A Final Letter from the Local President

days since last accident 181
A Final Letter from the Local President

Paul Martino

Memories fade over the years, but great feelings and emotion won't die. As I’m writing this, I’m trying to piece together the events that led to me becoming president of this local for many, many years. I remember getting a call from our legendary executive director, the late Dan Mallinger. It was in 1987 or ’88, I think. Without any discussion, Dan said, “You’re on the board!” 

Dan was very old school, a real union boss. Don’t get me wrong. He was a super guy and a great exec but there was no talk of nominating petitions or elections. Overnight, I became the KDKA-TV station rep. It was based largely on the role I played in contract negotiations and because I had actually attended a few board meetings.

Move ahead to the early ’90s. Dan suddenly and unexpectedly became ill, and it wasn’t too long before he passed away. The local was in crisis, and I played a role in finding a new executive director. It was a task none of us were prepared for.

In the interim, our longtime president, the late Bill Steinbach, a legendary radio newsman, retired. We needed a new president. My colleague from KDKA-TV, Bill Flanagan, was tapped for the job. But a couple of years later, Bill was offered the job he still holds today at the Allegheny Conference. He stepped down as president. I never even considered the job.

Alas, my phone rings again. It was former board member Fred Albitz. Out of the blue, he says, “We want you to run for board president.” I was shocked, but when I thought about it, it made sense. The union is something I strongly believe in. It is so vital to have this tool to help us gain respect and decent wages and working conditions in an extremely difficult business.

Part of what impressed the board about me was the way I reacted when WTAE decertified. One of the leaders of the decertification was a reporter who was covering a big union meeting for the Pittsburgh police. I called him out about what he did right in front of the Federation of Police leaders. I won't mention his name because he’s a friend and he later had a change of heart and became a big supporter of SAG-AFTRA. But my actions got some attention.

That was a long time ago. I’ve grown as president and we’ve certainly grown as the Ohio-Pittsburgh Local of SAG-AFTRA. I have a lot of mixed emotions about stepping down. I still believe in it very much and I still love it, but it is time for a new generation to step into my shoes and grow like I have. And I’ll still be around to guide our next president. I’m not ready to retire from the business. And I still want to be active in the local.

I have been blessed to serve you. Blessed to sit at negotiating tables and stand up for members. Blessed to help members who faced layoffs, unfair treatment, family strife and personal pain. Blessed to represent us at the Labor Day parades. Honored to chair many, many meetings and share fellowship with many of you. And humbled to have the responsibility of searching for executive directors (we are in great hands with current exec, Brian Lysell).

But the time has come. While I won’t say farewell, I will say thank you for the privilege of representing you and serving you.

In solidarity,  

Paul Martino