Lee Carey - Guest Post
Life With Russ -- a brief moment (12 years) with Russ Newton.
My first introduction to Russ was at the Orange County CA LA Times printing plant -- I was a 30-year press operator at the time. Russ was part of a meeting on the consequences of voting for union representation vs. company representation.
I knew nothing about Russ before the meeting. In the meeting Russ spoke of what he (management) would need to do if the pressroom decided to opt for union representation. My first impression of Russ was that he was very direct, spoke well and was confident to the point of being almost arrogant. I was able to speak with Russ after the meeting on a few issues and left with the feeling that this guy seemed a lot like me.
The next “chapter” of Russ/Lee takes place at the Olympic Plant in “beautiful" downtown East LA where I was now working due to the Orange County plant being closed. Russ had become VP of Operations, and the pressroom (not me) had voted for union representation. So Russ and I had a common goal: to convince my fellow pressmen that they would be better off without the union. This proved to be difficult due to the plant closures and consolidation.
This is the moment I started to really know Russ Newton as a good friend. His office was at the entrance to the Olympic Plant and Russ had an “open door” policy. I would stop in a few times a week and speak with Russ on pressroom issues – I learned more about him as a person, and not just my boss.
Russ is a people person – it’s easy for him to engage in conversation on many levels – he has a curious mind and genuinely enjoys people. He is never condescending, brutally honest, and respects different points of view. We talked almost every day on a variety of issues – politics, family, religion, life, death – everything was open for discussion. I likened our conversations to verbal/intellectual jousting. Russ would ask me questions like “would I rather die a quick death (heart attack), or a longer drawn out death (cancer)”? That’s what I like about the guy – he just puts it out there! I enjoy Russ’s stories -- he is a great storyteller – he’s a talker – he has a true gift! So I can only imagine the frustration and irony of not being able to speak. I’m grateful that we are still able to communicate through texting, and the blog is incredible, but Russ is like a Buffet concert – he’s better live!
Russ used to regularly walk the plant to keep in touch with “plant life” on the floor and look for people to engage in conversation – his availability, openness and fairness made him respected and well liked by most. It was like he was on stage at times, with a group of people surrounding him -- he was in his element. When challenged or confronted with questions he would remain calm and composed. Everyone understood Russ’s direct honesty – if he said he was going to do something you could expect him to do it.
Many days Russ could be found walking the perimeter of the fenced property of the plant – he chose to walk outside the guard-gated property rather than inside. I think he took a walking stick for protection? He would pick up change, pay the local homeless campers to keep our sidewalks around the plant clean and strike up conversations with a few of the individuals who were “camped” on the sidewalks – I think he was actually chased or threatened by one of the less stable, more aggressive “campers.” He gave money to some and asked about their circumstances. Who does this? Russ….
Russ was confident, not arrogant, back on that first day I had met him. I’ve seen him be quick to celebrate other people’s successes and own his mistakes – he’s a good human and a good friend. I appreciate our friendship and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously (as evidenced by his choice of shirts – I think he has them made out of tablecloths).
It’s said: The measure of a man’s life is the well spending of it, and not the length.
Look forward to seeing you buddy!