My most enduring memory of Russ Cain has nothing to do with his amazing efforts to bring so many Newspaper Guild locals (and their international union) into the digital age. For sure, he was a constant presence at the Guild’s headquarters in Washington and at locals throughout North America as he designed and maintained their computer systems so they could better serve members.
My enduring memory of Russ doesn’t directly relate to the decades of Guild service he rendered as an organizer, local president, international vice president or Western District Council leader. He knew more about organizing and collective bargaining than most of the Guild’s officers (including this one) and staff who sat with him at conference and bargaining tables for decades.
I admired and was inspired by Russ’s Guild work, his commitment to justice for news industry workers and his self-taught expertise. I was fortunate to spend countless hours with him over the years — at meetings, in front of computer screens, on airplanes, on picket lines, at dinners and even in a few bars.
My most enduring memory of Russ involves the one and only time he gave me a ride in that vintage little sports car of his. He had driven it from California and left it at Sea-Tac Airport while he tackled one of his many multi-stop cross-country trips to assist locals. I flew to Seattle from D.C. with him at the end of a long Executive Council meeting. I was meeting other Guild leaders there before a Western District Council meeting in Yakima. Russ offered to give me a ride to my hotel, which was in the Seattle suburbs.
It was raining, of course, and dark. I’ll never forget the image of bow-tied Russ Cain in his signature tweed sports coat hunched over the steering wheel of that little old car, weaving in and out of freeway traffic, all the while explaining the origin of the names of towns on the exit signs. (He was a Washington state native.). After we finally found the exit for my hotel, I realized I didn’t have an address. So Russ, cheerfully and as chipper as when we left Washington, D.C. more than 10 hours earlier, drove down every street in the vicinity until we found the hotel I had booked.
I thanked him profusely. “You’re welcome,” he said in his characteristically clipped way of speaking. “See you tomorrow in Yakima.” Then he wheeled off in that little car heading over the mountains to Eastern Washington as I headed to bed.
That was Russ. Pitching in, helping out, getting you to your destination and then heading out on another journey as you rested easy. I hope Russ is resting easy now.
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Linda Foley was president of the Newspaper Guild and vice-president of the Communications Workers of America from 1995 through 2008.She was a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky before turning to full-time work at the Guild in 1984. Foley is now president of the Berger-Marks Foundation.