When I joined The Associated Press in Los Angeles in 1967, I had no idea that I was making a lifelong commitment. I thought I might be stopping by in between newspaper jobs. I had taken a cut in pay from my previous job at a modest size daily in order to join the world’s largest wire service. I thought it was worth it, and it was. But paying union dues from my modest salary was difficult. I never saw it as a choice.
I learned almost immediately about The Guild and I was told how important it was for me to join forces with my colleagues to make sure that all of us were receiving the best opportunity for good working conditions as well as a proper wage. Mind you this was a time when wire machines clattered at astounding decibels, newsrooms were smoke filled and the acronym OSHA had not yet been invented. For awhile, I was the only woman in the bureau.
I knew the history of the labor union movement and felt it was a a noble idea. I knew that people had risked their very lives for it. But it was all quite theoretical until the following year when I found myself walking a picket line in
January 1969. Yes, I lived through the only strike that I and the AP would experience during my decades with the organization. It was a soul-searing experience that I hope
will never happen again. Friendships were broken forever when some chose to cross the picket line. Some of the issues in that strike were resolved and some including the fight for a union shop linger to this day.
Mercifully, it was a short strike — about a week — but long enough to teach me the important lesson of solidarity.
In 1983, I saw the AP, the Guild and a brave group of women settle a historic lawsuit which gave women equal status and equal pay with men in the organization. Until then, we had always been referred to as “newsmen” and were treated differently. Times changed and so did the AP. Women now make up a large percentage of the staff. Computers came along and replaced those loud wire machines but bringing other problems of their own.
Over the years, I covered some incredibly historic stories and carved out a beat unlike any other reporting on high profile trials. My loyalty to the AP grew stronger by the year and some suggested to me that maybe I didn’t need The Guild anymore. To that I would reply with a quote from the famed Rabbi Hillel who wrote : “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”