Reflections on The Newspaper Guild-CWA Sector Conference
(June 26, 2009) One of the perks of being a Guild local president is that
when the Newspaper Guild sector of the CWA hosts a
sector conference in your town you get to make welcoming remarks to the delegates.
After the obligatory jokes, I told delegates to enjoy all the
attractions that the District of Columbia had to offer, but “let’s be
conscientious delegates first.” From all I could tell, the 110
delegates from 40-plus Guild locals were indeed conscientious.
Among the big issues that had to be tackled was a proposal to change the
union’s name from The Newspaper Guild to The Media Guild.
immediately, a delegate offered a substitute motion suggesting “The
News Guild” as a show of support for our beleaguered core industry. Other delegates opined that “The Media Guild” looked more stridently to the future
and could encompass more workers from more walks of life, while others
declared that even removing “paper” from “Newspaper
Guild” served as a tacit admission that our industry was dying.
In the end, all discussion was tabled by a strong majority voice vote.
Where do I fall on the issue? Even though I haven’t worked for a
newspaper for 20 years –- my employer is a news agency that’s
depended on satellites and the Internet to publish during my tenure –
I’m rather fond of our original name, and it's served us well for 76
years. But, if we want other unions to join us – or we want to join
other unions – it may be easier for all the parties in such a deal to
come to agreement on a name as part of the pact, and then sell it to our
After a one-day hiatus, the convention of the Communications Workers of America, the
Guild’s parent union, kicked in. Its size was roughly 16 times that of
the Guild’s own sector conference, which makes for a different
dynamic. Unfettered debate like that you find at the Guild gathering is not
possible at a CWA convention. Instead, two people maximum can speak on
either side of an issue and voting is conducted by a show of hands.
The biggest debate at the CWA convention was over whether to allow money from
CWA’s three-year-old Strategic Industry Fund to be used for
organizing. The “ayes” had it in a show of hands, but under CWA
rules, a show of hands of 20 percent of the delegates can force a roll
call. Each delegates votes his or her share of his local’s voting
strength as computed by membership. Our six WBNG delegates had 283 votes
each. I don’t know how they voted, but it seemed from our
conversations during the voting that we were all for the proposal. –
which ultimately carried the day by a 2-to-1 ratio.
Another consequence of limited debate is that, instead of speaking, CWA
delegates line up at the microphone behind the speakers to show their
support for the position. To be honest, I find it a little silly since
there are few issues that engender much debate. But when the
organizing-money resolution came up for discussion, I found myself
bolting for the other end of the room where the “for” microphone was
to show my own support. And, to my surprise, I got complimented by
another WBNG delegate for demonstrating my support for organizing by
virtue of the simple act of getting out a chair and walking to a
microphone. Maybe there’s something to this standing-up thing after
– Mark Pattison
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