Why I Joined the Guild

RA Chairman Steve Karnowski

By Steve Karnowski
I was proud to sign my Guild card shortly after I was hired at the AP in 1994 because I already owed the union a deep debt of gratitude.

My history with the union goes way back. I first joined the old Wire Service Guild around 1983 in my first job out of college back when UPI had a Minneapolis bureau. When UPI went bankrupt and laid off me and many other reporters in 1984, Kevin Keane fought for and eventually won us the severance pay we were due.

By then, I had already been hired at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, and I later joined its Newspaper Guild unit. We had a deal that was just about unheard-of stateside. RFE/RL operated under German labor law, which guaranteed workers a seat at the table when important decisions were made. As the Cold War was winding down in the early 1990s, and the station was downsizing and preparing to move to Prague, the Guild’s German partner-unions negotiated a generous buyout package for people like me who were ready to move home. It paid for my wife’s first couple years of law school!

So when my new colleagues at AP in Minneapolis brought up the subject of the Guild, I signed right away. I figured that no matter how much I might pay in dues over the coming years, I had already gotten more than my money’s worth from the union.

A few years later, I volunteered to be the shop steward and to be a mobilizer during contract talks. Eventually I was asked to serve as the Midwest delegate on the Representative Assembly, the union’s top governing body. Last year I was elected vice chair of the RA, and in March I was elected to succeed Linda Johnson as RA chair after she became 1st vice president of the Executive Committee.

Here in Minneapolis, my beats now include agriculture, the environment, the outdoors and courts, and I’m on our national agricultural reporting team. But like everyone else at AP, I’m ready for anything and everything.

I’ve come to learn through my Guild work how much better off we are at AP than our colleagues at many other news organizations, and that’s true in large part because we have a union that’s ready to stand up for us, not just at contract time, but year in and year out.