Retiring AP newsman: Without the union, we would have nothing

George Tibbits joined the AP in Spokane in 1975 and transferred to a full-time job in Salt Lake City just in time for Gary

Seattle Newsman George Tibbits Retires after 38 years with AP. Photo: Dave Herron

Seattle Newsman George Tibbits Retires after 38 years with AP. Photo: Dave Herron

Gilmore’s 1977 execution. During his time in Utah, he covered the Mormon church, fallout victims, water issues, polygamist gunfights, floods, blizzards, Barney Clark’s mechanical heart and a guy who designed a weight-loss plan for parakeets, which inspired the lede “Got a pudgy budgie?” He is old enough to remember when wire reporting included tripping the UPI guy to get to the pay phone first. After moving to Seattle in 1983, he did everything possible in an AP bureau and some things that weren’t — early broadcast, overnight, night supe, day supe — and covered Nazi shootouts, Excedrin poisonings, Microsoft, Nintendo and Boeing, though not all at once. His proudest achievement was training new journalists who have since gone on to earn more than he did. In early 2011 he died of a cardiac arrest, which he took as a sign he might want to scale back. Tiring of disability, he formally retired July 31 and has since achieved a 38-year-old goal of voicing a public opinion. This is his farewell letter to the Guild:

After 38 years and a month or so, I formally retired yesterday from The Associated Press. It’s only been a few hours, so I’m still getting used to the idea of being a retiree. As many of you know, I’ve been on long-term disability for some time, but yesterday (July 31) I finally left for good and cleaned out my desk. My entire time in journalism has been with AP. Though I’m far from the best writer, reporter or editor that was ever hired, I was able to work with the people who are. I’m honored to be able to say that throughout my entire career I played in the majors. I’m also proud that I’ve been a member of the Guild for nearly 37 years, signing up when I became a full-time staffer. Like everyone, I’ve had moments when I didn’t like what the union was doing, but I never once regretted joining. My dues were cheap compared to what I got. The union has always been there for me, providing the safety of the contract and winning such benefits and protections as the 401(k) (originally given only to management) and not being punished by impossible schedules. And then there are the hardest-fought victories by the Guild, such as equal treatment for women and an end to all-white-male newsrooms – changes for which the AP now proudly takes credit. Whenever you read a sentence in the employee manual that begins, “The AP provides you …” you can bet that’s a benefit won by the Guild. Every employee benefit and work condition the AP brags about only exists because it’s in the contract. Without the union we would have nothing. When I needed help or counsel, I could turn to the union, especially Kevin (Kevin Keane, NMG’s administrator), who somehow has chosen to stay with us though he easily could have a top job with any union in the country. Moreover, I had the knowledge and dedication of our negotiators, a thankless job I could never do. They got me a living wage, job security and protection against vicious managers, among dozens of other achievements. Though the AP might insist otherwise, it really has only one product – the talent of its people. You’d think it would do all it could to enhance that asset — I hope for the company’s future that it does. A look at the industry shows the consequences of failing to do so.AP is a difficult company to work for, but I have never once doubted that what I did was valuable and important. That has been incredibly rewarding, even if the pay was not. Thanks to the Guild and its people for making a good career possible, and thanks to everyone for their friendship and allowing me to say I worked with the best.