A particularly poignant farewell took 66 days to play itself out.
On Nov. 15, 1991, Dan Carmichael, shortly after fighting his battle against the pay cut, wrote his colleagues his “unipresser” goodbye.
After 21 years at UPI, I am leaving at the end of this shift. I will become a spokesman for the Communications Workers of America, a progressive labor union with some 600,000 members.
I recall the days when I was a rookie 17-year-old newsman in the Honolulu bureau — now long-shuttered — writing TTS and radio wire copy on an old typewriter and then punching it onto a loop of yellow teletype transmission tape. I worked the 4p-midnight shift, going to school full-time during the day.
I had great UPI teachers along the way: in Honolulu, Dallas, New York and Washington. I have particularly fond memories of Robert C. Miller, a legendary UPI war correspondent who retired many years ago. He was the Honolulu bureau manager between wars and junkets to Southeast Asia.
I regret leaving, but it was made inevitable by the slow, deliberate destruction of this company by a series of selfish, incompetent senior managers whose actions border on, and may enter, the threshold of criminality.
Many of you may recall my decade-long service as secretary-treasurer of the Guild. I resigned on May 9, 1988, along with the entire rank-and-file negotiating team, when it became apparent that the union simply was not prepared to do what was necessary to prevail over the worst UPI management in a long line of increasingly inept corporate entities.
I have many fond memories of the Guild. But I believe its leadership has made a series of colossal mistakes and strategic miscalculations during the past several years that have quickened this company’s destruction and the departure of so many fine employees.
I was looking at the diary I kept in 1988 and one entry was particularly vivid. It was written on Feb. 22, 1988, hours after the first meeting between the Guild leadership and the InfoTech-installed group of minions.
I attended and afterwards wrote in my journal: “I smelled the new crowd as union-busters 10 minutes into the meeting.”
I warned my fellow Guild leaders, and any employee who would listen, that this was a group of corporate scavengers who would milk UPI’s assets and leave little more than the shell of a once-proud name. It was a scam from the beginning.
I now leave with my head held high. I’ve told people the truth and possess an enviable record of accuracy in predicting the various management moves that lay ahead.
I wish all of you the best.
If you are ever again faced with the prospect of more concessions — and you will be — I ask you to remember the following, which I wrote on the message wire on November 9, 1990, while campaigning against the first Pieter Van Bennekom pay cuts.
It might not hurt to post it on your tubes (computers):
“I suggest that a vote for this pay cut is a new march down a never-ending trail — that is, concessions inevitably beget more concessions and it will never end until there is nothing left in salaries or benefits.”
On Dec. 23, 1991, I filed the following message
Just talked to Dan Carmichael. He had Anne Saker by his side and the two of them filled me in. First, Dan is extremely weak, suffering a form of pneumonia in the intensive care unit of Jefferson Hospital in Alexandria, Va. His doctor immediately ordered him to go to the hospital where he has been since Tuesday. He said he is “showing slight improvement, but by no means am I out of the woods.” But he said today is “most definitely” his best day since the onset of his illness. He would very much like to get cards, but please no calls. I can attest to his weakness.
The news of Dan’s illness spread quickly from bureau to bureau throughout the world, such is the alacrity of electronic messaging – long before the popularity of Internet and instant messaging.
helluva Christmas present, Dan. Hope you can slap it down soon. 73
carr-ntl (Washington, national)
get better soon Dan and take care of yourself. Chrs-burns-tr (Trenton)
Dan, morrisey tells me ur fightin’ like mad. Don’t give up. My prayers and wishes are with you. Peace and love for you this challenging Christmas. 73. bill reilly (New York, UN)
Dan, wanted u to know eye’ve thot of u over the years since union meeting in Philadelphia et ur visit to hx (Chicago), et eye’m thinking of u now. Get better! Kate (formerly Ferguson, Gibson) griffin
sincere hopes for a speedy recovery, Dan. The world needs more good minds et sunny dispositions like yours. We’ve gotta go on battling negative folks like the onetime Dallas exec with the super loud voice et the severe anti-Dan attitude. Cheers et get well soz the ryans can have another party for you.
Carmichael (u) what, our favorite firebrand in the hospital? C’mon, no self-respecting red-haired Irishman can duck Christmas with a little pneumonia, geez. On the sincere side, get thyself well. Slay a few dragons…that otta perk u right up. Rgds. Walsh-waforn (Washington foreign desk)
Get well soon, Dan. The holidays just aren’t the same without u outpointing the imposters in red suits stealing presents from our stockings (et money from our paychecks). Eye understand Dick Thornburgh will be sending u a dozen wilted roses. Chrs. Snyder-hc (Los Angeles)
Dan—we are pulling for you to get well real soon. You can do it. We know you are a fighter and the best is yet to be for good journalists like you. Thomas-whu (Helen Thomas, White House)
I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick, Dan. I hope you get to feeling better real soon. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers. Btw, I’m leaving UPI at the end of this week to join a trade magazine. I’ll never forget the “glory days” of the super metro desk. Please take care of yourself, and best wishes for the holidays. Cheers. Craig-wab
Dan: a hospital is NO place to be on Christmas Eve and NO place for a battler like you. I know you can—and are—fighting to get well. We’re counting on it. I expect to be hearing Dan stories again soon. Happy holidays. Chrs. Geimann.
Please tell Dan that all of us here in Detroit are thinking of him. Thnx. Mead-du
Hey Dan, pls get well quick. The hospital is no place to be during these holidays. There’s no chimney for Santa to climb down to bring you presents, or does he use elevators in wa. Rgds from bh’s (Boston’s) Haskell, cafarell, reed, klinger, radsen, and soon-to-return ross
Carmichael, sorry you’ll be in the hospital during the holidays, but I hope at least the nurses who are treating you are better looking than that fat guy dressed in red who comes by. Get well soon. Chrs. Sielicki-tl (Tallahassee)
Just before Christmas, I visited Dan at the hospital. Former Unipresser Anne Saker was by his side as she had been through most of his illness.
Dan was propped up in his bed in a private room. He had a large mask that almost covered his face through which he was fed oxygen. His voice was thin as it came through the mask. But his spirits were high. I met his parents, Margaret and Ned Carmichael. They too were trying to put a brave face on Dan’s condition.
Dan had a book beside his bed. He asked me to sign it and write something in it that reflected my memories of him as a person and a Unipresser.
I don’t remember exactly what I wrote. I was caught by surprise and I vacillated between being straight and serious or to try to be light and humorous. I think I did a little of both.
I remembered how he could go into the field to cover breaking news and dictate a flawless lead to an ongoing story, even telling me where to pick up into the old story.
I also remember his claxon horn alert when management came into the newsroom: “AWHOOGA AWHOOGA AWHOOGA, Suits Alert! Suits Alert!”
Dan told me he wanted his parents to have memories of him from his colleagues.
When I was leaving, he asked for my hand and, as I stood beside his bed and tried to look beyond the large plastic mask covering his face, he said, “I love you.”
On Dec. 30, 1991, I sent the following
Just talked with Dan Carmichael, who has been moved from the intensive care unit where he had been since last Tuesday battling pneumonia. Dan told me: “I am doing a hell of a lot better. I’m going to make it and I’m really kind of delighted.”
Dan then asked that I relay to all the following message:
I have been profoundly moved and energized by the phone calls and messages and cards that I have received from all around the world during my recent hospitalization. I’m a very fortunate man to have so many friends at UPI who remember me and care about me. I’m also lucky to be alive and for that I’m also extraordinarily grateful. When I first checked into the hospital, I was told by the top three infectious disease experts that I would be lucky to live 72 hours. Since then they have come in with smiles on their faces each day, marveling at my progress and telling me that it’s been a long time since they’ve seen such a fighter. I have a long, tough period of recuperation ahead. I remain very weak. But I shrink not one iota from this, the biggest battle of my life.
The love and respect that current and former Unipressers have expressed to me has gone a long way toward pulling me through. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I still would like to hear from you, particularly in writing because I must limit my visits in order to conserve my energy. Best of luck to all of you and I would appreciate your prayers.
On Jan. 9, 1992:
Dan Carmichael is back in intensive care in Jefferson hospital. I called this ayem but a nurse, after talking with Dan, said he asked her to tell me that he was too tired to talk to me, but that he is improving but still very weak. Keep those cards and letters flowing.
Jan. 14, 1992
The latest on Dan Carmichael: talked with former wa unipresser anne saker this ayem who said she called couple days ago. She was told that his oxygen intake has been increased and doctors are discouraging calls and visits to allow Dan to conserve energy. But please keep those cards and letters coming. He really appreciates them and they lift his spirits.
Jan. 17, 1992
Just called the hospital and the news about Dan Carmichael is not good. The nurse at the intensive care unit said he is “stable but very critical. He is not doing real well at the moment.” She said Dan is “sort of hanging in there,” but he has not made a turn-around. He is experiencing “lots of respiratory distress” and is fighting his oxygen mask, which he has worn since he entered the hospital before Christmas. “it may be a matter of time before he just wants to be comfortable,” she said.
Jan. 19, 1992, 1:18 p.m.
Sad to report that long-time staffer Dan Carmichael died today with pneumonia at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Va. We will advise later time of funeral arrangements.
Dan Carmichael, journalist and union activist, dies
WASHINGTON (UPI) – Dan Carmichael, a veteran United Press International reporter based in Washington and a long-time union activist, died Sunday after a brief illness. He was 38.
Carmichael died of AIDS-related pneumonia at Jefferson Hospital in Alexandria, Va.
He served for a decade as a national officer of the Wire Service Guild, representing employees of The Associated Press and United Press International.
Carmichael’s last assignment at UPI, which he left in November, was covering the Justice Department. He joined UPI in Honolulu in 1971 and worked at the news service’s Dallas and New York bureaus before transferring in 1983 to Washington, where he also covered the Labor Department.
“He was incredibly diligent and hard working, always trying to dig out the truth. He used those same qualities in fighting his disease right up until he died,” said David Wiessler, former Washington bureau chief at UPI.
Carmichael was secretary-treasurer of the Wire Service Guild for eight years and helped negotiate three national contracts for members at UPI, among them a 1983 pact that included “agency shop” language requiring all union-covered employees to pay dues, a long-sought measure virtually unheard of in the news industry.
When UPI declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1985, Carmichael had a key role in protecting the interests of UPI employees in federal court, and he was instrumental in the sale of the company to Mexican publisher Mario Vasquez Rana, who spent millions propping up the international news agency.
“The Guild’s efforts were headed by a team. Carmichael was a starter and a finisher. He played offense and defense. He used the written word to gouge the company players and frustrate what appeared to be ‘Hail Mary’ efforts to turn around the company on the wallets of the employees,” said Bill Morrissey, WSG president during the bankruptcy.
“Dan was proud of his role and once described himself as ‘the son of a bitch hitman’ for a reporters’ union,” Morrissey said.
Born Sept. 24, 1953, in Melbourne, Australia, Carmichael spent his childhood in Alice Springs, Northern Territories. The family moved to Hawaii in 1963 and Carmichael, a U.S. citizen, attended the University of Hawaii, receiving his bachelor of arts degree in American studies in 1975.
He began his journalism career while in high school. One of his first major stories for UPI was the private burial of aviator Charles Lindbergh in 1974. After moving to UPI’s Dallas bureau, Carmichael became involved in the legal battle over the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
Carmichael, accompanied by Oswald’s wife Marina, was the only reporter present when the grave was opened in 1981.
He also covered the demise of Braniff airline and investigated the role American Airlines had in its competitor’s collapse.