Press release: NewsGuild calls for new election
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Prompted by findings of widespread irregularities, the international headquarters of the NewsGuild has thrown out the results of its recent presidential election and ordered a re-vote for the 20,000-member union, the leading labor organization for journalists and media workers in the United States and Canada.
The decision announced on Monday by the Guild's Sector Election and Referendum Committee invalidates 11-year incumbent Bernie Lunzer's narrow victory in May over reform candidate Jon Schleuss, a data and graphics journalist who helped lead the historic organizing drive at the Los Angeles Times.
Schleuss, a group of Guild leaders from across the United States and the president of the union’s largest local — the Canadian Media Guild — issued separate calls for a new election.
Turnout in the election was an anemic 14 percent. Lunzer's margin was just 261 votes. The Guild also represents thousands of non-journalists in media, nonprofits and other industries.
“I’m excited that we get a second shot at reforming our union,” Schleuss said. “The first election violated federal law and did not represent the values of our great union. For too long, our top leadership has ignored the call for change.
“Now, we have a real opportunity to create a more ambitious, forward-thinking NewsGuild.”
In his formal challenge to the May result, Schleuss noted that Guild headquarters failed to give members adequate notice both of the opportunity to nominate candidates for president and the union's two other national offices and of the election itself.
Schleuss also pointed out that headquarters did not let about 2,000 new members know how they could become eligible to vote. They include employees of a number of media outlets large and small that recently joined the Guild in the past two years.
In addition, Schleuss cited the SERC's failure to address rule violations by Lunzer and his supporters, such as the mishandling of ballots and the use of union resources to benefit the incumbent's campaign.
The SERC based its decision to overturn the election on the large number of Guild members in Canada who did not receive ballots.
Schleuss said it was ultimately Guild headquarters responsibility to ensure that the election was conducted fairly and that every member was given the opportunity to vote.
The SERC’s decision to have the American Arbitration Association distribute and count the ballots is a move in the right direction, Schleuss said, but more needs to be done.
“We need across-the-board changes in the way our union handles elections,” Schleuss added. “No member should be disenfranchised.
“As president, I will push for more democratic and transparent elections.”
As part of his platform, Schleuss called for more democracy and transparency in the Guild, a modern approach to organizing and better representation for established locals. During his campaign he traveled across the U.S. and Canada visiting many Guild locals and won the vote wherever he got the chance to meet with members.
Schleuss proposed a debate with Lunzer so the full membership could hear the candidates' divergent views of where to take the Guild in the future. Lunzer refused.