Campaigning for News Guild leadership with an eye to the future

By Annie Shields

What is your occupation? (You don’t need to specify the company if you prefer not to.)

I am the engagement editor at The Nation magazine.

What union are you a member of? 

I am a member of the NewsGuild of New York.

How long have you been a member? How would you characterize your involvement with the union?

I have been a member for nearly 8 years. The Nation has been organized with the NewsGuild for decades and I was fortunate to join an organized shop when I was hired. I have been peripherally involved for years, attending shop meetings and events put on by our local. Now I am a member of our unit council, which means I am one of the point people in my shop helping to represent members and address issues that come up in the office.

What do you feel are the major issues your union is focused on right now?

It is a very exciting time at the NewsGuild, because we have seen an unprecedented wave of organizing in the media sector. In the past few years we’ve organized almost a dozen new shops, and I expect that trend to continue. Working conditions in our industry continue to deteriorate as traditional revenue streams like advertising and subscriptions have been hollowed out over the past decade. The growing presence of venture capital and private equity in media companies has made journalism jobs increasingly precarious. Thousands of media workers were laid off this year alone. Under these conditions, the NewsGuild offers an alternative for media workers who see their industry peers who have unionized win better pay and more job security. 

On November 22nd I was elected to the NewsGuild of New York’s new executive committee on a reform slate called Guild Forward, led by Susan DeCarava who was elected by a large margin to be our next president. Our platform is first and foremost about keeping up the current momentum and to continue growing while centering worker-led democracy and prioritizing an organizing model of unionism. 

The other priorities in our campaign were bargaining strong contracts through a strategic bargaining program to prepare us for the fights ahead; organizing strategically by developing long term plans for absorbing our new growth and continuing to maintain high levels of member engagement; growing sustainably with a comprehensive financial plan; and leading the way in our rapidly changing industry by anticipating the shifts ahead and keeping rank and file workers front and center in all negotiations about our work as our jobs continue to evolve.

What is/has been the attitude of your employer toward the union?

I believe my employer understands and values the role of the union, as The Nation is a progressive magazine that espouses the values of the labor movement. But the relationship is inherently adversarial and that’s ok. On many things, the boss’s and the workers’ interests align, but in many more cases we are seeking different things. Collective bargaining is about negotiating for the best possible compensation you can receive for your labor. Management is not always happy about our asks, and that’s how we know we are doing something right!

Discuss the ways your union has advocated for the interests of its members. 

The NewsGuild of New York as well as the international News Guild have led a new wave of organizing newsrooms and other kinds of workplaces nationwide. Through the resources and support of the union, thousands of workers have discovered the power of organizing and have won contracts that provide better pay and benefits than they have ever received before.

The NewsGuild has also been a leader in addressing gender and racial pay gap issues and advocating for press freedom.

Are there issues you feel your union should organize around that are not currently being addressed?

Yes, however I am thrilled that the democratic processes we use to elect our leaders have recently presented a once in a generation opportunity to correct course. I believe that the current leadership of the International News Guild has been caught unprepared to lead the organization effectively as more and more workers seek to join our union. I think more resources need to be devoted to helping organize new shops and supporting them through the process of bargaining their first contract and beyond. There is a lot of work to be done to absorb all this new growth and create a more competent central office with a leadership team that possesses a clear vision for our future.

That’s why I ran on a reform slate in New York with Susan DeCarava, and it’s why I am supporting the reform candidate Jon Schleuss from the LA Times in his bid for the presidency against the incumbent Bernie Lunzer. I think it is time for new committed organizers with bold visions and ambitious goals to step up and lead this union. I believe we will do that in New York and hope that Jon will get the chance to do so in the international HQ as well.

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