By: Joe Strupp
Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley conceded defeat to challenger Bernie Lunzer, who reportedly won the guild presidency with 55.8% of the vote, according to final returns.
The final tally had Lunzer with 3,611 votes to Foley’s 2,864. His running mates, Carol Rothman and Connie Knox, also won their races for secretary-treasurer and chairperson, respectively. Lunzer, Rothman and Knox will be sworn in during the CWA convention next month in Las Vegas.
Foley, who has served as president since 1995, said she congratulated Lunzer in a phone call Friday and believed the guild had to be involved in the changing future of the newspaper business to succeed. “The future of the industry is the guild,” she told E&P. “One constant that people have to believe is that the people who do this work have to stick together, and the guild is a way to do that.”
Foley, 53, said she offered Lunzer good luck and urged the new leadership to “heal whatever rifts there are” with the Guild’s parent group, Communication Workers of America, who were targeted by Lunzer’s campaign: “The campaign run by the other side was an attack on the CWA, that needs to be repaired.”
With about 28,000 Guild members eligible to vote, the turnout was low. In addition, some 117 votes cast by the Toledo, Ohio, local were not included in the tally, because six ineligible voters were cast, Lunzer revealed.
“I was disappointed by the turnout,” Foley said when asked about her thoughts on the election. “I think it is due to the same morale problems that are evident in the workplace. People are pretty demoralized and it is hard to mobilize them, and people really focus on their own [local] union.”
Foley, who has held the presidency that pays about $140,000 per year since 1995, said she has no immediate plans for life after the guild. “I haven’t made up my mind what I am going to do,” she told E&P.
In a statement Friday, Lunzer thanked his supporters and said he planned to use the guild as a strong proponent for improving the newspaper industry.
“We are heartened by the support of Guild voters throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico,” Lunzer’s statement read. “We argued for the need for change within the Guild, to strengthen the Guild with a focus on real member involvement. We will fight for constructive engagement with employers throughout the industry, to respond to the challenges of building a robust, profitable industry across all platforms — collaborating where possible, fighting where necessary.”
The Guild’s new officers also pledged to pay particular attention to improving media companies’ profitability in ways that don’t harm workers: “Front-line workers are in the best position to understand what solutions can move the industry forward.”
Voting members of the guild cast ballots between April 24 and April 29. Final returns had been delayed somewhat due to the York, Pa., unit failing to administer its voting in time.
The election pitted incumbent Foley against former running made Lunzer for her first challenge since 1995. The vote also came at a time when the industry is in the throes of cutbacks, buyouts and layoffs, and an unclear future.
In the three previous elections since 1995, Foley and Lunzer were the only nominees at the annual sector conference, for president and secretary-treasurer, so a member vote was not even taken.