Robert Steinke, newspaper union leader, dies at 89

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Robert A. Steinke, who led the St. Louis Newspaper Guild for nearly 20 years, died Aug. 10, 2016. He was 89.

Brother Steinke became executive secretary of the Newspaper Guild Local 47 (now the United Media Guild) in 1968 and retired in 1988.

During his two decades at the Guild helm, Steinke represented workers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the St. Louis-Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, the St. Louis Review and KSDK-TV.

Steinke grew up in St. Louis, graduated from the former South Side Catholic High School (now St. Mary’s) in 1944 and enlisted in the Marines. He returned home, ran a newspaper route and joined the Post-Dispatch circulation department in 1956. While there, he became active in the Guild.

Steinke joined the TNG’s international staff in 1967 and became executive secretary of the St. Louis local the following year.

“Those of us in the Labor Movement today do our work standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and built this movement into what it is,” United Media Guild Business Representative Shannon Duffy said. “Mr. Steinke was such a man. He was a giant in the Labor Movement and all of us are better off today because of his service.”

Steinke was a gruff, blunt-talking labor leader and negotiator who had the respect of newspaper management.

"Having dealt with Brother Steinke in negotiations and working on community issues with him for many years, I can honestly say that Bob was a union representative in the finest tradition of leadership. He fought for his members tirelessly and fiercely,” said Labor Tribune Publisher Ed Finkelstein. "In negotiations, while representing his members first and foremost, he listened to employers’ concerns and worked to find an equitable compromise. He was a trade unionist of the first order. He will be missed."

Steinke’s leadership got the local through difficult times, including the newspaper strike of 1978-79, the Herald Company’s 1983 decision to fold the Globe-Democrat and the subsequent Globe struggles under the ill-fated ownership of Jeff Gluck.

Steinke was elected secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO in 1982, but stepped down to resume his work for the Guild.

A visitation was held Aug. 12 at Kutis Funeral Home in south St. Louis County. A private burial was held at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The family requested donations to the American Kidney Association.

Steinke was preceded in death by his wife Dorothy and daughter Christine Steinke.

He is survived by three daughters, Cynthia Agosta of Kirkwood, and Robyn Melroy and Gayle Conway, both of South County; two brothers, James Steinke of High Ridge and Joseph Steinke of Fremont, CA; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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