NewsGuild turns up heat at Advancement Project

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Photo and story by Chris Garlock

Monday’s chilly temperatures were the perfect time to “turn up the heat” at the Advancement Project, where the NewsGuild has been negotiating a contract for nearly a year.

“We’re tired of the lack of progress,” said the AP Union Bargaining Committee, which organized two pickets at AP’s board meeting yesterday.

“July will mark one year of negotiations, and management is still dragging their feet. With no commitment to wage increases, no substantive concessions, and slow movement from management, it’s time to turn up the heat.”

Following the actions, the bargaining committee met to finalize counterproposals in anticipation of resuming bargaining at the end of the month.

EC Adopts New Credit Card Policy at May Meeting

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The Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild voted unanimously to adopt a new credit card policy at its monthly meeting on May 23. 

The policy doesn’t significantly alter the way our two credit cards will be used, because there is no evidence that they’ve been used improperly, but the policy clarifies how our union’s money can be spent and expressly lays out how members can review the local’s financial information, including receipts. 

EC member Steve Cook led the committee work, which included research into guidelines from the Department of Labor and local union resource materials from the Communication Workers of America. His leadership set a fresh and collegial tone for the work and helped lead a committee with an array of input from rank-and-file members and EC members alike. 

“We should all be proud of this credit card policy,” said WBNG President Robert Struckman. “Steve Cook did a wonderful job as chair. All of us should continue to push for accountability and transparency at our union. It will strengthen us and give members assurances that we can be a union that’s ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.” 

Member Petition Prompts New Consideration of Special Audit

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Ice and freezing temperatures canceled the union meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 21, and so all business destined for that meeting has been pushed ahead to the General Membership meeting on April 7 at the union office, 1225 I Street NW, Suite 300, and to the Executive Council meeting following it. 

One of the main items of business in the General Membership meeting will be a presentation by our union’s auditor, Bill Monroe of Haley and Associates. 

Afterwards, the general membership will consider the issue of conducting a special audit and review of the past five years of union expenses. The consideration of the subject comes after a petition, submitted by Joel Gratz (AFL-CIO) on Wednesday, March 14, with 67 verified signatures from five units, called for a vote on a special audit of the local’s finances. 

The meeting of the WBNG executive council will immediately follow the general membership meeting. 

 

RFA Workers Worry Over Family Members Arrested in China

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Gulchehra Hoja, who is a Washington-Baltimore News Guild member in the Uygher Service at Radio Free Asia, spoke to her parents on Jan. 31. 

The next day, her parents and 18 other relatives were jailed by the Chinese police. 

“They were all arrested. It was very scary,” said Hoja’s husband, Arslan Khakiyev, who also works in the Uygher Service. 

Gulchehra Hoja, WBNG member at RFA, is comforted by her husband and fellow union member Arslan Khahiyev, who works alongside her on the Uygher Service at RFA.

Retaliation is a common threat to the workers at RFA, which is a federally funded nonprofit news service that broadcasts independent news to nine Asian nations. Some countries, including China, strictly curtail press freedom. China recently cracked down on the family members of RFA workers

One worker in the Mandarin Service said, “When we do our jobs, we are fearless, but when we go home… when we go through customs… we do have fear.”

All RFA workers know of journalists who traveled home only to be arrested hours after arriving, as if the police knew their itineraries. That happens even though RFA journalists use pseudonyms to help protect themselves and family members. 

Not all of RFA workers can go home, though. For instance, the Uygher staff cannot go to the Xinjiang Uygher Autonomous Region of China. 

The family of reporter Jung Young of RFA’s Korean Service were arrested in 2009 and reportedly taken to a political prison camp. His wife’s family was arrested and taken to the same place in 2015.

For Hoja, last weekend brought some relief. She was able to speak to both of her parents. Her mother was released from what they call a “re-education camp,” and her father is in a hospital. Hoja can’t relax yet, though. Her brother, aunt and cousins remain in the camps. 

Auditor to Speak at Membership Meeting

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Bill Monroe of the CPA firm Haley and Associates will be on hand to answer questions and discuss financial governance and related issues of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild at our upcoming Executive Council meeting on April 7 at 10 am at the union office in Suite 300 at 1225 I Street NW in Washington. 

As the new president of the WBNG, I sat down with Monroe to talk about his ideas on ways we can use better financial governance to increase transparency and accountability, and to create systems that allow us to do more. 

For instance, we could use 50/50 raffles to raise money for gas cards, so out-of-area members could drive to membership meetings. We could offer shirts or other union-themed items to activists or for sale. First, though, we need our membership to authorize it and set up procedures to collect and disburse the money. It’s as simple as that. 

The Department of Labor says five years of financial information must be available to any member upon request. 

Monroe expressed tremendous confidence in the WBNG staff and the integrity of the WBNG system for tracking expenses, receipts and other relevant information. He expresses this opinion because his firm produces an annual audit based on testing a random and representative number of expenses in our file.

Monroe pays particular attention to things things like credit cards that are vulnerable to abuse. Monroe’s firm has handled the WBNG finances for more than 15 years, and his firm specializes in labor unions. 

At our meeting, Monroe will discuss the production of a cost-efficient review of our union’s finances, with interested union members as collaborators. This review could look over the past five years, and it would lead to a report, which would be available to any member who wants it.  The review would also include recommendations for items to be included in a policy and procedures manual, which would, if adopted by the local, give clarity and authorization to our financial picture. Here is a link to sample policies and procedures our union could draw from. 

You can attend our upcoming meeting in person or by phone. It is an general membership meeting, every members can vote, and all members are welcome. All members can speak to issues. If you have any questions or concerns prior, please feel free to reach out to me via email at rjstruckman@gmail.com. 

In solidarity,

Bob Struckman, President WBNG