“I could have been somebody!”
“I could have been a contender!”
With these words, Marlon Brando captured the imagination of Americans everywhere who saw the American Dream come alive “On the Waterfront.”
Brando is playing a longshoreman whose brother made him take a dive in a fight he fixed to make money. Brando was innocent and some would say naïve. But he was my kind of a hero, particularly when he took on the bosses of the corrupt union and made his way beaten and bloodied to the man hiring workers at the dock.
I felt much like him when I worked as a union organizer trying to help other workers form a union at a newspaper in Reading, PA. The company hired goons – union busters – to fight our efforts, but just like in the movie which is one of my all-time favorites, we fought on despite our hurts. It was simply the right thing to do.
And even though we lost the union election, I believe we helped workers get pay increases and pension reforms. Management at the Reading Eagle provided the benefits in order to keep the Newspaper Guild out of town and we left Reading a little better off than when we went into the ring.
We were contenders and just like Rocky of my hometown Philadelphia, we were able to go the distance and win despite the loss.