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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A Statement to Local 39521 Members from TNG Leadership

The executive committee of Local 39521 is expected to take steps this week to sever its affiliation with the California Federation of Interpreters.

A board vote asking CWA to step in and take responsibility for the unit will be scheduled soon. The CWA Executive Board has the power to reassign jurisdiction or impose trusteeship.

As leaders of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, we are supportive of this swift resolution to a situation that has become untenable.

Alongside local leaders, we had worked diligently over the past weeks to find options that would have allowed all current members to remain within this local, which for 20 years has fought for the needs of interpreters in California and beyond. Barring that, we had hoped for a referendum letting CFI members choose to stay or separate. However, there is no longer a viable path toward either outcome, and the current crisis must not be allowed to continue.

We had attempted to mediate a solution to this dispute, as a neutral. But we have always been on the side of our members, and all workers who need a union to improve their lives.

Bernie Lunzer
Sara Steffens
The News Guild-CWA

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A letter to members about Local 39521

The Newspaper Guild

The Newspaper Guild (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Local 39521 Member:

We have spent much of the past year debating how to improve communications and reduce conflicts between our Local and our four California Federation of Interpreter bargaining units.

We endured an unusually divisive election last fall in which 60 percent of our members chose a diverse leadership team in order to keep our union intact. We saw a good-faith attempt at unity during a town hall meeting in San Francisco in February disintegrate into an emotional spectacle. On Friday, February 28, the president of the California Federation of Interpreters informed court interpreters that he was in negotiations with The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America to form a new local. In his words, the end result will either be “a negotiated truce or a separation.”

I believe we can and must do better than simply agree to walk away from the dream that built this union into one of the strongest, most progressive in the CWA. That dream included all kinds of communications specialists – public and private sector, interpreters, translators, writers, editors, freelancers, students, union advocates and organizers. We wanted to support one another’s struggles, not make them more difficult, and gain from our diversity.

We must focus on the values we cherish, set aside hard feelings, take a deep breath, and find a consensus on how to move forward.

Many of us have been trying to reach a true meeting of the minds inside our union, but through either misunderstanding or too much mistrust, the tone has become, unbelievably, even more difficult than it was last fall.

That must change. And it will change.

If we do not reach agreement with CFI leaders, we must take a close look at the full range of choices before us. All options will be on the table, except one: we will not allow destructive conflict to continue inside our union.

We will negotiate with CFI leadership and TNG during the next two weeks with the singular goal of keeping our Local intact. Our proposals will likely involve more autonomy for CFI, clearer lines of authority, better ways to manage our resources, improved communications, and more transparent decision-making.

I know we can reach consensus. That is my goal.

In Solidarity,

Carl Hall
Executive Officer

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Representative Assembly denies appeal of Local 39521 election results

Official Notice: Appeal of Election Results Denied

The Executive Committee and Representative Assembly of Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521, voted during a Special Meeting on Feb. 8, 2014, to deny an appeal filed by Executive Officer candidate Alex Abella concerning the 2013 Local Officers Election.

In the roll-call vote, 35 voted to deny the appeal, 4 to approve and 2 abstained.

Alex Abella, a member of the California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild,  submitted an appeal on January 16, 2014 to the Local’s 2013 election results.  Abella requested that the “governing body” of the Local annul the election and remove incumbent Carl Hall from office.

Appellant Abella was notified of the special meeting, invited to make a presentation, and invited to submit his own supporting documents so that the Local could distribute them to the Representative Assembly for consideration.

Abella did not submit documents or appear at the special meeting. Local president Rebecca Rosen Lum allowed CFI member Daniel Navarro to make a statement in support of appellant’s appeal.

Executive officer Carl Hall made a statement to deny appellant’s appeal and also objected to Navarro’s statement as out of order.

Voting members of the governing body of the Local were allowed to vote in person, via the provided audio/video link, and via absentee ballot by email.  The totals were as follows:

In person:

Votes to deny the appeal: 17

Votes to grant the appeal:  2

Votes to abstain:                 1


Absentee ballot:

Votes to deny the appeal: 18

Votes to grant the appeal:   2

Votes to abstain:                 1


Total votes to deny the appeal: 35

Total votes to grant the appeal:  4

Total abstentions:                       2


James Madison award winners for sunshine and first amendment work announced by SPJ NorCal chapter

Richard "Rick" Knee, Local 39521 VP-CA, speaks at a recent membership meeting. Photo by Steve Stallone/freelance unit 2014.

Richard “Rick” Knee, Local 39521 VP-CA, speaks at a recent membership meeting. Photo by Steve Stallone/freelance unit 2014.

Freelance journalist Richard Knee will receive a Distinguished Service Award for 12 years of service on San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, an 11-member body that monitors City Hall’s compliance with open-government laws. He has served two decades on the SPJ NorCal FOI Committee and he helped in a successful ballot-measure campaign to strengthen the Sunshine law in 1998-99. Rick will be honored along with other winners of the chapters’James Madison Freedom of Information Awards on Thursday, March 20, in San Francisco.

Local 39521 president Rebecca Rosen Lum had this to say about Rick: “The SPJ has bestowed its James Madison Award upon our Rick Knee, the Guild’s California vice president, freelance unit member and ever a union stalwart as well as a beacon of light in the fight to keep public information public.”

Charles Piller of The Sacramento Bee will be honored with the Journalist Award for breaking the story that anchor bolts on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were corroded and subject to potential failure in an earthquake. His digging led to the revelation that engineers had warned for two years of the danger.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, our first Bay News Rising student, received a James Madison award from the SPJ. Photo by Amanda Rhoades 2013.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, our first Bay News Rising student, received a James Madison award from the SPJ. Photo by Amanda Rhoades 2013.

Also receiving honors is staff writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez of the San Francisco Bay Guardian for extensive use of public records, independent research and interviews to produce a detailed account of financial “gifts” given to some city agencies that are used to curry favor out of the limelight. (Joe has been indispensable in our Bay News Rising program. He was a member of the freelance unit until the Bay Guardian snapped him up).

Retired San Francisco Chronicle editor Peter Sussman, known for his tireless pursuit of an end to restrictions on media access to prisoners, his support of the inmate journalists’ rights, and for his many other contributions to journalism, has been named winner of the Norwin S. Yoffie Award for Career Achievement Award by the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter.

Congratulations, all!

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40-year pinning

Guild staff Kat Anderson, Margo Brenes and Eva Varga celebrate Brenes' 40 years as a Guild member. Photo by Carl Hall 2014.

Guild staff Kat Anderson, Margo Brenes and Eva Vargas celebrate Brenes’ 40 years as a Guild member. Photo by Carl Hall 2014.

Margo Brenes, long-time Guild membership coordinator, celebrated 40 years of union membership Tuesday.

In 1974, Brenes began her career at the Newspaper Printing Company during the 2 for 1 circulation campaign. She worked in various circulation jobs until she landed in the paper’s credit department in 1977.  In 1992, former Guild executive officer Doug Cuthbertson hired Brenes to help with membership.

”I literally grew up at the paper,” Brenes said, “and it was like family. . . I met my husband there, and my brother and sister met their spouses there.”

We honor Brenes for keeping it in the family all these years.  Congratulations!

Election Committee certifies results

The Guild’s Local Election Committee has certified the results of last month’s election, finding that there were no procedural or substantive grounds for setting the results aside.

In an email announcement sent out Thursday afternoon, the committee stated:

“The LEC hereby on Jan. 9, 2014 issues its Final Determination and Certification of the Results of the 2013 Election.  In the absence of any timely, much less meritorious, protests to the election, the LEC has determined that its December 21 tentative certification is true and accurate.”

The following candidates, all part of the Unity Slate, were elected:

Executive Officer: Carl Hall

President: Rebecca Rosen Lum 

First Vice President: Gloria La Riva

Treasurer: Michelle Caplette

Secretary: Steve Stallone

In addition, Freelance Unit member Steve Early was elected to a Representative Assembly Delegate position.

Unopposed positions are as follows:

Vice President – Hawaii: Derrick DePledge

Vice President - CA: Richard Knee

Vice President – CFI: Ariel Torrone

Each of these people will serve two-year terms through 2015.

Results showed Hall won with 614 votes out of 1,024 valid ballots cast. Others on the Unity Slate won with similar margins.

The Local Election Committee is also in the process of issuing decisions on a myriad of complaints filed by candidates, rank and file members and staff.  We will update this article as those decisions come in.

For questions, please call Kat Anderson, Administrative Officer, at (415) 421-6833.

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Rebuilding effort starts with new year

Note To All Members:

As you read this I am most likely traveling somewhere through Morocco. I came here to meet my daughter, who is just finishing a three-month study abroad program. So I was unable to observe the ballot count. But if you are reading this, it means I made contact and learned the results.

I’m glad to have won. I’m glad that my running mates also won. At the same time, I recognize that much needs to be done before anybody can claim true victory.

First, I want to thank all the members who voted or participated in other ways during the election. It was true union democracy. I wish the employers chose their leadership this way.

I also thank all the candidates, including not only my allies on the Unity Slate, but everybody who ran. It’s not an easy commitment to make. I know everybody worked hard. Although we differed on issues and our approach to solving problems, we all are on the same side, and share the common goal of building a stronger union.

We must now expand upon this common ground. As soon as I return from North Africa, I intend to reach out to anybody who wants to join me in a constructive rebuilding effort, for the benefit of all our members. We must find projects that unite us, and bridge whatever gaps the election revealed.

Please don’t let the heat of our battle linger.

Nelson Mandela stood for reconciliation. The stakes were a lot higher for him, of course, but we can learn from his example, and heed his words.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong,” he said. “Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”

We will move forward. In Unity. All are welcome to participate. The rebuilding of Local 39521, the Pacific Media Workers Guild, the pride of the West, starts on February 8 at our first big meeting of 2014.

Thanks everybody for all the work you do.

Happy New Year!

In Unity,