Steve Zeltzer Statement As A Candidate For CWA Media Workers Freelancers Unit RA Representative
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the first contested election for most top offices in our local since the 1930’s and frankly I think this is a positive development despite the unfortunate and sometimes internecine aspects of the disputes between the two slates. Union elections are an important vehicle for the opportunity to provide alternative visions of where our union is and where it is going. Despite the obvious acrimony in this election, I hope that the members can get some clarity on where the candidates stand on the issues and their vision for the future of the local and our national union as well as the labor movement as a whole. Whether or not the labor movement survives is a real question today as union membership continues to decline and many of our freelance members face dire economic conditions living on the edge and fighting to keep above water as rents explode along with healthcare costs.
For that reason as well, I have sought to set up a debate between the two top candidates on video that could be made available to the membership. I am in favor of debates of the candidates so the members can hear the candidates themselves and assess what the differences are.
I also believe that whoever wins the election, we need to build on our strength with the many talented and creative members our union has. One thing I have suggested is that our local pay some of our freelance members to do research and articles into who is financially backing the introduction of video monitors for interpreters which will allow massive outsourcing and reduction of professional interpreter services. This collaboration between the freelance and journalists with the CFI unit can help both groups within our local and create a new synergy.
I have been a member of the local for several years and have produced labor video documentaries including “Halfway To Hell, The Unions and Workers that Built The Golden Gate Bridge” which was on KQED and the most recent one “Fukushima, Never Again” “Fukushima, Never Again”
I also produce and host a labor radio show on KPFA called “WorkWeek” which focuses on worker and union issues. I have covered the pas SF Chronicle negotiations with Chronicle member George Powell and the recent CFI struggle of the interpreters as well as an interview with Guild president Bernie Lunzer on spying on journalists and the issues facing professional journalists.
I have also been an active member of the Freelance unit attending most meetings and also fighting for the local to develop a streaming labor channel. I also helped put on a training session with other members in our unit on how to use cell phones and streaming channels to get our stories out.
The unit and local also passed a resolution I drafted calling for the CWA convention to be streamed for the members and the establishment of a national labor channel by the AFL-CIO and a live streaming channel for the CWA that could cover our rallies, actions and educational meetings. The CWA convention did not act on it, but the call for a national labor channel did pass the San Francisco Labor Council with the support of our sister local CWA NABET 51 which represents KQED and ABC TV workers.
This was submitted to the AFL-CIO convention but again the AFL-CIO did not allow it to even come to the floor since the all the resolutions submitted by affiliated bodies such as the San Francisco Labor Council were not presented to the delegates.
I also support continuing the effort to get a national CWA streaming channel, and also a national AFL-CIO labor channel and taking this to our upcoming CWA convention which will be held in Detroit in 2015. I also support our local establishing and developing a streaming channel to broadcast our actions and educational meetings as well as using it to interview the writers in our local and the stories that they are working on. This could be a real value to our members to profile them and their stories and a channel can be established at very low cost.
Also, I have produced a number of videos about struggles of our unit including the fight to defend freelance members and he role of Huffington Post.
Arianna’s Greeting Party In San Francisco: Sister, Can You Loan Me A Dime?
The massive layoffs and buyouts of journalists is a serious issue in my view not only for our members but also the right of the public to get accurate information about government and public issues. I support the CWA working to set up collectively run national news portal that could employ union members to cover issues that they are working on. This portal unlike Huff Post would benefit professional journalists and can be another reason for journalists to become members of our union.
I also attended the CWA national convention this year in April at my own cost to learn about how our union operates and also to report to the members on the issues that our national union faces. One of the problems in our union as well as other unions is that most members are uniformed about how their union operates and also do not have easy access to issues facing the locals. That is why I proposed that the CWA convention be broadcast on the web and that the AFL-CIO also develop a national labor channel for education and solidarity.
The issue of “independent contractors” or “freelancers” is an important issue for education or the labor and the public and more and more workers cannot get regular jobs yet need the protections and benefits that regular employment provides. Deregulation has been used to make millions of workers “independent contractors” in order to weaken our unions and take away healthcare and retirement benefits. The issue of labor education in my view is critical for not only members of our union but also the working people most of whom are not in unions and have no experience with unions.
I support an annual or semi-annual conference of our local’s membership where we can develop proposals for our local collectively and vote on where we want to go. One of the issues in this election is representation and financial transparency.
I support the election of all staff representatives and organizers by the rank and file and these staff positions should represent the percentage of members these units have in the local. There also need to be annual reports to the membership from these elected representatives so we can understand what is happening throughout the local.
I also support a national CWA network of freelancers and a website tying all freelancers together throughout the union. This could be a valuable tool for getting information out and linking up with our brothers and sisters throughout the country. Our local needs to support journalists around the world who face repression and even death as a result of government and efforts to silence journalists. Our union needs to develop closer links with journalist unions such as the NUJ in the UK and also the International Federation Of Journalists IFJ.
We need more educational meetings and efforts to challenge the growing spying on journalists which were exposed in the NSA events and to organize against the growing repression of journalists here and abroad for covering the stories we are doing.
The media/communication companies we are facing have global connections and we can only really challenge them if we are strongly linked up together on an international basis. This includes the fight against secrecy laws such as the one that is being pushed through the Japanese parliament. These laws are not only a threat to journalists in Japan but the US and throughout the world since it prevents us from doing our jobs and covering critical issues such as the Fukushima meltdown. Our local and the CWA have to be pro-active on the defense of the right to free speech and information. Even the NYT is opposing this proposed secrecy law in Japan.
I am also on the organizing committee of LaborFest.net, which commemorates the San Francisco general strike of 1934 when in fact our union was forming. As part of LaborFest, which is held the entire month of July, we had events on the issues facing journalists and freelancers to educate the public about these issues.
We have to organize and reach out to the public and all working people in order to win them to support for unionism and also to build support for the labor movement. I supported our local helping to build the support rallies for the BART workers and linking our struggles to their struggle. Despite some opposition in our unit, the local agreed to support the rally with its banner and the participation of members and staff. This was important.
One of the problems the labor movement faces is that many struggles are isolated and workers who are facing the same issues are fighting separately. I am for build direct solidarity links with other CWA locals and also with other unions that face struggles to defend their conditions and rights.
For example, there are CWA locals like CWA UPTE UC, CWA CFI Media workers and UAL AFA-CWA flight attendants whose contracts have all expired. I am in favor of our local and Region 9 to bring together all units whose contracts have expired and to build local and regional solidarity and education within the CWA and the entire labor movement.
The continued concession bargaining epidemic that is going on in our area and around the country is only helping the Scott Walkers of the world in my view. The attack on public workers healthcare and pensions that escalated in Wisconsin are now growing here in California and we need serious in depth education about who are behind these attacks and why working people union and non-union have to oppose them. The upcoming Chuck Reed California ballot initiative attacking public worker pensions and healthcare benefits must be opposed by our local but we need to educate people about where this is coming from and we can’t do it with sound bites.
I am for the elimination of the control of insurance industry of healthcare and for a single payer plan or medicare for all which would limit the cost shifting that is now going on and provide healthcare for all the people in this country. The recent loss of the Taft-Hartley Health plan at the Hearst owned SF Chronicle means that our members will be paying more and more costs of healthcare and that means real pay cuts.
I also support a democratic labor party that will represent working people union and unorganized. The attacks by the Democratic party officials in California against the right to strike in the recent BART struggle and by Governor Brown on public workers and their pensions must be challenged politically. The business as usual mentality and business unionism structure that dominates the labor movement will not and cannot defend working people as the economic decline in our living conditions escalate. Our union and the labor movement as a whole need to support strong rent control statewide and stop the massive rent increases and escalating gentrification of the bay area. Freelancers are the least able to continue to live in the inner bay area as rents and housing prices are exploding as developers and speculators in the bay area drive more and more of our members out of their homes and even out of the region.
I am for having full representation on the San Francisco labor council and other labor councils we are affiliated with and elected delegates. We need regular reports at our unit meetings at what is happening in our local and they could also be in writing. I also would like to see regular reports on regional conferences and national conference of our union from our delegates we are sending to these meetings. I also support having the LM2 report which our local makes to the Federal government available on our website. If we can provide this information to the US government let us put it on our website so all are members can have easy access to it.
I also will make regular reports to the members of the Freelancers Unit of the Local Executive Board meetings, which we will have two delegates on. One of the problems as I see it in this election, is that there have been some serious differences and issues within the local yet there were no reports to our unit until the election was upon us. Many members have been surprised about the heat of these disputes. We need more information and communication and that means regular reports from the Local’s executive board.
I believe that we can use the great resources and talents we have in our membership to help transform the labor movement and our local can play a valuable part in this effort. In fact, it has to be transformed if organized labor and working people are going to survive.
If you would like to discuss these issues or have any questions or issues that need to brought forward please don’t hesitate to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 867-0628
Below are some videos that I have helped produced about issues in our unit, local and the CWA nationally.
Arianna’s Greeting Party In San Francisco: Sister, Can You Loan Me A Dime?
The 2011 Struggle Of CWA-IBEW Verizon Workers For Justice
Defend CWA-IBEW Verizon Striking Workers!
Solidarity Action At Verizon Wireless Outlet In San Francisco
CFI CWA Interpreters Defend Professional Interpreting-CFI to JC: Interpreters do it better in person
CWA President Cohen Discusses Labor Community Partnerships
CWA President Larry Cohen and T-Mobil Worker Joshua Coleman on Global Organizing At T-Mobile And The CWA
Fight Continues For 110 CNN Workers Fired For Supporting Unionization-Report At CWA 2013 Convention
CWA President Larry Cohen Speech Opening The 2013 Convention In Pittsburgh PA
Stress And Bullying On The Job-Katie Rodebaugh Speaks At CWA 2013 Convention