Bill O'Meara to retire as president; Peter Szekely to succeed him Sept. 1
NewsGuild of New York President Bill O'Meara announced this week that he will retire on Aug. 31 “for health and personal reasons,” after 27 years working at the Local, including the last eight years as its leader.
O'Meara will be succeeded for the remaining 16 months of his three-year term by the Local's No. 2 officer, Secretary-Treasurer Peter Szekely.
“After much soul-searching and discussion with my family over the past two weeks, I have decided that I must retire from my position as President, effective at the end of this month, for health and personal reasons,” O'Meara said in an Aug. 5 letter to the Local's Executive Committee.
The provision for a seamless midterm succession of the Local's top spot is part of a recent sweeping bylaws overhaul that also cuts its two full-time executive offices to one, eliminates the underused Representative Assembly next fall and changed the local's name to NewsGuild from Newspaper Guild. The bylaws overhaul was overwhelmingly approved in an April referendum.
Nominations will be accepted in the next few months for the soon-to-be-vacant secretary-treasurer position, whose status will be reduced to a non-salaried part-time job under the new bylaws and whose duties have been stripped down to just overseeing the Local's financial affairs. A stipend for the new position has yet to be set by the Executive Committee.
In urging members to approve the bylaws overhaul, the Executive Committee said eliminating one of the paid officer positions when the current terms end on Jan. 1, 2017 would enable the Local to redeploy its resources toward more staff positions, namely another local representative and a communications specialist. O'Meara and Szekely told the Executive Committee in June that they intended to accelerate that timetable and begin adding the new staff positions as soon as possible because the needs of the Local demand it.
Last month, Nastaran Mohit, who had been doing project work for the Local as an organizer and mobilizer, was hired as its organizing coordinator. The Local is now reviewing candidates for the representative and communications specialist positions.
“Fortunately, the plans that Bill and I told you about are now in place, and a process is underway to make our union bigger and stronger,” Szekely said in an Aug. 6 letter to the Executive Committee. “Right now, my focus is on pressing ahead with those plans.”
Szekely was elected secretary-treasurer in June 2007, when O'Meara, who was then secretary-treasurer, was elected president. Before that, Szekely was a correspondent in the Reuters Washington bureau, where he had worked for more than 20 years, including 17 years as unit chair.
O'Meara's announcement was criticized by Grant Glickson, the Local's 2nd vice president and chair of The Times unit, who led a slate of candidates that challenged O'Meara and Szekely in an election in late 2013, and who campaigned against changing the bylaws during the April referendum.
In an email blast on Thursday to Times employees that also reached at least some of the company's managers, Glickson said members felt “hoodwinked” by O'Meara's announcement that he was “quitting,” which he claimed was already secretly in the works at the time the bylaws changes were proposed. “Unfortunately, it's all of us that were taken for a ride,” he said.
O'Meara shot back on Friday with an email to Times unit council members that accused Glickson of misstating the facts, and asked him to please put aside his political aspirations until the end of the current term.
“There is a huge difference between “quitting” and being forced to retire due to significant medical concerns,” O'Meara said. “While I do not intend to discuss my medical condition, perhaps if you got the same news I got from my doctor about three weeks ago, you might understand.”
In his August 5th letter, O’Meara also thanked guild members for their support over the years, and called on them to back Szekely going forward.
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