The News Media Guild’s longtime Washington shop steward Larry Margasak, one of the Guild’s most successful recruiters and organizers, retired at the end of January after 47 years with the AP.
Margasak, a talented political writer, has long been a fixture on Capitol Hill, covering congressional debates and political intrigues. Most recently, he covered the delay in approving aid for Hurricane Sandy victims and the Obama administration’s handling of information after the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
He began as a shop steward 40 years ago in Harrisburg, Pa., and he served as a union negotiator in 1980. He has been the Washington steward and/or a member of the Representative Assembly ever since, including a long stretch as the RA chairman and then vice chairman.
The RA is the union’s legislative body that adopts the union’s yearly budget and develops policy.
He’s been instrumental in uniting staff in multiple departments in the Washington bureau and generating strong turnout for mobilizing actions, including the huge rally in front of the Newseum during the last round of bargaining.
“Larry didn’t come to life as contract bargaining neared,” Guild administrator Kevin Keane said. “He was on the job every day answering questions about the contract or meeting new employees to talk union. Larry was Washington’s longtime delegate on the RA, but he has represented all AP employees and the company he loves is a better place to work for because of his efforts.”
Guild President Martha Waggoner said both members and managers respected Margasak, as evidenced by his bureau chief mentioning his union work at his going-away party.
“Larry is a Guild giant who will be remembered for his tenacious defense of members’ contract rights and his excellent mobilizing and recruitment skills,” she said. “He has mentored all the union activists he has worked with and I have benefited from his wise counsel.”
Margasak’s advice to us is to keep the union alive by talking about issues.
“Make the union a living, breathing thing,” he said in a farewell message. “Encourage people to speak with you about their contract issues. Talk to them about negotiations. And during bargaining, plan activities that will raise their voices, the same voices that beat back a planned health care premium increase last time that would have affected all of us.”
Margasak is a union leader who knows the Guild’s work doesn’t end with retirement. The Guild anticipates Larry’s contributions to roll the union on in the Retired Members’ Council. The council focuses not only on retiree issues. It also supports those still in the bureaus in bargaining and mobilizing.