Guild art show and panel on Méndez a hit

More than 40 people showed up at the Mexican Museum in Fort Mason last week to explore the art of Leopoldo Méndez and a set of prints recently restored by the Media Workers Guild.

More than 40 people turned out to see the Guild's Mendez prints during LaborFest 2014 activities.  The prints were specially shown at the Mexican Museum in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.

More than 40 people turned out to see the Guild’s Mendez prints during LaborFest activities. The prints were specially shown at the Mexican Museum in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.

Art experts said the Guild’s prints represented some of Méndez’s best work. They were purchased at a second-hand store by the late Guild officer and Chronicle copy editor Rex Adkins in the early 1980s.

The prints were restored by Karen Zukor, an Oakland expert in paper conservation. She participated in a panel held last week at the Mexican Museum, which also included museum director David de la Torre and Media Guild Executive Officer Carl Hall.

David de la Torre, director of the Mexican Museum in Fort Mason Center, discusses the prints of Leopoldo Mendez that are displayed on the easels behind him.  Karen Zukor, who restored the prints, and Guild executive officer Carl Hall, look on.  The three panelists spoke about Mendez's art at a LaborFest event on Tuesday evening. Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.

David de la Torre, director of the Mexican Museum in Fort Mason Center, discusses the prints of Leopoldo Mendez that are displayed on the easels behind him. Karen Zukor, who restored the prints, and Guild Executive Officer Carl Hall, also were panelists during this LaborFest event. Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.

“All of our members have a right to be proud that we took good care of this work, and recognize its value,” Hall said.

Hall and freelance Guild member Alexandra Early co-wrote a story about the Méndez prints and their restoration which ran in the Chronicle’s Datebook section along with photos by Carlos Gonzalez.

The museum also has two works by Méndez in an ongoing exhibition, “Dialogos Gráficos.” The unique exhibition, which comprises pieces from the museum’s renowned permanent collection, showcases the rich printmaking traditions of Mexico, dating back to the days of José Guadalupe Posada (1851–1913) through today’s modern graphic artists and printmakers.

A visitor to the Mexican Museum views one of the Guild's Mendez print on special exhibit on July 8 during LaborFest activities.  The artist made the print from a linocut in 1950.  Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.

A visitor to the Mexican Museum views one of the Guild’s Mendez prints on special exhibit. The artist made the print from a linocut in 1950. Photo by Kat Anderson 2014.



City transparency measure goes to Oakland voters

Oakland city council members. Front row from left: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Libby Schaaf, Rebecca Kaplan Back row from left: Patricia Kernighan, Larry Reid, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Desley Brooks Photo courtesy City of Oakland 2014

Oakland city council members. Front row from left: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Libby Schaaf, Rebecca Kaplan
Back row from left: Patricia Kernighan, Larry Reid, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Desley Brooks
Photo courtesy City of Oakland 2014

Thanks partly to the Pacific Media Workers Guild’s efforts, a city charter amendment aimed at improving transparency in local government and politics will go before Oakland voters in November.

The amendment to give Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission broader authority, more staffing and greater independence and strengthen whistleblower protections has the support of the PMWG, other journalists’ groups, current and former commissioners and scores of good-government advocates.

Oakland’s eight-member City Council voted 7-0 on July 15 to put the amendment on the ballot after hearing from about two dozen activists, including a PMWG representative, who all supported the measure.

The amendment’s author is Councilman and former journalist Dan Kalb, who represents the city’s northern-most district.

The PMWG, acting on a recommendation from its Legislative and Political Committee, voted to back the amendment at a joint meeting of the Local’s Executive Committee, Representative Assembly and general membership on June 21.

The endorsement proposal met some opposition, not because of objection to the amendment’s content but because some members believe that taking a public position on any political issue violates journalistic ethics.

But most participants agreed with the argument that journalists should speak out on sunshine, press freedom and other issues whose outcomes affect their ability to do their job.

Others backing the Oakland charter amendment include the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter, the Media Alliance, California Press Women, the League of Women Voters, and current and former Public Ethics Commission members.


Richard Knee is PMWG vice president, California, and chairs the Local’s Legislative and Political Committee. He is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco.

Guild recovers artwork’s distinguished heritage

This linocut by Leopoldo Mendez was produced in 1950 and restored in 2014 by Karen Zukor. It will be displayed at the Mexican Museum as part of Laborfest on July 8.

This linocut by Leopoldo Mendez was produced in 1950 and restored in 2014 by Karen Zukor. It will be displayed at the Mexican Museum as part of Laborfest on July 8.

For three decades, a set of black-and-white linocuts hung on the exposed brick walls of the Pacific Media Workers Guild office on Natoma Street, rarely eliciting more than passing interest. They were clearly well done, and every now and then somebody would speculate about their potential value, or ask about the artist, Leopoldo Méndez, whose signature in pencil could barely be made out on each piece.

The late Rex Adkins, a San Francisco Chronicle editor and longtime union officer, told anybody who asked that he had bought the prints at a nearby pawnshop for $1 each. He had spotted them in the window nearby on downtrodden Sixth Street, the story went, while walking back to the Guild office from lunch. He had them framed, spending more on the frames than the art.

Nobody knew anything in particular about the prints, or the artist, or the story behind the scenes depicted of peasants in struggle, including a series showing a captive rebel facing a firing squad.

For an embattled labor union with longtime ties to the United Farm Workers, the low-budget wall decorations seemed to make a good fit. Now, it turns out, the art has become an asset worth a lot more than mere decoration.

The wood frame and glass protecting one piece shattered a year ago during the jostlings of an office move. Long impressed by the power of the images and quality of the work, the union local’s executive officer, Carl Hall, took the damaged piece to a professional frame shop for repairs. But when the framers noted signs of mildew and general deterioration, and suggested they’d have to reframe all six because they couldn’t match a new frame with the five intact old ones, Hall decided to find out first whether the prints were worth the expense.

After examining the linocuts, Oakland art restorer Karen Zukor estimated that it would take four hours per piece to clean and properly prepare the prints for professional framing. She also found evidence that the pieces Atkins picked up for the price of a sandwich certainly were worth saving – maybe even worth several hundred dollars, if not thousands, if an appreciative buyer could be found.

David de la Torre, director of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, said Mendez is one of his favorites among the pioneers of Mexican printmaking. He is included in the museum’s current show, “Dialogos Gráficos: Posada to the Present.”

Méndez was a lesser-known but highly respected and influential contemporary of Diego Rivera. He was a leading figure in Mexico’s popular art movement, an artistic and cultural renaissance that followed that country’s revolution a century ago.

Born in 1902, Méndez made posters, prints and murals that depicted the lives and hardships  of everyday Mexicans. A prolific artist and book designer, he helped create two well-known collectives, the People’s Graphic Art Workshop and the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists. But Méndez never achieved the personal fame of far-better-known associates like Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Alfaro Siqueiros or José Clemente Orozco. That was partly because of the artist’s dedication to collaborative and political artwork.

“Obviously, Adkins got a pretty good deal,” Hall said. “This art is worth a lot more than the price of a sandwich.”

Once aware of this unexpected cultural windfall, Hall considered turning it into income for the Guild. But as he learned more about artist, particularly after reading art historian Deborah Caplow’s biography, “Leopoldo Méndez: Revolutionary Art and the Mexican Print,” Hall decided that a union hall was a far more appropriate showcase for Méndez than any private collector’s living room.

“For Méndez,” Caplow writes, “the value of art was in its social utility rather than its value as a commodity. Méndez positioned himself in opposition to injustice, fascism and war by producing images of violence and oppression.”

The particular pieces owned by the Guild were made in 1950 as illustrations for the opening and closing credits of “Un día de vida” (“One Day of Life”), a Mexican film that tells the story of a dissident army officer, sentenced to death for protesting military complicity in the assassination of Emiliano Zapata, a revolutionary hero and land reformer.

The film is difficult to find today but retains a cult following in the former Yugoslavia, where it was extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. As Slovenian writer and director Miha Mazzini explained during an interview, the Yugoslav government began importing films from Mexico after dissident Communist leader Josip Tito split with the Stalinist Soviet Union 65 years ago and stopped showing Russian films.

Mexico was a preferred source of cinema, he said, because “it was far away, the chances of Mexican tanks appearing on Yugoslav borders were slight, and, best of all, in Mexican films they always talked about revolution in the highest terms.”

Mazzini said “Un día de vida” led to what he calls a “Yu-Mex” craze, which included Yugoslavians holding Mexican themed parties and Yugoslavian singers specializing in Mexican ranchera music. The film and its soundtrack were so popular that some older people in the former Yugoslavia consider “Un día de vida” the most famous film ever made, whereas in Mexico itself it is largely forgotten.

The only surviving versions of the film available online have Serbo-Croatian subtitles. Méndez’s contribution is clearly visible as the credits roll, showing the same artwork now hanging on the Media Workers Guild’s wall.

In the Bay Area, the tradition of Mexican political art personified by Méndez lives on in the work of such local artists as Juan Fuentes and Favianna Rodriguez, and collectives like Dignidad Rebelde, Design Action Collective, and the San Francisco Print Collective.

These artists and collectives produce prints, posters and murals supporting immigrant and women’s rights, tenant struggles, union organizing, the Occupy movement, and other causes. They share Méndez’s belief that creating works of social utility is more important than achieving personal celebrity.

“Exhibiting in a gallery doesn’t mean success,” Rodriguez said. “Success means making something people will put up and use.”

Leopoldo Méndez and his Taller de Gráfica Popular, the People’s Graphic Workshop, have been a great influence in San Francisco, according to local printmaker Juan Fuentes, former director of Mission Gráfica, a collective located in the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

“He has influenced so many artists in the Chicano movement,” Fuentes said. “His approach and his imagery was always so right on target in terms of what was going on politically in Mexico. I strive to have the kind of impact that Méndez had.”

The Méndez collective became a model in Mexico and globally. The TGP, as the Taller de Gráfica Popular was generally known, became “a great inspiration,” Fuentes said, noting that Méndez and his collaborators “were doing politically influenced art long before we came around, and they set an example for artists taking on social issues.”

Now that the Guild’s small collection of work by Méndez has been authenticated and newly restored (with help from Zukor), the union is planning a formal unveiling and celebration of the artist.

The event is open to the public. It will take place on Tuesday, July 8, at the Mexican Museum (note this new location) in Fort Mason, Building D, as part of San Francisco’s annual month-long Labor Fest. The program includes a reception and art showing at 6 pm.  At 7 pm panelists will speak about the artist and his genre, the background on its journey to this union, and its restoration.  The program will end promptly at 8 pm.

Among the invited guests will be Guild members, other union activists, art historians and Bay Area artist-activists who are keeping Méndez’s cultural legacy alive. Students in the Guild’s summer program for labor reporting, Bay News Rising, will participate. For more information, see or call (415) 421-6833.


Alexandra Early is a member of Guild freelancers.

Tribute to Jim Drindell, BATU member

Jim Drindell, union member and beloved friend, worked as a composer for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, as depicted in this photo ID. Photo courtesy Stephanie Hedgecoke 2014.

Jim Drindell, union member and beloved friend, worked as a composer for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, as depicted in this photo ID. Photo courtesy Stephanie Hedgecoke 2014.

Jim Drindell, longtime member of the Bay Area Typographical Union Local 21 and later our merged union, died on June 10. His dear friend Stephanie Hedgecoke, also a longtime member of BATU, wrote this tribute.

It was around the Christmas holiday of 2010 that Jim went home after rehab following the abdominal aneurysm. He was housebound the last few years, and on oxygen. He was in a lot of pain.

I first met Jim in Amarillo when we were teenagers. He quickly became my best friend, and he taught me so much. He was like a big brother. He urged me to try to get a transfer from the Amarillo Daily News mailroom to composition, as I had already learned proofreading and some paste-up layout working on my high school newspaper.

Once I accomplished getting the only transfer out of that mailroom ever, we were working second shift Thursdays through Mondays. Jim began to teach me about unions, he was from a pro-union family, and he introduced me to the remaining working members of the Amarillo Typographical Union. They had not had a contract since they’d been threatened with a shotgun-carrying new boss from the Oklahoma scab school in the 1950s after Taft-Hartley passed, but a few were still in the shop and they took every opportunity to speak to the youth working alongside them about the Typographical Union. Long story short, they organized us off the shop floor! We had a meeting with the other workers about unionizing the shop, but the others were fearful of being fired from the only composing room for 300 miles.

The Amarillo members went on to help us get our journeyman cards based on the amount of phototypesetting layout and proofreading experience we each had (back then it had to be equivalent to an apprenticeship time served), and then these good members began to talk to us about the great experience of traveling. (This organizing of new members off a shop floor, when apprenticeships were phasing out nationally due to automation, I think gave the Amarillo Typographical members great satisfaction.)

We took their advice, took our first Traveler’s Cards, moved west and slipped up at the Albuquerque Journal as substitutes in August 1975. Jim was likely the very first out gay man they had met at that shop and the guys had to quickly learn to respect him. That was where we met Ken Prairie in our first experience getting a new contract. I corresponded with him and gave him contacts at the newspaper in Austin, Texas.

Jim and I went to the ITU Training Center in Colorado Springs (that was my second spell there) for nine weeks in the summer of 1977. Greatest trade school ever! And we had some wild times in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs back then. We were flat broke when we left and just barely made it back to Albuquerque, having to replace a fan belt on the car in a small town in northern New Mexico after hours.

Jim convinced me we should follow a friend out to San Francisco; he moved there in 1978 and I arrived in May of 1979. I slipped up in Richmond at the Independent. There I met Valerie McDonald who along with her husband John exercised our ITU rights to get Local 21 to open to substitutes.  The three of us showed up the first morning (September 1979) at the Local HQ to deposit our cards. Jim deposited his card a couple weeks later and we both slipped up at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency. Back then it was the BEST SHOP EVER. There were some 800 situations and 69 substitutes. It was very exciting.

We sometimes rode with carloads of other substitutes to pull picket duty in Vallejo as the strike was still going on at that time.

I followed Jim over to Sorg of San Francisco about a year and a half later. All our remaining members and retirees who worked at Sorg will remember Jimmy. Those were good days and another great shop. Great chapel, too. We all went to the Local meeting when the Bowne Chapel was under attack and strongly spoke against giving in to the bosses’ demands. Later the Sorg Chapel joined the Bowne Chapel picketline.

Jimmy met his boyfriend/domestic partner Bob Stanton for the second time at the 1981 Solidarity Day demonstration to support the PATCO (air traffic controller) strikers. I saw their faces. It was historic for them.

Although Jimmy was sick and in pain for a long time, it still was a shock to hear he left us June 10th.

I owe him so much. If I had never made friends with Jimmy, I don’t believe I would have had the opportunity to join the union, to get out of Texas, to live and work in San Francisco and to have so many rich experiences in the union, the labor work and more. In short, my life totally changed for the best as a result of my best friend, Jim Drindell.


Stephanie Hedgecoke

Printing Sector, New York Typographical 14156



Ken Prairie, longtime Typo rep, dead at 86

Ken Prairie was a journeyman printer and activist for the unions for almost five decades.  He died Sunday at the age of 86.  His memorial service is June 16.

Ken Prairie was a journeyman printer and staff representative for the Print Sector for almost five decades.  He died Sunday at the age of 86.  His memorial service is June 16.

Ken Prairie, a veteran California-based CWA staff representative who helped newspaper printers through strikes, mergers and technology upheavals, died at his home on Sunday. He was 86.

A funeral mass will be held Monday, June 16, in Ventura.

Family members said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March. He continued to work until just a few weeks before his death.

His five decades in the union trenches of the newspaper business spanned an often heart-breaking period of technology transformation and industry change, which wiped out composing room jobs in city after city.

“He saw the whole story, from cold type to the situation today where it’s all on computer screens,” said Duane Beeson, the veteran Oakland labor lawyer and a frequent ally.

Mr. Prairie began learning the printer’s craft when he was in high school, and he served as an apprentice at The Ojai, his Southern California hometown weekly, until he and an editor started a competing weekly in 1951. After selling his interest to his partner, he worked in composing rooms for several newspapers including the Santa Paula Chronicle, the Ventura County News, the Santa Barbara News Press and the Ventura Star Free Press.

Ken Prairie, Harry Sitonen, and Charlie Tobias join in a rally in downtown Oakland for workers from the Hayward Urbanite plant when they were negotiating a contract. Photo courtesy Gloria LaRiva.

Ken Prairie, Harry Siitonen, and Charlie Tobias join in a rally in downtown Oakland for workers from the Hayward Urbanite plant when they were negotiating a contract.  Photo courtesy Gloria La Riva.

He was active in Ojai town politics as well as union affairs from his earliest days in the printing trade. He was the President of the Ventura Typographical Union from 1956 to 1960, when he took on an assignment for the International Typographical Union in Los Angeles.

A year later, he became a regular ITU representative. When the union merged to become the Print Sector of CWA, Ken became a CWA staffer, starting in 1987, and remained on the union staff, working in the field, mostly in California, Hawaii and Nevada, until his illness curtailed his ability to travel.

He was still making calls even from home as long as he was able.

“The Printing Sector and the labor movement lost a great man with Ken’s passing,” said Dan Wasser, president of the sector in CWA headquarters in Washington, D.C. “He had such love and compassion in everything he did, and we all learned a lot from him. He will truly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

His dapper attire, well-trimmed mustache and quiet persistence were familiar to generations of newspaper industry labor leaders and management lawyers in the Bay Area and Hawaii.

Ken Prairie and the bargaining team at signing of first contract with Design Action Collective.  Photo courtesy Gloria La Riva.

Ken Prairie and the bargaining team at signing of first contract with Design Action Collective. Photo courtesy Gloria La Riva.

One of his larger ITU affiliates, the former Bay Area Typographical Union, eventually became part of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, whose current local number, 39521, reflects the merger of the Newspaper Guild Local 52 and BATU Local 21.

Charles Tobias, former president of Local 21 and the Media Workers Guild Typographical Sector, recalled Ken as a professional who always looked the part, even during the heat of such battles as the 1994 San Francisco newspaper strike, when his coat and tie may have been the only ones in the room.

“I never saw him without a suit on,” Tobias said. “His presence at the negotiating table caused the employer to treat our union with respect. I worked constantly with him in major negotiations, where his participation was greatly appreciated, especially during the 1994 newspaper strike.”

Dave Ellis, retired staff representative and former president of the Mailers Union, Teamsters Local 15, negotiated side-by-side with Mr. Prairie on behalf of workers at the Dallas dailies in Texas during the early 1980s.

“He made a tough job look easy — he was the consummate negotiator. Even in the difficult environment of a right-to-work state in the South, he could get a contract,” Ellis said.

He recalled one morning just before a meeting with Times-Herald management, when “Ken spilled coffee on his shirt, and insisted on going across the street to buy a new shirt.”

“He was not going to go into that meeting with management, wearing a stained shirt,” Ellis said.

Gloria La Riva, the current head of the Typographical Sector and First Vice-President of the Media Workers Guild, said Mr. Prairie “always had a good story to tell, and the most amazing memory.”

“He knew the names of everyone he ever worked with, decades back. That was extremely useful for the union, because he knew what the issues were in long-ago negotiations, and their evolution and what was useful today. He had enormous experience in negotiating,” La Riva said.

He knew the value of salving wounds and maintaining the fighting spirit during an extraordinarily tough period for all of organized labor, and particularly for union printers, adjusting to the computer era and shutdown of most metro composing rooms.

“My favorite times with him were after a tough time negotiating or some other setback for the union, we’d be sitting in my office and we would just look at each other and say, ‘Let’s go get some ice cream.’ Or coffee. He loved coffee,” La Riva said.

If he ever lost his cool, it didn’t show.

“I know there are many union leaders who worked many more years than I did with Ken, but I never in my years of knowing Ken and later working with him, ever saw him lose his temper,” La Riva said. “It came from that very calm manner that he had, but also that special wisdom he possessed.”

Kenneth Nicklas Prairie was born Oct. 3, 1927, in Ojai, the youngest of three brothers. Survivors include his wife, Dorothy A. (Hobart) Prairie; four children, Susan A. Rosario (Tony), Michael W. Prairie (Hiromi), Bonnie P. Ryan (Kevin) and Lucinda G. Garner; eight grandchildren; one great grandson; and one nephew.

A visitation will be held at Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Road, Ventura on Sunday, June 15, from 3 to 4 p.m., followed by a vigil service.

The funeral mass will be held at the San Buenaventura Mission, 211 E. Main St, Ventura, on Monday, June 16, starting at 10 a.m.

Condolences may be left at An obituary provided by the family can be found at

Protest at GAP HQ highlights garment giant’s lack of humanity

Martin Caldwell (, Sara Steffens (The Newspaper Guild) and Sara Church (International Labor Rights Forum) speak outside of The GAP's annual shareholder meeting in protest of GAP's refusal to join in an accord that protects workers and their health and safety.  Photo by Staff 2014.

Martin Caldwell (, Sara Steffens (The Newspaper Guild) and Sarah Church (International Labor Rights Forum) speak outside of GAP’s annual shareholder meeting in protest of the company’s refusal to join in an accord that protects Bangladeshi workers’ health and safety. Photo by Staff 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Community activists gathered from across the Bay Area to protest the status of safety conditions and labor rights, outside the annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday at the GAP headquarters at 2 Folsom in San Francisco.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) issued the following statement: “Since 2005, more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have been killed in fires and building collapses while sewing clothing for companies like Gap and Walmart. In order to prevent future tragedies in their supply chains, over 160 companies, including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle, have now signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding factory safety agreement with two global unions and ten Bangladeshi unions. It’s time for Gap to join with them, before the next deadly disaster. The demonstration will also call on Gap to pay $200,000 in compensation to the victims of the Aswad factory fire. On October 8, 2013, seven workers were killed and 50 were injured in a fire at Aswad Composite Mills, which made cloth for Gap Inc., but Gap has failed to pay even a single penny of the compensation it owes. We will also lift up the demands of garment workers who have been striking in Cambodia. We will call on Gap to tell its Cambodian suppliers to pay at least $160/month, to pay a price to the factories that supports the wage increase, and to urge the government of Cambodia to release the 21 activists who have been unjustly detained since January, drop the charges against all 23, and reinstate freedom of assembly….”

Local community members awarded GAP Board members the Public Eye Award, citing the company as “the most socially-irresponsible corporation.”

According to GAP officials, Laura Wilkinson, a public relations representative for the GAP said,”The GAP is concerned with these issues and working to address these concerns.”

Sara Steffens, Acting Secretary-Treasurer of The Newspaper Guild, CWA, stated, “We’re very disappointed in the GAP, which used to be a leader in social responsibility. The consumers deserve better and I hope people keep the pressure on the company regarding this matter.”

Green Party Congressional candidate Barry Hermanson stated,”I think the government should reform our trade system. We shouldn’t allow corporations to bring products into our country made with sweatshop labor. For the additional cost of 10 cents, 15 cents, or 25 cents, we can have products that are made by someone earning a living wage.”

Sarah Church, representative for the International Labor Rights Forum, and head of the “Sweat-Free Communities” Project, stated,”We want people and consumers to know that people are literally dying because of the lack of safety standards and basic fire prevention and protections. Consumers should be particularly concerned where their clothes come from especially when preventable tragedies take place. The GAP should attend to fire safety issues and compensation for the families and workers who have been adversely affected. At the Aswat site, where 7 garment workers died, the GAP Inc., has yet to compensate the families or support the workers who were either injured or lost their lives in the sweatshop fire. In the wake of the tragedy, the GAP has refused to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord. In response, the GAP has chosen to create a corporate sham agreement that provides no accountability or responsibility, and has had the audacity to bring on board other corporations such as Walmart, which have shown such a blatant disregard for labor and worker rights across the globe…I can’t comment as to what The White House, President Barack Obama, or the U.S. State Department should do in this matter, but we need to continue to put political pressure on the GAP and the Bangladeshi government. Ultimately the responsibility comes from companies. The GAP has the opportunity to make changes but they have continued to undermine efforts at reform.”

Libby Sayre, CWA representative, stated,”I am here because I believe consumers would be shocked that the GAP refuses to pay any compensation for the lives that were lost in sweatshop fires or pay for the lives they’ve shattered in Bangladesh and across the globe. Other corporations have pledged to make changes and signed on to the Bangladesh Safety Accord, but even the GAP won’t take these small steps. I hope mothers will remember this before they shop for clothes during the “back to school” season and I hope voters remember this and oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

Reprinted with permission from Ricardo Bondoc.


Méndez Rising: art show sponsored by the Guild


Spotlight on the revolutionary works of an artist for social justice

The Guild is planning a special tribute to the art of Leopoldo Méndez on July 8.

Mendez 6

Méndez (1902-1969) was a Mexican artist known for his political and social-justice images, part of a revolutionary arts movement that flourished in Mexico City from the 1930s through the ‘50s. Méndez, a printmaker and engraver, devoted his career to political activism, refusing fame or fortune. A San Francisco-Oakland Newspaper Guild member bought a set of original signed Méndez prints in a Sixth Street secondhand store for the price of a sandwich and donated them to the local. Now the Guild has had the prints professionally restored for permanent display in the union’s Natoma Street headquarters, and commissioned research honoring the Méndez legacy in visual arts, cinema and labor history.

This program is part of the Pacific Media Workers Guild’s Bay News Rising summer program for student journalists, which encourages fair treatment of student interns and education in the field of labor reporting.  The artist’s work will be displayed and a panel will discuss Méndez and his contemporaries, as well as other social-justice issues.

Save the date:

Art Display: July 8; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Panel: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Panelists: David de la Torre, Director of the Mexican Museum, Karen Zucor, art conservation specialist, and Carl Hall, Executive Officer of Pacific Media Workers Guild.
Location: Mexican Museum, Ft. Mason, 2 Marina Blvd, Building D.  RSVP to (415) 298-1335; check this website in case location changes.


An Apple a day keeps the taxes away

SEIU, United Service Workers West, organized a tax day community event outside the Apple flagship store off Market Street in San Francisco. Photo by PMWG staff 2014.

SEIU, United Service Workers West, organized a tax day community event outside the Apple flagship store off Market Street in San Francisco. Photo by PMWG staff 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO – Service Employees International Union-United Services Worker West kicked off a series of demonstrations today to raise awareness about corporate profiteering at the detriment of tax payers.  SEIU’s demo focused on Apple’s flagship store off Market Street in San Francisco.  Members of the community were invited to participate in what SEIU called a “bogus $15 billion mail-in rebate” offer.  According to SEIU, Apple has sent over $100 billion to offshore accounts, and that the portion attributable to Bay Area profits amounts to $15 billion. By bringing that $15 billion home, about $5 billion in tax revenue would be generated.  Read more by our member Ellen Huet at SFGate.Apple Demo 2 20140415

The SEIU points out that Apple benefits from a “world class infrastructure” built by American and Bay Area taxpayers, that Apple relies on every day to generate profits. Said infrastructure includes highways, bridges, and public transit as well as schools, universities, satellite systems (for GPS), courts, banks, stock markets, telecommunications, patent protection, and scientific, computer and internet research.  SEIU claims that Apple’s profits have risen 5,209 percent from 2000 to 2012, or to more than $41 billion per year, due in part to support from public resources.

Meanwhile, median worker income in Silicon Valley has fallen by 12 percent during the same time period. The middle class is shrinking. The public resources depended upon by communities – police and fire protection, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, disease control, and public housing have all been depleted.

“The truth is that when it comes to public infrastructure, tech companies are more than just our neighbors,” said Gordon Mar from Jobs with Justice.  “For better or for worse, tech companies are our roommates.  And we all want people to have good jobs and schools and be healthy and safe.  We want the system to run smoothly.  We’re all living under one Bay Area roof.”

Pacific Media Workers Guild staff joined about 30 SEIU members and other activists in front of the flagship Apple store, and helped hand out $15 Billion “mail-in” rebate cards, urging workers to claim a fair share of Apple’s prosperity.  More information can be found at

Additional demonstrations occurred outside of the new University of the Pacific dental center near Fifth and Mission, led by Janitors for Justice, and outside the Twitter headquarters on Market Street.  The Twitter action included a march from Market Street to City Hall, led by SEIU 1021.  According to 1021, San Francisco’s tax breaks to Twitter is a loss of $56 million in tax revenue to the city.  Business interests point out that without the tax breaks, Twitter wouldn’t have come to the City in the first place.  For more on the battle of workers’ interests vs. big business, read here.


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Lunzer and Steffens promise open process for new CFI

On Saturday, the executive committee of Pacific Media Workers Guild voted to ask Communications Workers of America to take over jurisdiction for the California Federation of Interpreters.

Along with CWA District 9 Vice-President Laura Reynolds, we have forwarded this request for a full vote of the CWA executive board, which has the power to grant the request and to oversee an interim ‘organizing local’ structure for CFI.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, and we appreciate the many Guild members who have reached out with questions and concerns.

It feels like a good time to explain why we’re supportive of this transition.

Without divulging the contents of confidential talks, we can say that prior negotiations were not progressing. There was no longer any real hope of creating greater autonomy for CFI within the local, nor toward agreeing on the structure or timing of a member referendum.

That left few options. At this point, the path chosen by the local executive committee clearly offers the best long-term outcome for the largest number of members.

A request to cede jurisdiction is a process driven by a local’s elected executive committee, which in this case, was recently voted into office with a substantial majority among a large number of ballots cast.

It also must be approved by the CWA executive board, made up of elected CWA leaders representing various regions and industry sectors throughout the U.S. and Canada. All have pledged to uphold the greater interests of our union and its members.

While this process does not provide for a member referendum, we assure you that the members of CFI do get a say — and a formal vote — on what comes next.

In the months to come, CFI will be designated an organizing local, overseen by a staffer assigned by the CWA Executive Board. We expect this assignment to go to Sara Steffens.

In consultation with CWA, the former CFI board and others, Sara will work to create the framework of a new, independent local. This process includes drafting new bylaws, which must be voted on by the entire membership before becoming effective. Members will also need to elect leadership to run the new local.

We believe designing the new local should be an open, collaborative process with plenty of opportunity for member input. We are committed to helping build a strong foundation for a healthy CFI local, and to helping Pacific Media Workers continue to adapt and grow.

Bernie Lunzer
Sara Steffens
The Newspaper Guild-CWA

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A Statement to Local 39521 Members: Time for CFI to Depart


A majority of our brothers and sisters in the California Federation of Interpreters want to leave our Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521, and start a new local of their own.

I want to help them achieve this goal.

CFI leaders have made it clear that no other option will work. In fact, they claim they have a right to leave anytime they choose, citing a provision in their affiliation agreement with us. I believe this right lapsed years ago, but see no point arguing it any more. It’s time for swift and decisive action.

Last week, I proposed a referendum inviting CFI members to vote whether to stay or go. I still favor the principle that members should decide such fundamental questions. But I have seen enough petitions and statements and mass emails to convince me that the members already have decided.

It’s time for CFI to exit Local 39521.

The Executive Committee of Local 39521 will meet at 10 am Saturday, March 29. I have placed on the agenda a proposal asking our parent union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), to remove the CFI jurisdiction from our Charter.  If the proposal is approved, we will invite CWA to take CFI out of Local 39521. It would take a three-fourths majority vote of the CWA executive board to do this.

CFI and our national union leadership then can move forward to create what I hope becomes a great new local in the TNG-CWA family.

In Unity,

Carl Hall
Executive Officer
TNG-CWA Local 39521

 A statement from our TNG president and secretary-treasurer (acting) follows in the next post.


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