50 years fighting for, and with, our unions

In Labor history, 1937 was a year of unrest. Steel workers, dock workers and auto workers had experienced strikes, bloodshed, outright massacres. It was a time of major non-union dominance.

In St. Louis, Maury Rubin, a Washington University architecture student, teamed up with the Carpenters’ Business Manager Dick Adams to report on the shoddy home construction being done by non-union companies that dominated the industry. With their wives posing as potential buyers, they would visit home sites, with Adams pointing out the shoddy, dangerous work and Rubin taking pictures. They then published Rubin’s account and photos of the outlandish work, distributing them every weekend to prospective home buyers. The results were so devastating for the builders that within months they negotiated a first contract with the union.

That was the birth of the Labor Tribune. I was born 10 months later.

The Labor Tribune and I grew up together in the Labor Movement and over time we became the loud, strong and effective fighting voice for our working union men and women and our unions.

In fact, it was the Labor Tribune that determined my career path. Starting at 14 as the gopher for the staff – “hey kid, go-fer the donuts, go-fer the coffee” – in my second summer there, one of the reporters asked me to write an obituary which the paper published with my byline. Seeing words in print I had actually written …well, that was it. Journalism school was my future! After working summers and during college, then six years in the Air Force, I was thrilled to be back behind a typewriter banging out stories about our unions’ struggles, successes and ground-breaking efforts to support their members.

In looking back, I’m proud to say that the Labor Tribune has been there fighting for Labor when companies tried to crush our unions, when political opponents tried to legislate us out of existence, when national leadership tried to snuff out the middle class, created by Labor unions.

We have lived through times of challenge and opportunity.

Trying to highlight the Labor Tribune’s efforts is impossible. But I immediately think of:

  • Playing a major informational role in defeating two statewide phony “right-to-work (for-less)” campaigns.
  • Helping form and promote the innovative $5 for the Fight program, the brainchild of then Labor Council President Bob Kelley, to help union members and their families in times of crisis.
  • Proudly shining a light on the generosity of our Labor unions charitable giving, both in terms of free work and actual financial aid that has soared into the millions of dollars over the years, recognition that came nowhere else but in the Labor Tribune.
  • Taking on corporate giants, political opponents and anyone else determined to destroy our unions. One company even sued us in Illinois and temporarily was able to freeze our bank account until a judge recognized the reality of freedom of the press to report events and threw out the case.
  • Communicating to both our unions’ members and the public the whys and wherefores of Labor unions, our battles and our achievements, allowing us to educate and support one another, especially in times of individual union crisis.
  • Working behind the scenes with management and Labor leaders we’ve grown to know to help keep Labor peace. One specific instance comes to mind: a major strike by one construction union that shut down the town. Talking with the business manager, I learned that every time the two sides came to verbal agreement over key issues, in the next negotiating session the company negotiators would deny the agreement. It ultimately forced the strike. I suggested I sit in on the talks and as agreement on an item was reached, I would type it up and get everyone’s signature. It worked. A tentative settlement was reached shortly thereafter, approved by the members, and the strike ended.

And yet, with all our progress and public support of Labor unions at its highest since WW II, Labor still faces challenges and opportunities, enemies that would destroy us, interests wanting to keep Labor’s story from being told.

Without a doubt, the Labor Tribune is still as vital and needed today as it has been in our 87-year history. That our unions stepped up to save the paper from having to declare bankruptcy is proof positive of our value to our Labor Movement.

I’m proud to have played my role over the past 50-plus years. I know the paper is in great hands with Managing Editor Tim Rowden and his talented cadre of correspondents and our extremely capable production and internal administrative support staff.

And while I am “officially” retiring, I will still be working closely with Tim, our unions and others to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and do whatever I can to help our Movement meet the challenges we continue to face. You don’t retire from being a union Brother, and I never will!

Thanks to so many for the support you have given to me personally and will continue to give to the Labor Tribune as your Voice, ensuring that Labor continues to be heard.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top