Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger wins Pulitzer Prize

Apr 15, 2019 by

Earlier this year the United Media Guild honored St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger with its Terry Hughes Award for exemplary journalism. His exposure of Missouri’s “debtors prisons” stirred outrage and triggered change.

Monday he won a something exponentially greater for his work: the Pulitzer Prize.

With his series of compelling columns, Messenger told the stories of individuals exploited by the legal system in Missouri.

“It’s a story about how we treat people in our state,” Messenger amid a celebration in the Post-Dispatch newsroom. “It’s a story I’m going to keep telling.”

As the Post-Dispatch noted:

Messenger’s columns led to significant action. The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously said that the state’s judges cannot use their courts to threaten indigent defendants with jail time, nor to collect such debts as court costs. The Missouri House passed a bill that would make all such collections civil procedures. The state Senate is now considering the bill . . .

Hughes Award winner Tony Messenger with past winners Doug Moore and Michele Munz.

Those columns, said Michael Wolff, a retired Missouri Supreme Court chief justice and former dean of the St. Louis University School of Law, tell the story of prosecutors and judges across the state putting people in jail simply because they are poor. 

“It is a rare and beautiful thing when solid reporting so shocks the legal system that change becomes inevitable,” Wolff wrote in support of Messenger’s nomination. “Tony Messenger is making that kind of impact.”

Messenger joined the Post-Dispatch photography staff as UMG members recently winning the Pulitzer, journalism’s most cherished prize. The photographers won in 2015 for their vivid coverage of the Ferguson unrest after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

These award-winning efforts are shining examples of the vital role great journalism plays in our society. This is why we will continue to fight for the craft of journalism and all of the UMG members doing public good at the Post-Dispatch, Peoria Journal-Star, State Journal-Register, Rockford Register Star, The Southern Illinoisan, Pekin Daily Times, St. Louis Review,  St. Louis Labor Tribune and Truthout.

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National presidential election is looming for The NewsGuild

Mar 6, 2019 by

Los Angeles Times activist Jon Schleuss is running against incumbent Bernie Lunzer for president of The NewsGuild.

Bernie Lunzer

Members in good standing of the United Media Guild — those members who were paying dues at some point in the previous quarter — will eligible to vote by mail in the upcoming national election. Ballots will be sent to their homes.

The UMG executive committee voted not to endorse either candidate, adhering to the precedent set the last time TNG held a contested election for president. (Lunzer defeated incumbent Linda Foley that time around.)

We encourage all our members to learn more about these candidates and make an informed decision on which one should lead our national union forward.

 

Over the years the UMG has worked closely with Lunzer and his staff in Washington D.C. on a variety of issues, including organizing new units, bargaining first contracts and enforcing our current agreements.

UMG vice president David Carson got to know Schleuss while assisting the successful Los Angeles Times organizing drive. UMG president Jeff Gordon, a TNG regional vice president, spoke extensively with Schleuss and other new unit activists at the TNG Sector Conference in Orlando.

Schleuss is stressing the need to improve member engagement, upgrade TNG’s communication capability and provide more support for local leaders.

You can learn more about his campaign on his website.

Meanwhile Lunzer can point to TNG’s unprecedented organizing successes in recent years and his decades of labor leadership at the local and national levels.

You can learn more about his campaign on his website.

Schleuss will be in St. Louis Monday, March 11, to host a lunch with UMG members at 11:30 a.m. at Missouri Bar and Grill. We encourage members to stop by to learn more about the critical issues facing TNG and our parent union, CWA, in this era of corporate cutbacks.

 

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UMG honors Tony Messenger, Shawn Anglin and other members at awards dinner

Feb 8, 2019 by

The United Media Guild honored some of its top activists and one of its most accomplished journalists Thursday night at its annual Local Meeting and awards dinner.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger won the Terry Hughes Award for exemplary journalism. UMG secretary Doug Moore, himself a more Hughes Award winner, explained why:

His columns on debtors’ prisons in rural Missouri started with the case of Victoria Branson, a woman from St. Francois County who had been sent to prison because she couldn’t afford court costs in a long defunct child support case. Branson was released from prison after Messenger’s column about her was published. Soon, tips came in from all over Missouri’s rural counties of similar stories, and Messenger worked closely with the state public defender’s office, which was filing appeals in such cases, arguing that a scheme to use the courts as a collection service for expensive jail bills amounted to

Hughes Award winner Tony Messenger with past winners Doug Moore and Michele Munz.

a modern day debtors’ prison.

On Wednesday, the Missouri Supreme Court held arguments in two of the cases Messenger has written about. Two of the legal briefs filed in the case reference Messenger’s columns as evidence for the court to declare the scheme illegal.

Shawn Anglin, an editor and reporter at The Southern Illinoisan, was honored as Guilder of the Year. Anglin is the unit chair of this newly-organized group. Journalists at The Southern voted 12-0 to join the Guild and they are currently bargaining their first contract.

The Southern unit won the UMG’s Solidarity Award for that unanimous vote and for its

ongoing internal and external mobilization. Sportswriter Todd Hefferman, the unit vice chair, and reporter Marilyn Halstead, the unit secretary, accepted the award.

Retired Labor Tribune reporter Kevin Madden received the Activist of the Year Award for his tireless effort to defeat “Right to Work” in Missouri. Madden, the long-time unit chair at the Tribune, spent long days gathering signatures in support of other progressive ballot initiatives as well.

“Fight for 15” activist Stanley Jackson received the Steward of the Year. He provided invaluable leadership for of UMG’s national unit of organizers who mobilize fast-food workers in the fight for better wages.

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UMG to hold Local Meeting and awards ceremony Feb. 7

Jan 20, 2019 by

umglogoThe United Media Guild will hold a Local Meeting and awards ceremony starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 at Lombardo’s Restaurant at the Drury Inn Union Station.

The meeting is open to all members in good standing. Beverages will be provided (beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee) and a buffet will be served free of charge. Members can purchase cocktails on their own.

After tending to a small amount of Local business, the UMG will present its Guilder of the Year, Activist of the Year and Steward of the Year awards to individual members and its Solidarity Award to an entire unit.

The UMG also expects to honor the winner of its annual Terry Hughes Award for exemplary journalism.

Please RSVP the Guild office by leaving a message at 314-241-7046 or by e-mailing office manager Rachel Zaron at rzaron@unitedmediaguild.org.

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Nominations sought for Terry Hughes Award

Jan 6, 2019 by

Terry Hughes was 36 when she died of breast cancer on July 22, 1991.  A columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, her writing was clear, witty and descriptive, with a flair for portraying society’s underdogs.  Some of her columns chronicled the bouts with cancer that she and others faced.  One column was credited with helping persuade the Missouri Legislature to approve a bill forcing insurers to pay for mammograms.

One of the many readers who wrote to the newspaper after her death described her work this way: “Her columns were full of real life stories that touched us all and even changed our way of thinking or even our lives.”

The United Media Guild issues a writing award in the name of Ms. Hughes.  The award is intended to honor a journalist whose writing shows the talent that she displayed.

Any journalist in the metropolitan St. Louis area who has written for a daily or weekly newspaper, a magazine or an on-line publication is eligible.

Single articles of extraordinary merit will be considered.  Preference will be given to entries of between three and ten articles that display the writer’s range of talent.

Articles must have been published in 2018.  There are no formal applications.  Anyone may submit a nomination by sending copies of articles to:

The Terry Hughes Award Committee

United Media Guild

1015 Locust St.

Suite 735

St. Louis, Mo.  63101

The deadline for applications is January 16, 2019.  The panel of judges is comprised of previous award winners. The award will be presented by the United Media Guild at its annual dinner early February.

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Fight For 15 wins first contract!

Dec 15, 2018 by

Fast Food Organizers, represented by United Media Guild and employed by the National Fast Food Workers Union (an SEIU affiliate) ratified their first contract today.  The three year agreement includes a signing bonus, raises and a very generous benefits package, as well as all the usual staples of a good contract – grievance and arbitration language, progressive discipline, anti-discrimination language, even a stipend for those who use a second language in performance of their duties.

The agreement came after a year of bargaining and the fifty or so organizers working in seven different regions around the U.S. elected stewards and sent them to the bargaining table.  The last several months things slowed and saw bargaining occurring in the offices of a federal mediator in Washington, DC.

“Through it all, I was impressed at how united our bargaining team members were and how well they kept their their fellow workers engaged and informed,” said Guild representative, Shannon Duffy.  “This group of activists is changing the way Americans think about things like fairness and a living wage.  The United Media Guild is proud to be associated with such a committed group of activists and such a noble cause.”

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