 fundraising campaign. The local was also given the CWA Global Solidarity Award for 100 percent participation in the Union-to-Union Program of International Solidarity.
The Youngstown Local, Terre Haute Local and the Kenosha Local were recognized by the CWA and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation for 100 percent participation in the 2016 campaign and in the Union-to-Union Program of International Solidarity.
Retirees: Get Us Involved!
Myra Kreiman, the Guild’s Retiree Coordinator, urged delegates to get retired members involved in their activities.
“The current political environment endangers our union, the labor movement and all that our nation has done over the last 150 years to protect workers and their families,” she said. We need every member, active and retired, to recognize what is at stake.
“And that is precisely where the CWA Retired Members Council comes in,” she said, urging locals to form chapters.
Retirees can support the Guild’s efforts to improve and protect retirement benefits, pensions, Medicare and Medicaid, which active members are fighting to safeguard. And retirees will be helping those members who are still working as they join picket lines, demonstrations and other union activities, Kreiman said.
The conference included a 30-minute social media presentation by Hannah Roditi of Social Movement Technologies, who urged locals to “be bad ass” and focus on the response to attacks rather than bemoaning the attacks themselves.
Preceding her presentation, Bill Ross (Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia) and Tony Mulligan (Denver Newspaper Guild) offered lessons from the social media campaign organized by Guild members working at papers owned by Digital First Media, which generated thousands of petition signatures, shares and support.
Guild leaders announced plans to offer extended, subsidized training to locals. Details and sign-up information to be announced soon.