Why we’re challenging the NewsGuild election

The numbers that came out of the NewsGuild of New York election on Nov. 18 were as clear as they were disappointing. Grant Glickson and his Members First Slate got decisively more votes than our Growing Stronger Coalition slate, and Grant himself got 59 percent of the votes.

Grant is to be congratulated for running a vigorous campaign. The numbers tell an undeniable story in which Grant captured a clear majority of a huge voter turnout – more than twice as many members voted than they did three years ago. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

That’s why we on the Growing Stronger Coalition are challenging the election results.

Grant, his running mates and supporters violated rules and laws, including the prohibition against using employer email and other resources for campaigning. This gave their campaign an unfair advantage in getting out the vote. The evidence is clear and irrefutable. The only question is whether the impact of the violations was significant enough to affect the votes of some 260 or more members.

That is about to be decided by the Guild’s independent Local Election Committee, which has been refereeing this race all along.

Grant and his campaign were based at The New York Times, by far the biggest of the Guild’s 21 units with more than 1,000 of our local’s 2,600 eligible members. When Grant ran for Guild president three years ago, only about 250 Times members voted. This time it was 681, nearly half of the 1,414 who actually voted. Part of the surge may be attributed to hard campaigning and the prospect of electing a hometown favorite. But improper use of Times email and other company and union resources played a major role. Yes, Grant’s victory margin was substantial. But I believe it couldn’t have happened without the violations that were committed.


The committee is expected to rule any minute now. If it agrees with our challenge, it must order a new election. If not, it will let the current results stand. Under our system, either Grant or I may appeal the decision through a progression of steps that ends with the Labor Department. Right now, our team is taking things one step at a time.

Whatever the committee decides, a new election cannot be held before my term expires on Jan. 1, 2017. That means Grant will be the NewsGuild president on Jan. 2. As such, we need to remain unified as we struggle with our employers and pursue the goals on which we all agree. We owe him an open mind. But he owes us accountability.

In a Nov. 23 victory message to members, Grant promised to see to the needs of all of the Guild’s 21 units, and insisted that framing the election as one of Times members versus all other members “could not be further from the case.”

That’s encouraging, but it was Grant who did the framing. In an Oct. 5 email in which he announced his candidacy to Times members, he promised to dedicate one of the Guild’s reps exclusively to The Times, and said “the president of the NewsGuild must make our unit a priority and provide services commensurate with the $1.1 million we pay in Guild dues every year.”

Now he’s requesting to be put on the Guild payroll immediately and that we not settle any more contracts until he takes office. I’m saying no to that. While I’m happy to discuss transition matters, the tone of that request, which also sought a massive amount of information, suggests that he’s considering a major staff overhaul. The Guild is stronger because of the stability, dedication and professionalism of our staff, and if there are changes to be made, they should not be made with a meat cleaver.

In contrast to his letter to me, Grant’s recent message to members was conciliatory and unity-oriented. He promised to act transparently. We should take him at his word. But we also should watch closely.

In Unity,

Peter Szekely, Guild President
and the Growing Stronger Coalition

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

Before you vote in The NewsGuild election, find out what we’re about – Peter Szekely’s message to Times Guild members

Let’s talk about this: Re-elect Peter Szekely NewsGuild President

Almost everywhere I go, Guild members tell me how much they like they way our union has changed in the year since I became president – more organizing, more activism and more presence in the workplace and in the public eye.

But I haven’t heard that so much at The Times, where I have a political opponent whose campaign asserts that our union is “drifting dangerously close to a crisis.” So, as election ballots are mailed to your homes today, I hope you’ll try to determine whether those claims are genuine or the words of a candidate looking to create issues to suit his goals.

First, here are a few of the things we’ve done in the past year. We organized three new workplaces (for a total of 21), and there are more to come. We’ve put more boots on the ground – Guild staffers, including a mobilizer, have been spending more time in workplaces, concentrating on those that need it most, to support members and encourage activists. We settled seven strong contracts. We increased our visibility in the press and on social media. In short, we’ve gotten bigger and stronger.

Most folks think we’re moving in the right direction. You can quibble about the magnitude, but it’s certainly not a crisis.

What about The Times? My opponent says Times members are being neglected and that you’re not getting “services commensurate” with your dues.

‘How could anyone hope to build strength with a divisive campaign that pits Times members against the rest of our union?’

I think he’s wrong. As president, I’ve never denied any funding request for Times members. The Guild is paying for videos that are part of a planned mobilizing campaign. We funded a Times mixer, travel for unit officers and countless lunches for activists. In the last round of contract talks we committed to spending up to $1 million for a fair contract, and if necessary we’ll do it again. I’ve also offered the services of our mobilizer and our organizer.

The Times is our biggest and most important unit, and you have perhaps the best Guild contract in the country. We got our parent union to examine Times race- and gender-based pay disparities and we’re pursuing grievances, including management’s disturbing use of nonunion copy editors at the Print Hub. At the bargaining table we’re fighting the company’s push to let managers do Guild-covered work and to cut the severance pay of laid-off employees. And, oh yes, when the carrier providing group rate life insurance for dozens of Times employees dropped out, we found a replacement.

Not only do I dispute my opponent’s claim of neglect, I disagree with the fee-for-service way he frames the issue. We’re a union, not a country club. We allocate our resources to the places where they’re most needed. The emphasis of my entire first year as president has been to find more ways of bringing all members together, socially, professionally and as union members. It’s how we build strength, and that strength ultimately helps us bargain better contracts. How could anyone hope to build strength with a divisive campaign that pits Times members against the rest of our union?

Are Times members being neglected? What do you think, legitimate complaint or made-up-for-campaign issue?

Another recurring theme from the opposition camp is that the Guild needs to spend its reserves of more than $10 million on things like legal bills for members going through divorces and weekend retreats for Guild activists.

I disagree. That money is for investing in our future. I’m proud to say that we have earned $1.75 million since 2008 by responsibly investing a part of our reserves. In the past year, we’ve started using that money to grow by adding key staff. It’s an investment. It’s going to make us bigger and stronger, helping us bargain better contracts and remain financially sound.

Being Guild president has been my greatest challenge and my greatest source of professional satisfaction, something I never expected to be doing during my 28 years as a Reuters reporter and Guild activist. I would like nothing more than to continue working to make our union bigger and stronger, and to work to put my goals in place, like building a more comprehensive training program and welcoming freelancers.

I’m not making any chicken-in-every-pot promises. I won’t make any promises I can’t deliver. But I will promise to work as hard as I can, and spare no expense, to enforce our contract. Our union will endure at The Times and at our other workplaces. And Times members come out ahead when they are a part of our Guild community, not an isolated province.

That’s what our campaign is about. I hope you’ll support me and the Growing Stronger Coalition. Please have a look at our website and feel free to ask us anything you like.

In Unity,
Peter Szekely
President, NewsGuild of New York

Letter from Washington: Divorce lawyers, Catskills retreats on the Guild?

How would you like your union dues to pay for retreats in the Catskills for Guild activists, or lawyers for members going through divorces? In a visit to the Reuters Washington bureau on Friday, our opponent suggested using the Guild’s reserves for just those purposes. Read our dispatch from Reuters Correspondent Andy Sullivan, who chairs the Guild’s mobilizing committee there.

Dear fellow New York NewsGuild members,

As you know, we’ve got an election in the works: Grant Glickson, The New York Times unit chair, hopes to unseat our sitting president, Peter Szekely. 

I hope you’ll take a minute to consider the views of a longtime Guild activist who feels strongly that we should stick with Peter.

1. Do you want your Guild dues to go towards divorce lawyers and Catskills vacations?

I had a chance to talk with Grant when he visited our Washington bureau on Friday. He told me he wants to make better use of the cash reserves we have built up under Peter’s tenure. 


He suggested the Guild could help out with legal bills when a member is going through a divorce. 

He suggested the Guild could conduct a training retreat for activist members in the Catskills.

I’m pretty active with the Guild: I’ve been a steward since 2004, and I currently head up Reuters’ mobilizing committee, trying to ensure that our 400-odd members keep the pressure on management as we negotiate a new contract.

Personally, I’m not planning on getting divorced any time soon. 

But as a longtime Guild activist, I’d probably be able to finagle that free Catskills vacation. 

I don’t think that’s a good use of our dues. 

I want our dues to go towards winning good contracts, expanding our ranks, and kicking up dust when one of our member units, like El Diario, faces an existential crisis. 

I want Guild Rep Susan DeCarava breathing fire at the bargaining table. I want the Guild’s Nastaran Mohit organizing new shops like Law360. I want mobilizer Jesus Sanchez coming up with creative ways to rattle our bosses when our bosses need rattling. 

I don’t want you to pay for my vacation in the Catskills, and I don’t want us to pay for someone else’s divorce lawyer. 

2. Do you want leaders who alienate the people they’re trying to win over?

I don’t know Grant personally. He seems like a nice enough guy.

I do know his running mate, Tony Barone. Tony works on the technology side of Reuters TV operation and is a member of our bargaining committee. 

I applaud Tony for his commitment. His interpersonal skills could use a little work. 

In a visit to Washington on Friday, Tony yelled at one of our members when she asked him why he doesn’t use Twitter. 

“What the hell have you ever done, anyway?” he said to Ginger Gibson. You might recognize her byline: she’s one of our best political reporters. She’s also one of our most energetic activists.

On that same visit, Tony told me he would no longer help to mobilize members at a time when we are reaching a crucial point in contract talks. (“I’m a busy guy!” he told me and everybody else who wasn’t wearing earplugs.)

If Tony Barone gets this bent out of shape during a routine hand-shaking expedition, how will he fare when he’s facing a union-busting lawyer? Is this the type of person you want representing your interests?

3. Do you want to stick with a Guild president who has bolstered our finances, expanded our ranks, and hired great people?

Me too! That’s why I’d urge you to vote for Peter Szekely. 

At a time when many unions are struggling with dwindling membership and finances, the New York NewsGuild is flush with cash and growing its ranks. That’s Peter’s doing.

I’ve seen Peter working for Guild since I joined Reuters in 2000 – first as Reuters unit chair, then as Guild secretary-treasurer, then as Guild president. It’s not glamorous work, but Peter’s tackled it with passion, heart and humor. 

Peter’s relentless, he’s dedicated, and he knows his stuff. 

I’ve had a rewarding career in my 16 years at Reuters. It’s a great place to work in large part because of the pay, benefits and working conditions that NewsGuild members have secured. 

Let’s keep a good thing going. Please vote for Peter’s slate when you get your ballot in the mail.

If you’d like to discuss further, feel free to email me anytime.

In Unity,

Andy Sullivan

Reuters NewsGuild Mobilizing Committee Chair