Category Archives: Member Focus

This category is for cool facts and pictures about and from our members.

CWA accepting applications for Joe Beirne scholarships

The CWA is accepting applications for one 16 annual Joe Beirne Scholarships of $4,000 each for the 2020-2021 school year.

The applications are open to CWA members, their spouses, children and grandchildren (including dependents of laid-off, retired or deceased members). Applicants must be high school graduates or high school students who will graduate this year. Undergraduate and graduate students may also apply.

CLICK HERE for details. .



Did you know that you can request that the company bring in an ergonomics specialist, which includes its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, to evaluate your workstation to avoid or address repetitive strain injuries? You can also file a grievance if the company ignores your request for new equipment that is needed to address a medical condition?


Gary Pruitt told AP employees during the March Town Hall meeting, that furniture is generally evaluated when leases are up, or during moves, but that it would be done now “on a more regular basis.”


Employees are urged to let the union know when your office is being relocated. You want to make sure your furniture is evaluated at that time.


In the meantime, Pruitt said, if there’s an ergonomic issue, health issue or other problem, “That can’t wait.”  He urged people to contact their manager or HR. (Vicki Cogliano of AP Benefits . The Guild urges employees to copy Guild Administrator at too, so the union can assist as needed.


Your Guild Health and Safety Committee members agree “it can’t wait” and will assist you as needed. Its members are Stephanie Nano of New York, Sue Ogrocki of Oklahoma City and Dave Herron of Seattle.


Other important rights and protections in your union contract will be addressed in future releases.


Guild member uses data journalist skills to find donor for kidney transplant

By Michelle Minkoff

Upon learning I needed a second kidney transplant, I did what any good data journalist would do and used my skills to search for a donor.

I used my data, tech and journalistic skills to build a website and send out the call through social media. Forty-eight people stepped up to donate, fewer than 15 of whom were my blood type of O. Some, but not all, of those people proceeded through the various rounds of testing.

More details on this process are covered in a Poynter article:


That process led me to another data journalist _ Tiff Fehr, who works for the New York Times. We had never met before the day of the surgery in December 2016, but have several mutual friends in the journalism world. Now, we talk once or twice most weeks.

She wrote a bit about her experience here: (

I had managed kidney disease for the past 15 years, about half my life and chronicled my medical ups and downs on this blog (, as well as my Facebook page.

I have an autoimmune kidney disease called IgA nephropathy, where my immune system attacks and scars my kidneys over time. I was diagnosed in 2000, and progressed to end-stage renal failure in 2006, when I received a transplant from my aunt, as a living donation. That kidney narrowly escaped from the World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks and then lasted 10 years in my body.

By late 2014, I was getting worse and worse.  I viewed my health like reporting a story, and used my journalistic skills to try to improve my odds. So, when I spent Christmas 2014 in the hospital, I decided it was time to act.

I joined a local personal training studio, and went from never exercising to going three, and eventually four and then five, times a week. I enjoyed the progress of going from overhead pressing 1 pound, to 10 pounds, to 30 pounds. I lost 55 pounds. I met some of my best friends, and found a new outlet to relieve stress and find some mental space.

In a similar vein, I was told I had to cook more from scratch to avoid sodium and other ingredients that could contribute to my decline. Cooking is now a favorite part of my day.

Still, I was very close to dialysis around September 2016, and was weak, dizzy, had trouble concentrating and simply wasn’t strong enough to stand up for long.

I had developed a second autoimmune condition, possibly from the drugs I take to preserve my transplant. This time, my immune system attacks my blood vessels, breaking up red blood cells. The medication I needed, Soliris, has the distinction of being the world’s most expensive drug, at about $28,000 a dose. I have been delighted that our insurance is covering it 100 percent.

This illness postponed the necessary kidney transplant from an October date in 2016 to December, and it finally happened in Chicago at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System on Dec, 15, 2016.

And now, I feel back to normal, with a level of enthusiasm and energy I haven’t felt for years. I feel 10 years younger; I hadn’t even realized the full extent to just how much poor kidney function was weighing me down. And I returned to work at the beginning of March.

I’m thankful for the benefits of the AP through all of this, I’ve long said that because of my illness, drugs I take, and procedures I must have, insurance is just as important if not more to me than a salary (but we need both, of course!).  I know other kidney disease patients who have had a much harder time than I, and for that I am grateful.

I also am grateful to work at a union-covered workplace, which I knew before was good, but didn’t appreciate just how valuable it would be to me until now. The Guild, and the benefits it has bargained and negotiated for, have been indispensible. Those benefits have made major contributions to my ability to pursue countless tests and treatments, which have truly saved my life. I actually worry more about the time, side effects and the outcomes than the financial burden.

But what I’m most appreciative of in a work context, and eager to return to, is a place that I call “my people”. I am so ecstatic that I have been able to take care of my health and know my dream job is waiting for me.


Family trove of Civil War letters inspires Guild member to write book

As a child, Raleigh-based National Writer Allen Breed heard stories about his great-grandfather, Dr. Bowman Breed, who headed south four days after Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter to serve as a physician for the Union Army.

The family home in Lynn, Massachusetts, even contained a few artifacts from Bowman’s service, including a photo of him smoking a pipe in a tent surrounded by soldiers. His framed major’s commission, signed by President Lincoln himself, hung on a wall in the office of Allen’s father, Robert, who was also a doctor.

Allen Breed has been a Guild member since 1991.

Allen Breed joined the Guild in 1991.

What Allen didn’t know was that before Bowman left for the war, he and his wife, Hannah, promised to write to each other every day. A chance conversation with his eldest brother, Putnam, about the desire to write a story for the AP about their ancestor led to the revelation that those letters survived.

Putnam first shared a letter Bowman had written to Hannah regarding a visit with Lincoln at the White house in April 1862. “The President always looks shabby,” it began, “but last night he was outrageous.”

Then Allen asked to see the rest. Some time later, the brothers met in Boston, and Putnam handed over the cardboard box that stored the family’s history – nine bundles of letters, crammed in tight but arranged in no particular order, some damaged by time, vermin or human carelessness, but most in remarkably good shape.

“I guess the little boy in me was hoping to find tales of battlefield gore and severed limbs,” Allen said. “But what I found was, in many ways, much cooler.”


Guild member Allen Breed tells a family-based Civil War story using his great-grandparents’ letters in his new book.

He learned about the hardship and heroics of Hannah, who sometimes stayed home in Lynn and at others joined

Bowman as he served at hospitals in the Carolinas, Tennessee and elsewhere. “Their first child was just a few months old when Bowman enlisted in the militia and marched off to war. Her letters, especially the early ones, are heartrending,” Allen said. “It’s amazing to watch her grow in strength as the war drags on.”


Allen was also amazed at how “modern” the couple’s sentiments were. “Their letters are very affectionate, playful, witty, wry and poignant,” he said. In fact, “I wrestled with whether I even had to right to share them. They were so raw and intimate, it almost felt like a betrayal at times. But they’d been saved for a reason, and had survived various fires and divorces.”

Although he originally planned to write a long feature for the AP, the project turned into something much bigger and more time consuming as he transcribed the letters. He enlisted help from his cousin’s wife, Robin White, who served as co-editor.

They couldn’t find a publisher – traditional publishers said the book wouldn’t be profitable, and academic presses turned down the story of one couple. So they decided to self publish, and the book, “My Own Dear Wife: A Yankee Couple’s Civil War,” is now available for sale on Amazon.

After the war, Bowman served for a time as the surgeon in charge of the U.S. Military Asylum in Togus, Maine, making him the first doctor hired by what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs. He and Hannah returned to Lynn in 1868 after a fire at the hospital, and Bowman, suffering from malaria contracted during the war, retired from medicine in 1872.

Forging a link to the great-grandson he would never meet, he then became the editor and co-owner of a newspaper, the Lynn (Weekly) Reporter. After his death in December 1873, Hannah became the proprietor. “He wasn’t the only journalist in the family!” Allen noted.