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Higher Standards, Higher Wages for Illinois Interpreters

5 hours 50 min ago
Janelle HartmanMay 24, 2016The NewsGuild-CWA

Grace Catania, newly elected president of the Chicago Guild and the longtime chair of the local's interpreters' unit, speaks at a Guild conference in 2015. Catania was instrumental in pushing Illinois courts to set certification standards for interpreters, and then negotiating with Cook County for higher wages for Guild-represented interpreters.


INVITED to a meeting of Guild-represented California court interpreters about five years ago, Grace Catania was mortified when the subject of certification came up.

“They were shocked, and I was very embarrassed that we don’t have certification in Illinois,” said Catania, a Polish interpreter in Cook County and the newly elected president of the Chicago Guild. “They said, ‘How can you work in a court without it?’”

In fact, she and others had been talking about certification since the local first organized Cook County court interpreters in 2004. 

But many interpreters themselves were opposed to the designation and the testing it required. Years earlier, the county had set certification standards that ultimately fell apart. Certified interpreters then didn't get recognition or higher pay.

Now, thanks to Catania, her negotiating team -- Henry Cheung, Cristina Sanchez, Grace Doyle and Antonio Del Toro -- and allies they developed, Illinois has a certification program. And in Cook County, interpreters represented by the Chicago Guild have a strong new contract that ties certification to substantial pay hikes.

In the years after the original certification effort failed, Catania described chaotic times when judges turned to courtroom personnel, lawyers and family members – even children -- to interpret for a victim, defendant or witness who didn’t speak English. The stand-in interpreters had various levels of language skills and no formal training.

Few people seemed to care that such sloppiness was a gross violation of Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“How can you ask your child to interpret if you have to talk about domestic battery, for example,” Catania said.

She was amazed to learn in California that court interpreters had to be certified. Today, they even have to state their certification number for the record. "It demonstrates how important certification is to justice," Catania said.

She returned from the meeting inspired and energetic. As chair of the local’s interpreters’ unit – about 95 members strong – she kicked the conversation into high gear and began building allies among interpreters, community leaders, county commissioners, judges and lawyers.

Officials were getting an earful, as immigrant rights' groups were making similar demands in pursuit of access to justice.

Cook County Commissioner and 2015 mayoral candidate Jesús Chuy Garcia embraced the issue and helped Catania get meetings with other leaders. “We were telling commissioners, bar associations and community groups the horrible result the lack of standards had on our courts," she said. "We told them there were currently no real competency requirements and that something needed to be done."

In 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted the certification program of the National Center for State Courts. Through it, interpreters who pass written and oral tests can become certified in any of 20 languages that include Spanish to Arabic to Cantonese. 

As the campaign for certification moved forward, Catania said interpreters could see the value of professional standards and the opportunity for better pay. But some still feared losing their jobs if they couldn't pass the tests.

“We were assuring members that the union is not in the business of losing people,” Catania said, explaining that fears about certification "had to do with a belief that there is only so much work available.”

While certified interpreters get priority assignments, she said there “is plenty of work for everyone” between criminal and civil court proceedings.

“All the opposition that we had among our own members is almost gone,” she said. “Once they saw possible pay increases and a path to professionalism, it’s a different world, now. There’s a massive movement now of people signing up” for certification classes and exams.

Interpreters who aren’t fully certified are able to work under “registered” or “qualified” designations. Catania said she is currently a “registered” Polish interpreter, having completed training and a written exam. Once she passes a difficult oral exam she will be certified.

Catania called the contract ratified last November “historic” in that it’s the unit’s first that takes certification into account. It sets pay for certified interpreters at $33.50 an hour, more than a $10 hourly increase. Full-time interpreters are earning as much as $5,000 more a year than they did previously.

The contract covers full-time and part-time or “session” interpreters who are hired for AM or PM court sessions, or both. By contract, they must be paid a minimum of four hours in the morning and three in the afternoon, even if the work takes less time.

But she stresses that certification is about more than money. “Certification means that people with limited English proficiency who go to an Illinois court can count on professional language experts to help ensure they have meaningful access to language," she said.

Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, said that goes to the heart of the union movement. “Unions fight for everyone -- we like to say we give ‘voice to the voiceless.’ Well, in this case, it’s literal.

“People at the mercy of the court system in Illinois are getting life-changing, possibly even life-saving, help from the work that began with Grace and our Chicago local,” Lunzer said. “And the interpreters providing that help are earning the professional wages they deserve

Tribune, McClatchy, Others Sending News IT Jobs to India

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:18am
Patrick ThibodeauMay 19, 2016Computer World

Tribune, owner of the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant and many other media properties, is laying off as many as 200 IT employees as it shifts work overseas. The company told IT employees in early April that it's moving work to India-based Tata Consultancy Services. That news came within weeks of a similar announcement involving as many as 150 IT employees at McClatchy, owner of the Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee and many other papers. The impact of these IT outsourcing decision may go beyond the job losses. It could affect coverage of this controversial issue.

Striking Halifax Journalists Expand News Site to Rival CH

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:07am
StaffMay 19, 2016CWA Canada

Newsroom workers in Halifax today relaunched LocalXpress.ca as a full-spectrum online strike newspaper to compete with their employer’s flagship publication. The site is offering local, regional and national news, business, entertainment and sports coverage, as well as accepting advertising. It also includes free obituary listings, searchable event listings, weather and online flyers. “It’s exciting to be moving to a different platform where we can offer readers the same high-quality journalism they have come to expect from us, along with lots of additional content,” said LocalXpress.ca Editor Pam Sword.

Featured Title: Striking Halifax Journalists Expand News Site to Rival CH

Guild, SPJ Protest Police Assaults on Bay Area Journalists

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 3:10pm
Richard Knee, VPMay 18, 2016Pacific Media Workers Guild

Following assaults by San Francisco sheriff’s deputies on four journalists covering a protest rally in City Hall on May 6, the Pacific Media Workers Guild and and SPJ's Northern California chapter have told Mayor Edwin Lee and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy that such atrocious conduct must stop. “Reporters, photographers and videographers are on scene to report the news as it happens. They are not participants in protests. Under no circumstances should they be subject to violence by peace officers. We intend to hold you accountable,” Guild and SPJNC leaders told Lee and Hennessy in a strongly worded letter May 12. Photo: San Francisco Sheriff deputies shove photojournalist Gabriella Angotti-Jones who was covering a “Frisco 500” protest at City Hall on May 6. Photo by Noé Serfaty.

Featured Title: Guild, SPJ Protest Police Assaults on San Francisco Journalists

Knight, Columbia to Fund Digital-Era First Amendment Center

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 10:05am
Jonathan PetersMay 17, 2016Columbia Journalism Review

The Knight Foundation and Columbia University have announced that they are commiting $60 million to the creation of a new center that will use research, education, and litigation to advance First Amendment rights in the digital age.

A Contract Without 'Just Cause' Is Barely a Contract At All

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 2:47pm
Bernie Lunzer, PresidentMay 16, 2016The NewsGuild-CWA



FOR MORE THAN 80 years, our union has defined and built workplace standards for professional journalists. Those standards are as important today for digital media as they have always been for print publications. 

One of them is “just cause.” It means you can’t be fired without a legitimate reason — without just cause. 

This is vital at any workplace, but it takes on special importance in a creative environment where writers may clash with editors and upper management over ideas and expression. 

Without a union contract that spells out just cause, management can terminate you for any reason, or without any reason. Employers hold all the cards; you effectively have none. How bold can you be pushing back on unpaid overtime or arguing with an editor about the direction of a story when you know you could lose your job over it? 

Young writers, especially, have told me they fear that if they “take on the boss” they won’t have a future. They are afraid of losing their reputations as well as their paychecks. 

Let’s be clear: just cause doesn’t protect incompetent employees. It doesn’t take away management’s right to discipline or terminate workers. But it ensures that bosses don’t abuse those rights, that workers get a fair shake. 

Just cause means managers have to build a case. They can’t just wake up, and decide they don’t like you. Workers covered by just cause who are disciplined or fired unfairly have recourse through arbitration. A neutral third party listens, reviews the facts and decides if their rights were violated. 

In the current environment — call it the mob mentality of the internet — it is easier than ever for an angry public to pressure a publisher to fire a writer. You see it in comment sections every day, sometimes on the most benign of stories. Imagine having no job security while a viral campaign calls for your head over something you’ve written. 

Just cause also lets you raise quality of life issues — like a schedule that lets you balance work with personal and family time. Younger journalists may not mind — yet — working six, 12-hour days in a row. But that changes eventually, whether it’s due to marriage and family or simply exhaustion and the desire to enjoy other aspects of life. 

The fact is, most journalists qualify for overtime after 40 hours under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But many are told, wrongly, that they’re not eligible. And it can be hard to stand up to an employer and demand what you’re owed when you can be fired for any reason. 

The NewsGuild and our parent union CWA know the law inside-out. We have grieved, arbitrated, litigated and helped shape it for eight decades. 

Editorial integrity is a crucial issue, and we’re hearing journalists in digital shops raise concerns about it. Most of our contracts allow writers to withhold bylines if they believe an editor has somehow tainted their work. It isn’t a step our members take lightly. But they have that right. 

TNG-CWA also bargains ethics policies, and we’ve developed one of our own. We fundamentally understand the principles of objectivity and other issues that define journalists and their craft. But management sometimes takes rules too far — for instance, barring journalists from outside activities even when there’s no conflict of interest. We help set fair boundaries. 

Our tools include solid negotiations, the use of grievance and arbitration and worker-management committees we create through bargaining whenever possible. 

Such committees are integral to how the Guild works. Our members care deeply about their news organizations and want them to succeed. With contracts that encourage open communication, we help both sides find common ground. 

There are voices today that have a vested interest in mischaracterizing the strength and value of The NewsGuild-CWA. They want you to think we’re some stodgy old hide-bound union. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a strongly democratic sector of America’s most democratic large union, CWA. 

We guarantee that our units have the final say over their own contracts. We constitutionally require that bargaining committees comprise workers. Our members decide what’s important to them, and we help them fight for it. 

Bottom line, our members are proud professional journalists and no union has more experience representing them. 

NY Guild Finds Pay Lagging at Times for Women, Minorities

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 3:20pm
StaffMay 12, 2016The NewsGuild of New York

Union-represented minority employees at The New York Times earn 10 percent less than the average wage, and women earn about 7 percent less than what men in the union are paid, according to an analysis of wage data made public on Thursday by the New York NewsGuild. The disparities persist regardless of whether the job is male- or female-dominated, whether it is a high-paid or a low-paid job, and the number of years at the company, according to the analysis, which was conducted by researchers at the Communications Workers of America, the Guild’s parent union, at the Guild’s request. The New York report follows research on Dow Jones by IAPE-CWA with similar findings. Other Guild locals are also studying pay gaps at major employers.

Hilo Workers Push Back Against Regressive Sick Leave Policy

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 10:03am
Hilo UnitMay 10, 2016Pacific Media Workers Guild While fighting their own battle, Hilo Guild members took time to show their support for the #NewsMatters campaign at Digital First and for CWA Canada (Guild) strikers in Halifax. Hilo’s Thomas Callis explains that "I mua" means "forward" in Hawaiian and was famously used by King Kamehameha in a battle cry that translates to, "Forward my young brothers and drink of the bitter waters of battle for there is no turning back until we are victorious.”     HILO — Employees at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald are pushing back against regressive sick leave policies Oahu Publications Inc. is spreading to newspapers throughout the state.   The Pacific Media Workers Guild, the News Guild local representing workers at the East Hawaii daily newspaper, filed an unfair labor practice charge last week with the National Labor Relations Board challenging OPI’s practice of forcing employees to forfeit vacation days when they use sick leave and requiring doctor’s notes for each illness.   The Black Press-owned company started enforcing those policies after it bought the newspaper in December 2014 despite never putting them in writing. OPI, which laid off nearly half the staff at the profitable publication and forced employees to reapply for their jobs, insists this is standard practice at its non-union newspapers.   The practice of docking vacation time for illnesses has occurred even when an employee has earned sick leave.   “Employees should be encouraged to take care of their health rather than be penalized,” said Tom Callis, Hilo unit chair and the local’s Hawaii vice president. “These policies do not help create a healthy and productive workplace.”   In the last few years, the company also acquired West Hawaii Today in Kailua-Kona and The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. Those publications are non-union.    The Tribune-Herald employees’ collective bargaining agreement was canceled in the sale and they remain in negotiations with management.    The Guild’s position is the company can only enforce policies it provided to employees in writing the day of the purchase before a new contract is reached. To implement these new sick leave rules without negotiating with employees or telling them is a clear violation of labor law.   Sick leave remains an unsettled issue at the bargaining table, with management also insisting on using approved sick leave as justification for discipline in combination with tardiness or absences.    None of these policies were in place under the previous owner and are not part of the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement covering the newsroom at the OPI-owned Honolulu Star-Advertiser.   “The assumption by the company that its employees need to be managed in this fashion is both misguided and insulting," said Brad Sherman, sports editor at The Maui News and a member of the Guild’s bargaining committee.    “The stance that the newspaper’s employees are somehow deceitful is, frankly, absurd. These are the same employees whose hard work and dedication had created a business that was profitable — in an industry that is facing struggles — at the time OPI made the purchase.”   The company has yet to provide any examples of actions by employees that justify these positions.   Additionally, OPI has also proposed drug testing the staff without cause, a position many employees feel is unjustifiably intrusive.   In response, the Guild has offered provisions allowing drug testing with cause, a reasonable attendance policy and allowing the employer to request a doctor's note (at the company's expense). They've all been rejected by management.   The newspaper’s staff has protested the drug testing policy by displaying specimen cups in the workplace with messages to management, such as “My Urine, My Business.”   Employees at the Star-Advertiser, where contract negotiations are expected to begin soon, have also shown support for their Big Island colleagues, and contacted the head of the company, Dennis Francis, to express their concern about the proposals put forward in Hilo.    “We stand with our brothers and sisters on the Big Island,” said Sjarif Goldstein, Star-Advertiser assistant sports editor and Honolulu unit chair. “The Honolulu newsroom understands what’s at stake for media workers in Hawaii as ownership consolidation continues.”  

Why the Verizon Strike Matters to All Working People

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 12:05pm
Peter Szekely, PresidentMay 9, 2016The NewsGuild of New York

The Verizon strike matters to us not only because it involves our fellow CWA members, but because it goes to the heart of who we are: middle class workers struggling to stay in a shrinking middle class, writes Peter Szekely, president of The NewsGuild of New York. "We all lament growing income inequality and the decline of the middle class. But here is a very large group of workers who are boldly trying to do something about it, and we should support them. Unless you’re a journalist who covers this story, telecoms or labor, or your news organization has a restrictive, enforceable general policy against advocacy, there’s no reason you can’t support these workers."

Featured Title: Why The Verizon Strike Matters to All Working People

The Plot to Save Pioneer Press From Its Hedge Fund Owners

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 11:17am
Mike MullenMay 4, 2016City Pages

Elizabeth Mohr spent March 31 crying at her desk. Crying and typing. A week earlier, she had approached Pioneer Press editor Mike Burbach, telling him she'd take a buyout after a decade as the paper's cops and courts reporter. Mohr, 35, was by far the youngest of six employees leaving the paper. "I'm a mom, I have kids," Mohr says. "I was in a job that was getting harder and more stressful, and I was never going to get another raise.” The oldest newspaper in Minnesota had been reduced to a skeleton. Now, its overlords were simply picking at the bones.

Featured Title: Plotting to Save a Newspaper From Its Hedge Fund Owners

CMG Files with Labour Board to Represent VICE Canada

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 5:46pm
StaffApril 29, 2016Canadian Media Guild

CMG organizers submitted an application Friday afternoon to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to certify the union at VICE Canada to represent employees in editorial, marketing, production and post-production across the country. “Working at VICE is exciting, inspiring, and I’m super proud to be a part of what we create,” says one worker at VICE Canada. “I believe forming a union will help all of us have a stronger voice in how our office works, how our work is used, and how our successes are shared fairly among all of us. We work really hard at creating award-winning, popular, important content. It’s time that our salaries, benefits, and office culture reflect that.”

FBI Broke Own Rules In Impersonating AP Reporter in 2007

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 11:44am
Hannah Bloch-WehbaApril 29, 2016Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The FBI failed to follow its own rules when agents impersonated an Associated Press reporter in order to locate a criminal suspect in 2007, according to documents newly released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press. The documents further show that after the impersonation became public, an FBI analysis determined that the non-compliance was reasonable, raising questions about the efficacy of the guidelines altogether. The Reporters Committee and AP sued the FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice last August for records related to the FBI’s practice of impersonating the news media. 

Horror in Bangladesh: LBGTI Magazine Editor Hacked to Death

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 9:13am
StaffApril 26, 2016International Federation of Journalists

The IFJ and journalists worldwide are condemning the April 25 murder of the editor of the country’s first and only LBGTI magazine. According to reports, Zulhaz Mannan, the editor of Bangla-language LBGTI magazine Roopbaan, a local staffer of USAID and the cousin of former foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni, was hacked to death along with a friend, Tanay Fahim, at his residence in Dhaka’s Kalabagan area. Mannan and Fahim were both well-known LGBTI activists in Bangladesh.

Eleanor Roosevelt to Be First Union Member on U.S. Currency

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 3:53pm
Mark GruenbergApril 21, 2016Press Associates, Inc.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was also a columnist and Guild member. At a Page One ball, she receives her 25-year pin.


WASHINGTON (PAI)--For the first time in U.S. history, a committed union member, Eleanor Roosevelt of what was then the American Newspaper Guild, will be on U.S. currency.

Roosevelt will enter that pantheon when she joins Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson on the reverse side of the to-be-redesigned $5 bill, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on April 20. President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the bill.

 “We have always taken great pride in the fact that Eleanor Roosevelt was a card-carrying member of our union,” said Bernie Lunzer, President of the News Guild sector of the Communications Workers, the renamed Newspaper Guild. Roosevelt joined the Guild in 1936 and remained a member until her death in 1962.

“This an opportunity for Americans to learn more about that part of her life and her values, in addition to all the other reasons she deserves to be immortalized on U.S. currency,” Lunzer said of Roosevelt.

While serving as First Lady and for years afterwards, Roosevelt wrote a column, My Day, syndicated to more than 200 newspapers, with more than six million readers. She was a member of the Guild’s Washington local. It’s now the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.

 “ER walked on picket lines, went into mines to inspect working conditions...and testified about what she saw,” Cornell University Professor Jo Freeman wrote in reviewing a Roosevelt biography in 2011. “Even during wartime” – World War II – “she supported the right of all workers to join unions.”

And Roosevelt used her column to argue for workers’ rights, women’s rights, African-American rights, and to chastise unions for excluding those groups from leadership positions, Freeman noted.

After the war, Roosevelt continued to support U.S. strikers and successfully argued for inserting the right to join unions into the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The redesigned currency, which produced the decision to put Roosevelt on the $5 bill,  occurred after a flood of comments came into the Treasury about its original plan to replace former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with an historic woman.

That led to thousands of nominations for new figures on the $5, $10 and especially on $20 bills, given controversy over the record of President Andrew Jackson, now on the front of the $20 bill. Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman will replace Jackson on the front. Jackson will be relegated to the other side, Lew said. 

Meanwhile, "The reverse of the new $5 will highlight historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial and will include images of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.," Treasury said. Though Treasury did not say so, the Daughters of the Ameri-can Revolution had barred Anderson from singing at nearby Constitution Hall. Roosevelt not only arranged for Anderson's concert at the memorial, but quit the DAR, blasting its racism.

Treasury said writers submitted names of 274 women to be on currency. Other unionists among those nominees were Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and co-founder of American Federation of Teachers Local 1, miners' and labor activist Mary Harris "Mother" Jones and socialist unionist Emma Goldman.

Florence Kelley, founder of the labor-backed National Consumers League, and Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member -- as Secretary of Labor -- and a strong advocate who lobbied FDR to enact both Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, were also among the nominees.




'Economic Pressures' Diminishing Ability of U.S. News Organizations to Take on First Amendment Fights

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 10:01am
April 21, 2016Knight Foundation

In the 20th century, news organizations played a major role in protecting the press and speech freedoms enshrined by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They went to the nation’s highest courts to fight for government documents, report fully on public figures, fight censorship and protect confidential sources. Their efforts helped to shape American laws on libel, privacy, prior restraint and many other legal principles. In the latter half of the 20th century, daily newspapers in particular paid hefty legal bills to fight for—and in some cases expand—speech and press rights. In the past decade, however, as suggested by a new Knight Foundation report, economic pressures on traditional news companies appear to have diminished their capacity to engage in legal activity. What’s more, the digital-age technologies that upended legacy media economics also have complicated First Amendment law

Two Journalists Still Facing Absurd Charges in Ferguson

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 2:27pm
Jonathan PetersApril 20, 2016Columbia Journalism Review

The 2014 arrests of journalists Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery for, well, doing journalism at a McDonald’s in Ferguson, Missouri, were misguided. The filing of charges by St. Louis County against them nearly a year later, just days before the statute of limitations tolled, was absurd. Over the past eight months, the charges—one count each of trespassing and interfering with a police officer against Reilly, of The Huffington Post, and Lowery, of The Washington Post, which this week won a Pulitzer Prize for a project on fatal police shootings that grew in part out of events in Ferguson—have been the subject of numerous legal proceedings in Missouri courts. And somewhere along the way, the case has become not just disappointing but dumbfounding, a remarkable low point for government harassment of the press. Lowery is a member of the Washington-Baltimore Guild.

Featured Title: Two Journalists Still Facing Absurd Charges in Ferguson

Lou Mleczko Inducted Into Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 3:47pm
StaffApril 19, 2016The NewsGuild-CWA Retired Detroit Guild leader Lou Mleczko is inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. Photo by Diane Weiss.   Lou Mleczko, an investigative reporter who served 38 years as president of the Detroit Guild, including 18 in which he doubled as the local’s administrative director, has been inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.   Mleczko and three other journalists were honored at a ceremony Sunday night, April 17, on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.   He was nominated by Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter. In an email announcing that Mleczko had been selected he wrote, “During 24 years at The Detroit News, Lou Mleczko forged a reputation as a dogged investigative reporter who exposed structural and safety defects in major construction projects. During an overlapping 38-year career as a labor activist, Lou Mleczko organized Detroit News workers and battled for fair wages, benefits and working conditions for journalists at several area newspapers.”   In a letter endorsing Mleczko, Nancy Dunn, a former Booth Newspapers reporter and former assistant editor at the Free Press said, “Lou’s entire career has exemplified the kind of courage, integrity and leadership that advanced the profession and improved the economic well-being of committed journalists. More than anyone else I can think of, Lou absolutely deserves a place of honor in the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.”   In his acceptance speech Sunday, Mleczko said, “Journalism, no matter the mode of delivery, is so critical to our society. There can be no democracy without a free and independent press.  Just as important, there can be no democracy in the newsroom without a union representing journalists.”   Here is the full text of his speech:   I want to thank the Hall of Fame Judges for this distinct honor. Thank you ML Elrick and Nancy Dunn for championing my nomination. Thanks to David Ashenfelter  for brilliantly consolidating 38 years of my work at the News and the Detroit Guild into a coherent application for the Hall of Fame Committee.   Also to Attorney Duane Ice for being my mentor, colleague and inspiration in the battles we encountered. Thank you Duane.   And most importantly, I want to thank my wife, Lorraine, and my daughter, Carrie. I would not be standing here today without their support.   Journalism, no matter the mode of delivery, is so critical to our society. There can be no democracy without a free and independent press.  Just as important, there can be no democracy in the newsroom without a union representing journalists.   When I was hired as a general assignment reporter for The Detroit News, I couldn’t help but notice the paper’s mission statement, ordered by News founder James E. Scripps, chiseled in stone on the exterior of the paper’s headquarters in downtown Detroit. “Voice of the Lowly and Oppressed; “Advocate of the Friendless”;  “Righter of Public and Private Wrongs”  “A Light Shining into all Dark Places.”   Scripps wanted his journalists to be advocates!   And then one Black Monday in 1974, the newsroom became such a dark place. Dozens of newsroom employees were told to empty out their desks by 12 Noon and get out, arbitrarily laid off without regard to seniority or ability. This is when I realized more than ever that we needed union representation. I helped launch what became a year-long fight after a successful organizing drive which eventually led to the first contract ever for News journalists and support staff.   The theme of our drive in was “The Magic of Self-Respect.” *To have a collective voice in our jobs and our careers *To have an equal seat at the table with management Through collective bargaining, we obtained, for the first time *a fully paid, comprehensive health care plan *a defined benefit pension *minimum pay rates by job classification.   After a year of negotiations, it was during a tedious, contentious bargaining session that was going nowhere, Teamsters official Elton Schade rushed into the cramped bargaining room and announced that “Jimmy’s missing.”   Teamsters officials, who were observers in the meeting, rushed out leaving the bargaining committees staring at each other in confusion. The bargaining was effectively over, just hours from the start of a strike. We looked out the window and saw men with weapons stationing themselves in front of the Teamsters Building. We knew it was time to leave.   It was Hoffa’s disappearance that inadvertently gave us a tentative agreement and our first contract. News management wasn’t sure if the Teamsters would follow us out on strike. The News opted to settle with the Guild.   As a reporter at the Detroit News, I documented public and private wrongs like the major building and fire code violations at Joe Louis Arena, the Pontiac Silverdome, the Renaissance Center as well as construction defects on state highways and bridges, the Detroit People Mover and the near collapse of the Zilwaukee Bridge on I-75.   Editors gave me the freedom to do these time consuming investigations. These projects were of vital public importance. And it gave me great personal satisfaction in translating the sometimes dry, highly technical world of inspectors, engineers and contractors for a general public whose tax dollars as well as their personal safety were at stake.   Meanwhile, as President I represented Newspaper Guild members at the Detroit News, Free Press, Macomb Daily, Observer and Eccentric, Michigan Catholic and the UAW. Like my construction beat, it was critically important for all of my Guild colleagues. This allowed them to thrive at what they did best---put together the best newspaper possible for the public good.   When the owners of the Detroit News and Free Press announced their intention to merge in 1985, I opposed it as a journalist, as a trade unionist and as an advocate of the public good. A JOA would diminish competition, news coverage, staffs and investigative projects. Monopolistic ad rates and circulation prices would drive away advertisers and readers. The new business behemoth would attack the job benefits that we had worked so hard to achieve.   Our opposition to the largest newspaper merger in American history built a historical record proving there was no need for a JOA in Detroit. Even when the Guild was forced to drop out as the last intervenor, Lorraine and I helped form a group that teamed up with Public Citizen, which took our case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite our best efforts, the JOA was approved on a tie Supreme Court vote in late 1989.   It wasn’t a coincidence that, prior to the JOA, joint negotiations between the unions and the two companies avoided a major labor dispute from 1968 until the merged News/Free Press provoked the Great Newspaper Strike of 1995. The 5.5-year strike/lock-out impacted the careers of hundreds of newspaper employees as well as negatively altering the business landscape for these two diminished newspaper giants.   From 2001 to 2013, we preserved union contracts at all of our Guild units, which assured the members, we represented, a seat at the table as the newspapers were hit by unprecedented changes in the media industry, including the devastating near financial collapse and deep recession in 2008 that engulfed the nation.   Despite all of the challenges impacting the media today, Guild members still have the “Magic of Self-Respect” and a voice in their workplace. They can continue to serve as advocates for the general public as envisioned by Detroit News founder James Scripps.   I am grateful to have had a significant role as a reporter and as a union official in accomplishing those goals. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. And I thank the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame for recognizing it today.


Byline Counts, Union Talks & 'A Lot of Anxiety' at Denver Post

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 10:27am
Corey HutchinsApril 19, 2016Columbia Journalism Review

Their employer is counting bylines. There are looming fears of more job cuts. All in all at The Denver Post, "“It’s gotten to the point where it’s pretty exhausting,” said Kieran Nicholson, reporter and Post newsroom chair for the Denver Guild. “For people like me—and there’s a few of us who have been around that whole time—it’s death by a thousand cuts, and we ride this roller coaster of emotion and seeing so much talent walk out the door.”

Guild Members Among Big Winners, Finalists for 2015 Pulitzers

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 4:50pm
Janelle HartmanApril 18, 2016The NewsGuild-CWA

Screenshot from AP's award-winning expose. Click here to read more.

NEWSGUILD members at The Associated Press, Boston Globe, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters are among the Pulitzer Prize winners for 2015, and many more are among the three finalists in each category, as announced Monday afternoon.

The AP received the Pulitzer’s Gold Medal, given for public service journalism. It tops a mountain of awards News Media Guild member Martha Mendoza (pictured) and an overseas reporting team have earned for their stunning expose of slavery in Thailand’s seafood industry.

The investigation revealed that the industry used slaves to produce seafood sold everywhere from Walmart to Red Lobster, among many U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.

The reporting team’s work led to the freeing of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, the jailing of perpetrators, congressional hearings and the proposal of new laws.

The News Media Guild reports that Mendoza, a senior journalist in the AP’s San Jose, Calif., bureau, also won a Pulitzer in 2000 as part of the team that revealed that American soldiers early in the Korean War killed hundreds of Korean civilians in a massacre at the No Gun Ri Bridge.

Other Guild members celebrating individual and staff Pulitzers today are:

* The Washington Post staff for National Reporting for “its revelatory initiative in creating and using a national database to illustrate how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be."

* Farah Stockman of The Boston Globe for Commentary for “extensively reported columns that probe the legacy of busing in Boston and its effect on education in the city with a clear eye on ongoing racial contradictions.

* The photography staff of Thomson Reuters for Breaking News Photography for “gripping photographs, each with its own voice, that follow migrant refugees hundreds of miles across uncertain boundaries to unknown destinations.”

Many Guild members were among the three finalists in each category for the coveted prize. They are:

* The staff of The Baltimore Sun for Breaking News Reporting for “fast-moving coverage of the rioting that followed the shooting death of Freddie Gray, reflecting the newsroom's knowledge of the community and advancing the conversation about police violence.”

* Five New York Times reporters for Investigative Reporting. Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael Corkery and Robert Gebeloff were cited for “a revelatory inquiry into a corporate strategy to add clauses to millions of contracts, stripping consumers and employees of their rights to challenge unfair business practices in court.” Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip were finalists for “a probing report that lifted the veil on an epidemic of violence by corrections officers against inmates in New York state prisons.”

* Jonathan D. Rockoff, Joseph Walker and Peter Loftus, part of a five-person team at The Wall Street Journal, finalists in Explanatory Reporting for “a lucid explanation of how pharmaceutical companies employ secretive tactics to raise drug prices relentlessly, at great cost to patients and taxpayers.”

* Sarah Maslin Nir of The New York Times for Local Reporting for “an investigation into the ugly side of the beauty industry, exposing labor and health practices detrimental to workers in nail salons.”

* Bradley Hope of The Wall Street Journal, part of a five-member team cited for International Reporting for “masterful reporting that exposed corruption at the highest levels of a fragile democracy, leading to ‘Malaysia's Watergate.’”

* Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for Feature Writing for “three humane and topical feature stories exploring lives affected by a natural disaster, gun violence and a frayed social safety net.”

* N.R. Kleinfield of The New York Times for Feature Writing for "the layered and riveting account of the last days of a Queens man, part detective story, part eulogy and part exploration of a city's bureaucracy of death."

* Manohla Dargis of The New York Times for Criticism for “reviews and essays that take on the sacred cows of film culture with considerable style and admirable literary and historical reach.”

* Peter Jensen and Glenn McNatt of The Baltimore Sun, along with two colleagues, for Editorial Writing for “editorials that demanded accountability in the aftermath of the shooting death of Freddie Gray while also offering guidance to a trouble city.”

* Steve Sack of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis for Editorial Cartooning for “painterly cartoons that both delight and provoke, leading readers to see the world and its pressing issues in new ways.”

Politico Seeking $205,000 in Tax Credits from California

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 8:23am
Cara GriffithApril 18, 2016TaxAnalysts.com

Politico “would expand its California operation by adding 41 employees in Sacramento" if it receives $205,000 in tax credits from California, according to reporting on state documents about companies filing for tax breaks. Writes Cara Griffith, "A news organization applied for tax credits in a state where it will be regularly reporting. That is news in and of itself. Would the state expect preferential treatment from Politico in return? Or would Politico feel more inclined to be soft in its coverage of the state government’s activities because of the tax credits? Would Politico’s coverage of tax incentive deals in California change if it were a recipient of such a deal?"