Guild members to decide on changing name and bylaws


Should the Guild drop “newspaper” from its name?

Should we revise our bylaws to streamline our leadership and governing structures?

After months of discussion and debate, first by the Guild’s Administrative  Committee and then by the Executive Committee,  both bodies recommended a “yes” vote on both questions, with the Executive Committee and the Representative Assembly doing so on March 24. Now it is time for all members of the New York Guild to decide these questions in a referendum.

Ballots on the two questions are now in the mail and on their way to members’ homes. The big envelopes containing the ballots also hold copies of the proposed changes to the bylaws. The referendum is being run by the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Ballot must be returned in the enclosed pre-paid envelopes to the designated post office box by April 29. If you do not receive a ballot by April 16, or if your ballot is damaged, call the AAA’s hotline for a replacement at 1-800-529-5218 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, or email Sacha Ulerio. Be sure to cite the Newspaper Guild of New York referendum.

Here are the two questions members will be asked to decide.

1. Should The Newspaper Guild of New York change its name to The NewsGuild of New York?

The Executive Committee, which is made up of 22 rank and file officers (two of which are vacant) and the Local’s two paid officers, voted overwhelmingly in favor of changing the name and had the following to say about it:

Obviously, a lot has changed since our Local was chartered by the Guild 81 years ago. News, which was always at the core of the Guild's mission, is still very much alive, but most of the newspapers that were around in 1934 are gone, and the circulations of those that survive peaked years ago. Most of the growth in today's news business is in digital-based organizations. For the Guild to best position itself to organize and represent journalists in the online world, it needs to shed its vestige of the 20th century. Several other Guild locals have already dropped “newspaper” from their names, and in January our Washington-based parent union also dropped “paper” from its name to become The NewsGuild-CWA. We are the largest Guild local in the United States and we're surrounded by digital start-ups. It's time we did the same. (No matter what our name is, we will remain Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America.)

2. Do you want the Newspaper Guild of New York to revise its Bylaws as recommended by the Executive Committee?

The Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of revising the bylaws, which had not been updated since 1998. Here’s what the committee had to say about it:

The proposed revisions of the bylaws would address three key areas:

  •  Election procedures would conform to the constitutions of our parent unions, TNG-CWA and CWA, as well as to applicable federal labor law.
  • The Representative Assembly, one of the Local's two governing bodies, would be eliminated in 2017 and replaced with an enlarged Executive Committee, the other governing body, which would have representation from all of the Guild's units.
  • The leadership of the Local would be streamlined by reducing the role of the Secretary-Treasurer by 2017, leaving a President and part-time Secretary-Treasurer as the only paid officers. We intend to reinvest the savings by adding staff in strategic areas to make the Local bigger and stronger.

Let's examine each of the three areas.

Election Procedures. During and after the Local's contested leadership election of late 2013, it became apparent that some of the provisions in the bylaws that govern election procedures were at odds with the constitutions of our parent union (the CWA and its TNG sector) and with the federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which governs union elections. For example, the bylaws allowed candidates to be nominated only at Representative Assembly meetings or by circulating petitions. The revised bylaws open the nominating process to every voting member of the Local. They also require that the handling of any contested elections would be done by a reputable third party, not by the Local. And, the revised bylaws enable the Local to use electronic voting if the Labor Department ever allows it.

Representative Assembly. There was a time when our Local, brimming with more than 5,000 members, needed its Representative Assembly (RA) – where each delegate represents 25 members – as a more democratic complement to the Executive Committee, whose set membership is 24. But today, our membership is half the size it once was, almost no other Guild locals have RAs, and our own RA has been unable to muster a quorum in more than 25 years. The proposed bylaws revision would eliminate the RA and replace it with an expanded Executive Committee, as other Guild locals have. In addition to the current 24 members of the Committee who are elected at large, every Unit Chairperson (there are currently 19 Units) would have a seat on the Committee. With our current number of units, that would expand the Committee to as many as 41 members.

Streamlining Leadership. Like all Guild locals, we have been buffeted by the upheaval in the news business, which has reduced our membership and revenues. As a result, we have sought ways to cut costs and operate more efficiently, without compromising our mission to better the working lives of our members. As the only U.S. Guild local with two full-time paid officers, a President and a Secretary-Treasurer, this is an obvious area that could be made more efficient. The revised bylaws would leave the President as the only full-time paid officer starting in 2017, or sooner if either of the two current incumbents leaves office. The President would still be elected at large every three years [the current term still would expire on Jan. 1, 2017] and would be a member of the Executive Committee. The Secretary-Treasurer would be part time (with a stipend to be determined), and also would be elected at large with a seat on the Executive Committee, and with responsibilities limited to preparing the Local's budget and overseeing its finances. We intend to reinvest the savings in added staff for unit servicing, organizing, communications and/or mobilizing, all of which would help make our Local bigger and stronger.

Please vote and return your ballot as soon as it arrives.

The Executive Committee recommends a “yes” vote on both questions.

What do you think?
If you would like to weigh in on this, or any other discussion, you can do so right here, but you'll need to log in to the website. Only Guild members who have logged in will be able to see your comments and respond.

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