5/6/08

News Union picks a president

Early returns in the first contested Newspaper Guild presidential election since 1995 indicate a possible change at the top with challenger Bernie Lunzer ahead of incumbent Linda Foley. Andy Zipser of The Guild Reporter, the union's monthly newspaper, declined to offer specific voting data. But he said his tabulations of a majority of votes show Lunzer, the union's secretary-treasurer, ahead. "It is leaning toward Lunzer," said Zipser.

Voting among the 28,000 eligible members of the guild occurred between April 24 and April 29. But final returns have been delayed somewhat due to one unidentified local failing to administer its voting in time.

Tracy Simmons, chair of the Sector Election and Referendum Committee, which oversees the election, said that 80-person guild unit voted later and its balloting will occur until May 15, when the election is certified. She said her committee has overseen that voting.

"If it is not in by May 15, it will not be counted," she said of the late votes.

Zipser said voter turnout is only about 23%, a figure Simmons considered low, but not surprising. "I think for the vast majority of the rank and file, it is an election once-removed," said Simmons, who is also administrative officer of the Denver Newspaper Guild. "Even in locals with paid staff, if you get into your membership at large, the vast majority have never met either candidate and may not even know there is an election."

While Zipser declined to give specific voting returns, he said the turnout has varied among local units with some seeing 60% to 70% turnout, and others with as low as 10%. "Once you see the results, you will see that the locals that supported Linda were bigger, but had a smaller turnout and the locals that supported Bernie were smaller, but had a higher turnout," he said.

The election has pitted incumbent Foley against former running made Lunzer for her first challenge since 1995. The vote also comes at a time when the industry is in the throes of cutbacks, buyouts and layoffs, and an unclear future.

Guild members speculate that a Lunzer victory would likely be the result of both tough times for the guild, which has seen membership dwindle and faced some of its toughest contract fights in recent years, and an early organized opposition by Lunzer, who launched his campaign in early 2007.

Neither Lunzer nor Foley immediately responded to requests for comment Monday.

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.

The guild presidency, which includes a three-year term, pays about $140,000 annually, while secretary-treasurer has a salary of about $119,000, according to Lunzer.

With Lunzer choosing not to run again for secretary-treasurer, and Foley facing the prospect of losing her seat, one of the two will be out of the guild leadership after the vote is counted.

Foley's running mates are Scott Stephens for secretary-treasurer and Lois Kirkup for international chair, while Lunzer is running with secretary-treasurer nominee Carol Rothman and international chair candidate Connie Knox.

(editorandpublisher.com)

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