Never thought “revenge” had anything good to say about itself. It’s a negative trait. Falls in with Anger, Rage and “getting even.”
But, what if one can use the “energy” that revenge supplies? What if it could be the catalyst to get someone out of their “comfort zone” and on to a new direction in life, starting out with a bad intent, but finishing up with something good, a “right” and meritorious deed?
That may have happened to me when bypassed for a promotion while a journalist. I was a decent reporter. Nothing special, even though my work involving the mentally retarded was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
I was a work horse who didn’t mind digging, or sifting through government and financial documents to prove malfeasance and possible corruption in government offices as well as institutions run by the state and private industry.
Couldn’t spell a lick. Discovered the art of “headline writing” only recently in having to create ’em for this Blog. In addition, the guy with less experience who got promoted from the ranks of reporter to copy editor was more articulate, could spell better, and served as a “Nader Raider,” one who worked in Washington, DC, with the internationally recognized consumer crusader, Ralph Nader. Could not begrudge him.
But, I was hurt. I wanted some recognition other than newspaper awards and thank-you letters. A copy editor made more money due primarily to The Newspaper Guild (TNG) which formed a union at The Mercury newspaper of Pottstown, PA.
That’s where I sought my revenge.
I threw myself into union activities. Already served as the “shop steward” for the reporters, copy editors and photographers on staff. Had taken part in several contract negotiations, where I was the lone hold-out, often insuring the lowest-paid and often overlooked workers got a fair piece of the “pie,” the contract increases.
Not sure if I became president of our local unit in Pottstown before or after the job promotion incident. But you could not have asked for better timing unless you were writing a book.
I aided management in getting rid of some “dead wood” our union had supported in the past. Agreed to let a person go with “three strikes and your out” when he showed up late for work a third time in a row. That’s lack of respect for the job and the employer, I felt. Didn’t need Samuel Gompers (founder of the AF of L American Federation of Labor) to tell me otherwise. (Note: Gompers worked with the US government during World War I to prevent strikes while increasing wages for workers. One hand, in deed, can often help the other, if both extend from sincere hearts.)
Gained respect from the advertizing, circulation and business departments. Believe I showed the department heads the union would not abide by some practices and ensured adherence to the contract.
But, my greatest achievement was outside the paper, owned by the Ingersoll chain, a group of investors which included Mark Goodson, of American television’s Goodson-Toddman game show empire.
With the help of TNG’s Philadelphia Local secretary, I organized the Ingersoll Council, made up of 10 or more newspapers mostly on the East Coast, with a few in areas like Detroit, Michigan; Terre Haute, Indiana; as well as in California.
Inviting union leaders from each paper, we’d meet in Philadelphia, comparing notes of working conditions, salaries and “past practices.” I learned that “past practice” was a key to keeping job improvements a written contract was often silent about.
It was in the newsletters I wrote that I might have made the biggest impact. I got statistics on the hiring practices of women and blacks. For instance, The Delaware County (PA) newspaper, the largest in the chain, had but one African-American on its payroll. And he was a janitor. The paper covered areas bordering Philadelphia where the African-American population was growing and increasing weekly.
There was an unbelievable “pay gap” between women working on display ads versus classified ads. Learned this existed throughout the chain, and was prevalent at one time at the larger newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, also represented by the Guild.
Got offered a new job by the Guild and took a leave of absence from The Mercury newspaper of Pottstown. Traveled Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware roads as a union organizer, spreading the “gospel” of the labor movement, coming close to organizing units in Atlantic City, NJ, as well as Reading, PA, where more than enough cards were to signed call for a union election, only to meet with defeat when management in Reading hired “union-busting” consultants to offer it advise.
Got inspired to go to Law School and become a labor lawyer. Changed directions on getting a grade of “D” in Labor Law, and became a criminal attorney after getting a straight “C+ average” in all my criminal law classes.
Oh, almost forgot about the revenge factor.
The newspaper chain brought in a new publisher to run The Mercury. The new guy swept house, firing most of the department heads I had “locked horns” with more than a year earlier. He fired the editor of the paper, the only one I knew over a 10-year period, and the one in charge when no promotion was offered to me. Learned recently that Ralph Ingersoll II, who created one of America’s largest private newspaper companies, sold his interest 20 years ago, according to the Washington Post. Happened just a few years after I curtailed my union work on his “chain.“
Did my revenge have anything to do with it? Would I have stayed content as a reporter, and not seek a position to possibly lead others to a better life?
Never thought I’d become a lawyer. Maybe that’s part of the revenge of the cosmos, to place me in a group that a Shakespearean character said world would be better off without: “. . . The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — Henry VI