Does it matter who wins the election for New York NewsGuild president?

Yes, it matters: Re-elect Peter Szekely Guild prez

How will the current leadership election at The NewsGuild of New York affect you? Probably in more ways than you think.

The size, strength and health of the Guild have a lot to do with your pay, benefits and rights at work. Making the Guild bigger and stronger with an even more active membership improves our ability to bargain contracts that will give you a better working life. That’s why this election matters.

You can help yourself to that better future by using the ballot that arrived at your home this week to vote for the Growing Stronger Coalition . Not only will you be helping to re-elect me, but you’ll be helping to elect 21 other activists from throughout our union who are equally dedicated to making the Guild bigger and stronger.

I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in the 14 months since I became Guild president, and we’re just getting started.

We organized three new workplaces (for a total of 21), and there are more to come. We’ve put more boots on the ground – a mobilizer and other Guild staffers have been spending more time in workplaces to support members and encourage activists. We settled seven strong contracts. We increased our visibility in the press and on social media. And there’s a whole lot more.

Everything we’ve done has been aimed at making us bigger and building a stronger community of Guild members. In the next three years we hope to build on that with new initiatives, like more skills training, a freelancer unit and a mentoring program where veteran Guild members can advise students and young journalists.

We’re also exploring ways of getting a better return on our assets of more than $10 million. Since the end of the Great Recession, we’ve earned $1.75 million through careful dollar-cost-average investing. These assets enable us to recruit new members, defend our contracts and provide war chests for contract battles, like our current commitment to spend up to $500,000 for a fair contract at Reuters and our commitment in the previous New York Times negotiations to spend up to $1 million.

My opponent has a very different approach.

‘Who has the better leadership skills, judgment and experience to handle the very varied responsibilities of running our union?’

He is waging a divisive campaign, pitting Guild members at The Times against the rest of us. Because The Times is our largest shop, he says more of the Guild’s resources should go to The Times unit whether it needs them or not. This means less for everyone else.

As president, I’ve never denied any spending request for Times members, and we’ve always treated The Times as our biggest and most important unit. We’re funding mobilizing efforts as well as events for members and activists. We launched a study that exposed race- and gender-based pay disparities. We’re pursuing grievances to protect our ability to represent newsroom employees, and bargaining hard against demands to cut severance pay and let managers do more Guild work.

These are important pursuits, and we’ll spare no expense at fighting for Times members’ rights, and for building a stronger, more member-involved unit. But we oppose unnecessarily spending money just for the sake of doing so.

Another difference is that my opponent advocates spending our reserves on giveaways, like help with legal fees during divorces or weekend retreats for Guild activists. We disagree. Our assets are precious and should be used only for investing in our future or emergencies.

Maybe most important, this election isn’t just about competing ideas. You’re voting for a person, not a package of positions. Who will be more effective? Who has the better leadership skills, judgment and experience to handle the very varied responsibilities of running our union, including winning the respect of a smart and dedicated staff?

These are the most difficult questions before you. You won’t find the answers on a campaign leaflet. But take a look at the past year. Take a look at the new can-do spirit of energy and optimism that I’ve encouraged. It’s no coincidence that I’m running with the most dedicated, proven activists in our union, and that an overwhelming number of unit chairs are endorsing me, as are former Guild presidents and many more.

I’ve spent more than two decades as a reporter, mostly in the Reuters Washington bureau. I was a rank-and-file Guild activist, including unit chair, for about 20 years. I was the Guild’s No. 2 officer for eight years. But being Guild president is the most challenging job I’ve ever had. No matter who wins this race, my running mates and those of my opponent will go on with their current jobs. But the president for the next three years will be on his own on a day-to-day basis.

That’s why I’m asking for your vote as a proven leader with a successful record of achievement and a promising vision of what our union can become. Please vote for the Growing Stronger Coalition.

In Unity,

Peter Szekely
President, NewsGuild of New York

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