CWA acts to cut costs, gain strength

Albany Guild president Tim O’Brien served as a delegate last week at the CWA Convention in Las Vegas. He filed this report upon his return:

Convention delegates agreed to cut one of the CWA’s three top officer positions to save costs, and we also voted to allow some of the money that goes into the Strategic Industry Fund to be used by the locals and the national union for everyday expenses.

CWA secretary-treasurer Jeff Rechenbach retired. Members then eliminated the position of vice president. Annie Hill, who had held that job, ran to succeed Jeff as secretary-treasurer. She faced an opponent who, while a well-regarded leader in his local, ran a single-issue campaign focused on AT&T negotiations.

The CWA’s membership is now so diverse, it includes everyone from health-care workers to flight attendants to those of us in the media. Hill better reflected that diversity. Our local endorsed her, I voted for her, and she won by an overwhelming margin.

CWA president Larry Cohen was re-elected without opposition.

Two regional vice president positions also were combined.

In the convention’s biggest news, delegates agreed to allow a small fraction of the money that flows in for specific projects, called the Strategic Industry Fund, to be used to help the national and locals deal with financial issues caused by job losses. (The union also will switch to conventions every other year as another cost-saving measure.) For our local, it will mean about $20 a member more we get to keep for each of the next two years. Our Executive Board will decide what to do with those funds.

I took time at the convention to meet with Guild International president Bernie Lunzer to discuss our ongoing efforts to get the Hearst Corporation to return to off-the-record negotiations. I also spent a great deal of time talking to Michael Cabanatuan, my counterpart at the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle. (Michael lives in Albany, Calif., and covers transportation, so we have a lot in common.) Michael is very good at sharing what proposals he faces, as what is often proposed in San Francisco eventually makes its way to Albany, N.Y.

At the beginning of the convention, officers in the Newspaper Guild sector were sworn into office. Among the new officers are John Hill of Providence, R.I. He will be the new vice president for Region 1, which includes our local. Martha Waggoner of The Associated Press became the new international chairperson.

Sadly, a week to the day later, the former international chairperson, Connie Knox, passed away at age 68. Her death was a great shock to her friends and colleagues in the Guild.

When I attended my first Newspaper Guild convention in Minnesota in 2001, it was Connie who spotted the newbie and invited me to join her and others for lunch. She made me feel welcome and part of the national organization.

In April, Connie retired as a copy editor at the Baltimore Sun. Anyone who ever watched Connie make sure the language of any resolution was perfect knows she was great at that job, too.

At the Guild Sector Conference in February in Orlando, Fla., it was my great privilege to stand up and call on my fellow delegates to give Connie a round of applause for her service to the union. She received a well-deserved standing ovation. We will truly miss her.

For more about Knox’s life, click here.

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