Tan succeeds Davis as Guild president

The Guild’s Executive Committee nominated and elected Sandy Tan as the Guild’s new president, replacing Henry Davis, who decided not to run for a third three-year term.

Former Guild President Henry Davis
Former Guild President Henry Davis

Davis served as president of the Guild from 2010 through 2016. He served on or headed Guild bargaining teams since the late 1990s. He became active in the Guild in 1989, initially as co-chairman of a Guild health and pension committee.

“It has been a privilege to serve as Guild president,” Davis said. “The experience was challenging, but interesting and rewarding, a great personal journey. Looking back, I’m proud of how we maintained members’ standard of living in an era of significant industry decline.

“We vigorously protected our contract against serious attempts to weaken it,” Davis continued. “We resolved numerous issues for members in their day-to-day lives at The News. Despite the tensions that can naturally arise in a workplace, especially during contract negotiations, we worked with the company in a spirit of cooperation and flexibility on many matters.”

Davis offered thanks to other Guild members he worked alongside during his terms.

“I was fortunate enough to work alongside some wonderful people, and I’m grateful for their friendship, help and dedication,” he said. “It’s a tough time for newspapers and the labor movement. We will likely continue to struggle to hold on to what we have gained in the past, while trying to make progress. But we’re prepared for that struggle.”

Still, Davis remains optimistic about the future of the industry and the Guild.

“The Guild is in good shape,” he said. “The union remains financially sound. We have a new, solid Administrative Officer in place. Our by-laws have been updated, and our communication system is better than ever. We’ve done leadership training. We’ve worked at improving relations with other unions in our building and making sure we’re well-represented within NewsGuild-CWA. We’ve tried to make our organization transparent and responsive to members.”

“Most importantly, young, smart and committed individuals fill key Guild leadership positions,” Davis continued. “We have a robust group of stewards, volunteers and Executive Committee members. Our new president, Sandy Tan, is a respected reporter who will bring fresh ideas and energy to the job. We have an active membership that never fails to show solidarity and lend support. I want to thank all of you for that. Your involvement makes a difference. This is our strength.”

Tan’s appointment to the president’s seat will come before the membership for action at its next meeting on Jan. 18.

Tan joined The Buffalo News and the Guild as a cityside reporter in 2000. She previously served for six years as vice president of mobilization and communication, and remained active with the Guild’s Mobilization and Executive committees in recent years prior to accepting nomination to the president’s seat. She also served on the Bargaining Committee when The News sought layoffs in 2009 and rejoined the Bargaining Committee in December for this current round of negotiations.

Guild President Sandy Tan
Guild President Sandy Tan

The Frontier Reporter asked Tan by email about the challenges and opportunities that come with being Guild president:

FR: What are your priorities going forward as the new Guild president?

ST: My main priority is straightforward: to maintain, and work to improve, the rights, wages and benefits that our Guild members have now. That will remain the biggest challenge in the coming years, not just for me, but for everyone in the Guild. I think most of us are pretty clear eyed about the fact that we’ll be fighting harder than ever to maintain what we have. If we want to get ahead, that will take even more effort. But our Guild is in a better position to do this than many other newspaper unions. We have amazing members with great ideas and energy. And we stand together. I know I can rely on that to keep us ahead of the game.

Empowering members means creating an environment that encourages involvement. For me, that means promoting greater transparency and communication with everyone. I want to make it easier for people to know what we’re up to and offer input. I also think it would surprise many members to know just how much work the Guild does on their behalf, not just during negotiations, but all year long. Ultimately, I hope to coax valuable members who’ve sat on the sidelines into taking a more active role in Guild participation and decision making.

FR: What’s your vision for continuing the hard work of Henry Davis and others before you?

First, I have nothing but admiration and awe for what Henry has accomplished over the past six years. To maintain fully-covered health insurance for our members and contain the company’s rising health-care costs is such an immense accomplishment. But beyond that, Henry’s patience, willingness to listen, and ability to find solutions under the most trying circumstances has made him a role model for every current and aspiring Guild leader. And all the while, he’s managed to maintain good relations with both members and management. I mean, wow.

It’s important to point out that while I am preparing to assume the president’s seat, Henry will continue to lead the bargaining team until our current round of negotiations is completed. We both agree that’s important to us reaching a deal with The News. It’s also giving me an opportunity to learn on the job, and build some frame of reference for future negotiations.

But the original question is something I’ve spent a long time reflecting on. Since I came to The News in 2000, I watched presidents and administrators like Pat Gormley, Phil Fairbanks, Henry Davis, Marian Needham and Tammy Turnbull shepherd the Guild through immensely difficult situations. As a Guild member, these people were guiding lights in whom I placed my complete trust, people I counted on to do the right thing. And frankly, they are people I took for granted would always be there to keep our union moving forward. Did I do less as a Guild member because I could count on them to do more? Probably.

But the fact is, no one can do this work forever. It’s just that hard. Our past Guild administrators have been promoted to regional Guild positions, and our presidents have earned the right to take a step back and encourage a new set of leaders to fill their roles. The makeup of Guild officers now – Aaron Besecker, Colin Dabkowski and myself – is younger and less experienced. So is our Executive Committee. We have the commitment and energy to make a difference. But none of us would pretend we have the breadth of experience and wisdom of those who’ve held these jobs for many more years.

That’s why it’s so important to me to encourage our members to play a more active role in the Guild’s future. Now, more than ever, I think the Guild can’t just rely on any one person – or two or three people – to call the shots. We don’t have all the answers. The best answers, the best solutions, will be the ones we make together.

FR: What’s it like taking office in the thick of a contract negotiation and mobilization effort?

I think we’ve worked out a good arrangement, with me assuming more leadership responsibilities but leaving Henry as head of the bargaining team. I have more of an opportunity to ease into the role, instead of being thrown to the lions as soon as I step into the job! Hopefully, by the time negotiations roll around again, I’ll be much better prepared to take the reins. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe, learn and contribute.

As far as mobilization, that’s something I know a little more about. And I’m a big believer in using mobilization efforts more actively and creatively to promote results. Our Guild’s greatest strength is our solidarity. We should do everything possible to take advantage of it.