CWA Convention was a democratic, sometimes rowdy affair

Last week I attended the CWA Convention in Las Vegas. I used the time to build relationships within The NewsGuild and our larger parent union, the Communications Workers of America. Members across our union told me they are hungry for change, growth and a modern direction. 

I flew to Vegas on my own dime because it’s essential that we have a leader who has effective relationships across our union. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with organizers to find ways to grow our union while also protecting and better serving our current members. Leaders at all levels told me they feel a movement and a change to the status quo. I committed my support to grow our union.

CWA delegates vote in favor of postponing sector dissolution indefinitely.

CWA delegates vote in favor of postponing sector dissolution indefinitely.

The CWA is unique because it’s composed of both geographic districts and industrial sectors. The NewsGuild is one sector, along with five others and CWA Canada. There are seven geographic districts.

In front of a convention of more than 2,000 members, Tom Smith, the new head of organizing said that CWA added more than 5,000 new members in the past two years. A sizable chunk of that growth is due to the amazing work by local leaders and members of The NewsGuild. CWA leadership recognized leaders from Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington with awards at the convention.

NewsGuild headquarters was forced to change after the recent wave of organizing. Organizing staff have done amazing work getting more shops in the door than ever before. And they’ve involved members to be direct organizers to scale up our efforts. Members, like myself, are continuing to organize on a volunteer basis. Last week alone, I talked to three different campaigns.

People are banging down our doors to join our union. We must be ready to welcome them at all levels: organizing, bargaining, communication and governance.

And on that note: We are all still waiting for an official word on an election rerun.

While there has been no announcement, I fully expect a new presidential election. So do leaders across The NewsGuild and CWA.

The election committee has been investigating three separate appeals filed in this election. You’ve probably seen mine. Another was filed by 60 leaders. The third was submitted by the Canadian Media Guild over bad addresses and a failure to allow for electronic balloting. 

A few weeks ago the election committee asked locals for corrected addresses from the box of more than 1,000 returned blank ballots I revealed. The committee has also requested addresses for new members not yet paying dues. 

Our top leadership failed to let members know about the election and their actions prevented thousands from voting. 

The potential rerun was the elephant in the room throughout the convention. Bernie Lunzer, the unchallenged NewsGuild president for the past 11 years, referred to himself as a candidate in several conversations. And Lunzer wasn’t sworn in by CWA President Chris Shelton with the rest of the CWA executive board.

A fierce debate continued up to the vote to potentially eliminate two of CWA’s sectors. Both the Telecommunications & Technology and Public, Health Care & Education sectors were spared after a motion passed, postponing debate indefinitely. This effectively punted any reorganization discussion to the next CWA Convention in New Orleans in 2021. 

Another sector, Printing, Publishing & Media Workers, was dissolved without much debate. Many of our members said they were hopeful they could convince some print sector locals to join The NewsGuild.

I continue to be inspired by the amazing work of our veteran members and the energy from our newest members. Our union’s future is bright and I am confident we can become the union that represents all journalists and media workers in North America. 

Jon Schleuss