Evan Yeats is our newest staffer at WBNG who joined us in March 2021. Originally from Iowa, Evan has lived in DC since 2008. His first union membership was at AFSCME, working as an overnight police dispatcher while in college. After a stint as an award-winning radio reporter in Eastern Iowa, he became a labor communicator, organizer and representative and worked as the Communications Director for a team that won the first-ever contract for civilian municipal workers in Houston, Texas. He worked at the United Food and Commercial Workers since 2008 where he worked on campaigns for bargaining, organizing and workplace safety that helped tens of thousands of retail, food manufacturing and meatpacking workers find their voice at work. At the UFCW, he was a long-time WBNG leader including winning Unit Officer of the Year (2012) and leading the unit to the Unit of the Year (2013) at the WBNG Front Page awards. Prior to coming to WBNG, he was consulting on bargaining for news workers in California, Hawaii and Florida. He lives in Takoma, DC with his wife and three children.
Yesterday’s violence at the US Capitol building was a direct attack on our democracy and our democratic institutions, carried out by armed insurrectionists wielding symbols of hate, and encouraged by the sitting President of the United States. Before being allowed to peacefully leave the building, the terrorists scribbled a message on one of the building’s doors: “Murder the media.”
This event was the culmination of four years of dangerous rhetoric, rooted in white supremacy, that has spread lies and disinformation to advance an anti-democratic agenda. Our union is incredibly proud of the brave and diligent work of our members who were on the ground at the Capitol building yesterday, some of whom faced intimidation, harassment, and vandalism at the hands of the insurrectionists as they stood their ground to make sure that the nation was honestly and accurately informed about what was taking place.
The Washington-Baltimore News Guild strongly condemns the attempted coup and the violent intimidation and threats to our members and journalists everywhere. Never has the need for a free press been more necessary than in moments like these. The News Guild will always fight to defend the rights of working people everywhere. We will never stop working to make sure our newsrooms, non-profits, and unions reflect the diversity and inclusivity that is so desperately needed to lead this country to a better future.
Rest In Power: Byron Charlton
The AFL-CIO is mourning the death of Byron Charlton (TNG-CWA). Most recently, Byron worked as a legislative representative at the AFL-CIO, “but his commitment to and history with the labor movement was deep,” reported https://aflcio.org/2021/1/4/service-solidarity-spotlight-rest-peace-byron-charlton the AFL-CIO Now blog.
“Byron was a trade unionist to his core. From his days as a steelworker in Radford, Virginia, to his central role in organizing the Newport News Shipyard to his advocacy for the labor movement’s agenda on Capitol Hill, particularly around federal employee issues, Byron’s service to our movement spanned half a century.”
He also served a stint as assistant to the executive director of the African American Labor Center. “His joyful presence will be deeply missed.” Read more here. An online service for Byron will be held this Saturday, January 9 at 1:30pm.
Scott will be remembered for his strong trade unionism, dedicating his career to the labor movement and spending twenty-four of those years with the AFL-CIO. But, for those of us that had the pleasure of working with Scott, we will miss him for his humor, his friendship and his stories of adventurous travel that brightened the workplace every day.
Following a half-century of fighting for working people around the world, AFL-CIO Legislative Representative Byron Charlton succumbed to Covid following an extended illness on December 28, 2021.
“He was a warm thoughtful colleague, someone who would pop into your office just to see how you were doing,” recalled AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “He was a conscience of the federation on racial justice; outspoken, determined and fully devoted to bettering the lives of all working people.”
Brother Charlton joined Steelworkers Local 2969 in Radford, VA, in 1970 working at Lynchburg Foundries. In the early 1980s, he helped organize Steelworkers Local 8888 at Newport News (VA) Shipbuilding.
From there, Charlton worked various assignments with the AFL-CIO, including as the assistant to the executive director of the African American Labor Center. His efforts took him to numerous locations around the world.
In the 1990s, he returned to the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington to work on legislative and policy issues. He chaired the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition, formed by more than 20 AFL-CIO affiliates when the George W. Bush administration tried to attack collective bargaining rights after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The coalition pushed back the administration’s attempt to say the rollbacks were for “national security” by pointing out union members were the first to be killed and hundreds of others died during rescue efforts at the Twin Towers of New York City.
“I knew Byron for more than 20 years,” noted MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan. “He was one of the good guys, always smiling, always friendly – unless you were attacking workers. That’s where he drew the line.”
It’s official! The workers of Verso Books have won voluntary union recognition from management of the publishing house after an arbitrator certified on Dec. 8 that a majority of employees in the unit had signed cards indicating support for joining the Washington-Baltimore Local of The NewsGuild-CWA. Management had agreed in principle to grant voluntary recognition late last month.
Ben Mabie, an editor and shop steward for the new unit, said, “For 50 years Verso Books has been a leading tribune for emancipatory politics. In taking this decision to unionize, our staff looks to join this storied history, marrying radical publishing with organizing and real solidarity with the wider labor movement. The Communications Workers of America and the NewsGuild have done particularly dedicated work in bringing some power and democracy to workers in the media and telecommunications, so we’re especially glad to throw in our lot with them.”
Through informal organizing over the years, the staff has won a number of policies aimed at increasing transparency in the workplace, including the development of a staff guide, democratic decision-making, salary banding, and more. Representation is intended to strengthen these policies by formalizing them and moving towards greater power in the workplace.
Julia Judge, a senior publicist at Verso, said, “The decision to unionize felt especially urgent now, as our staff both grows significantly in size and grows more remote. We’re excited to join our colleagues who have already begun organizing across the industry and hope that fellow book workers continue pushing for more dignified labor conditions in their own workplaces.”
Operating remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered offices in March, Verso employees recognized the necessity of maintaining close communication with one another and protecting input into their working conditions amidst widespread uncertainty. Following on the heels of several publisher workplace actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter this summer, as well as an industry-wide reckoning with issues of race, class, and gender to ability and entry-level compensation, the staff said its decision to unionize was also an act of solidarity with workers in media, publishing, and bookselling, as well as in the broader labor movement.
The campaign is in solidarity with a concurrent unionization effort by the workers of Verso’s UK office, represented by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in London.
Follow the group on Twitter @versobooksguild.