Preliminary vote count is finished, but there are many problems

 

On Thursday, The NewsGuild’s election committee certified the results for our first contested presidential election in 11 years.

The committee counted 1,282 votes for incumbent Bernie Lunzer and 1,021 for me, a difference of 261. Turnout was a paltry 13.9%. Just 7.7% of our eligible members voted to re-elect the incumbent.

First, I want to thank everyone who supported me. Just think, less than four months ago I was nominated and kick-started an election challenge against an entrenched incumbent. I hit the campaign trail, raised thousands of dollars and connected with thousands of members.

When I announced my campaign, I promised to bring more transparency and democracy to our union. That's why I have devoted so much of my time to being a witness to the process for our members. Hundreds of people followed the results live as I posted them online. And they also noticed the many irregularities with this election.

Last week I discovered that NewsGuild HQ had received more than 1,000 ballots (box below) that never made it to dues-paying members because of bad addresses. More than 2,000 ballots came back through the mail completed (box above). Member names are redacted for privacy.

Last week I discovered that NewsGuild HQ had received more than 1,000 ballots (box below) that never made it to dues-paying members because of bad addresses. More than 2,000 ballots came back through the mail completed (box above). Member names are redacted for privacy.

I am disappointed at how things were handled and that the current leadership prevented thousands of members from voting, including those from long-established locals. It’s shameful and embarrassing. We are supposed to be a democratic, member-driven union. In conducting elections, we cannot tolerate violations of our rules or our ethics.

Last week I discovered that there was a box of at least 1,000 ballots — the number could actually be much larger — that never made it to dues-paying members because HQ did not maintain up-to-date addresses. The election committee refused to inventory the box. That problem, compounded with a dozen others, deeply concerns me. We must make sure every eligible member has the right to vote. I’ve detailed many problems at the bottom of this post.

They could have been avoided if the election committee had appointed an independent monitor, such as the American Arbitration Association, and promoted this election to the membership. I made a request for such a monitor and the committee rejected it.

I am reviewing the situation with lawyers, union leaders, other experts and my supporters. I will update you soon.

I am energized by our members. I feel privileged to fight for you. Our future is bright and will not be dimmed by the incompetence of a few individuals.

If you never received a ballot, notice of the election or notice of the nominating procedure, or if you know of other irregularities in this election, please contact me as soon as possible. Our union deserves regular, democratic and transparent elections. And I am committed to them. Watch this space for more updates soon.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss

Here are the problems I’ve witnessed during this election:

This unedited photo from January shows a printout of an internal email from NewsGuild Executive Vice President Marian Needham to a staffer saying who should be nominated to the election committee. This contradicts statements by the election committee and senior leaders. Bill Ross resigned from the committee shortly after January’s conference.

This unedited photo from January shows a printout of an internal email from NewsGuild Executive Vice President Marian Needham to a staffer saying who should be nominated to the election committee. This contradicts statements by the election committee and senior leaders. Bill Ross resigned from the committee shortly after January’s conference.

  1. A large boxful of blank ballots was returned to HQ blank because they were sent to bad addresses. I was told there were about 1,000 of these ballots, although the box was big enough to hold many more than that. That’s a huge number of disenfranchised voters, many times the number of ballots that separated the incumbent and me. Weeks ago, I asked for the total number of returned errant ballots and the election committee told me it had “neither the obligation, time nor resources” to share that number. I discovered the magnitude of the problem only last week, when I saw that sizeable box at NewsGuild headquarters.

  2. The election committee refused to inventory the returned ballots to determine how many there were and where they came from. They could be just a fraction of the ballots that never reached members. We don’t know how many were sent to wrong addresses and then tossed in the trash rather than returned.

  3. About 140 ballots from five locals were improperly mailed to NewsGuild headquarters instead of the election committee-controlled post office box. A leader in one of those locals sat on the election committee and did not recuse herself from the vote to include those ballots.

  4. A staffer hired by the incumbent handled ballots, including those erroneously returned to Guild HQ instead of the designated postal box.

  5. The storage and collection plans for the ballots changed without sufficient notice. That allowed the staffer hired by the incumbent to see which ballots were returned from where and take part in the transfer of ballots from the post office to a locker at headquarters, just a few feet from the incumbent’s office.

  6. I was not notified of at least one of these transfer days and was thus unable to have an observer present during the process.

  7. The federal government requires advance notice of the nominating event for elections like this one, but the current NewsGuild leadership failed to do that, making it extremely difficult for challengers to launch a campaign in a timely manner.

  8. Two thousand newly organized members were prevented from voting in this election. They never received an election notice and were kept in the dark on how they could participate in an election that would determine the next four years of leadership.

  9. I was prevented from voting in my own election and was never told how I could become an eligible voter until it was too late. When I challenged this, I was told that the current leadership never expected members like me would want to vote. My challenge vote was discarded last week.

  10. The official NewsGuild Twitter and Facebook accounts never promoted the election. Basic information about the election was only put on the NewsGuild’s website after repeated requests from my campaign. In violation of the constitution, announcements were not mailed to members in the Guild Reporter, the Guild’s print publication.

  11. The executive vice president oversaw the entire election, while also endorsing the incumbent, donating to his campaign, secretly hand-picking the election committee and threatening to quit if I won. She also publicly denounced me—a lead organizer for the Los Angeles Times campaign—for even seeking the office. Before being nominated, I told her that I wanted to work with her “no matter the outcome of this election.” She responded by saying that if I ran, I would “tear this union apart.”

  12. At least one member of the election committee publicly endorsed the incumbent and told me that she would make sure all of her members voted for the incumbent.

  13. The rules clearly state that candidates cannot use The NewsGuild-CWA logo in their campaigns, and yet the incumbent did so from from the beginning.

  14. Staffers who endorsed the incumbent asked union leaders to spread messages sent by the incumbent, but the election committee hit my campaign with a “cease and desist” letter for simply contacting union leaders and asking them to tell their membership about my candidacy.

  15. The official NewsGuild Twitter account liked the incumbent’s campaign tweets. Later, the incumbent revealed he was in control of the account, contradicting a statement from the election committee saying a staffer controlled the account.

 
Jon Schleuss