Voice la­bor leader Wal­lace dies at 83

The Citizens' Voice - - News - By Paul Go­lias Cor­re­spon­dent WAL­LACE,

Jack Wal­lace , who un­abashedly pro­claimed that his life was cen­tered on God, fam­ily and his union, in that or­der, died Thurs­day fol­low­ing a long ill­ness. Some­times, it seemed like the union was in the lead po­si­tion.

Wal­lace was the long-time pres­i­dent of the Wilkes-Barre News­pa­per Guild, a union that rep­re­sents re­porters and other news­pa­per work­ers. As a re­porter over almost four decades, Wal­lace cov­ered a Wy­oming Val­ley land­scape in which he played a ma­jor role as a no­holds-barred la­bor leader.

Born John Wal­lace, he was “Jack’’ to ev­ery­one. Death came Thurs­day morn­ing at Er­win Hospice of St. Luke’s Villa, Wilkes-Barre. He was 83.

Wal­lace was com­mit­ted to the union move­ment and he be­lieved that col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing was the way to im­prove the lives of work­ing peo­ple. He was a tough ne­go­tia­tor. Com­pro­mise of­ten meant stand­ing firm un­til man­age­ment gave in.

Over his ten­ure as Wilkes-Barre Guild leader, Wal­lace led three strikes, two against the for­mer Sun­day In­de­pen­dent in the early ’70s and another against the Wilkes-Barre Pub­lish­ing Co. in 1973, a post-Agnes Flood walk­out that pre­saged the 1978 strike against the company’s new owner, Cap­i­tal Ci­ties Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Inc. Guild field rep­re­sen­ta­tives led that strike but Wal­lace was a key mem­ber of the eight-man Wilkes-Barre Coun­cil of News­pa­per Unions that man­aged the strike.

“He did what he thought was the best for the work­ing peo­ple, the mem­bers of his union,” said Carl Sch­wab, Plains, a long-time trea­surer and ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber of The Guild. “Jack lived and breathed the News­pa­per Guild. It was al­ways ‘the Guild, the Guild, the Guild.’”

Fred Ney, Guild unit chair­man at the for­mer Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, said Wal­lace was “a de­voted jour­nal­ist who was a firm ad­vo­cate for news­pa­per work­ers. He im­proved the lives of many peo­ple.”

Bill DeRe­mer, Guild vice pres­i­dent dur­ing Wal­lace’s ten­ure, said Wal­lace “was strictly business when it came to union af­fairs.” He cited Wal­lace’s role as a men­tor to younger union lead­ers.

Wal­lace was an an­nual del­e­gate to Guild con­ven­tions where he main­tained a high pro­file. He al­ways served on con­ven­tion com­mit­tees that had the tough­est tasks, and he rel­ished the floor fights.

Sch­wab and Wal­lace also had a re­la­tion­ship in the for­mer St. Therese’s Lit­tle League in South Wilkes-Barre, the for­mer as a coach and the lat­ter as an um­pire.

“Even though he had no sons, Jack served sev­eral decades as an um­pire and board mem­ber. He was very de­voted,” Sch­wab said.

Wal­lace lost his wife, Mar­garet, to can­cer in May 1969, and he never re­mar­ried. Co­work­ers be­lieved that he had made that pledge to Marge as she suf­fered a pro­longed and painful ill­ness.

He was a mem­ber of St. Therese’s Church, where he served as an usher. On the church’s clos­ing, he be­came a mem­ber of Our Lady of Fa­tima Parish at St. Mary’s Church of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion, from which he will be buried.

Wal­lace was a Korean War-era Army veteran. He be­gan work­ing in the news­pa­per in­dus­try fol­low­ing that stint. He quickly be­came in­volved in the Guild Lo­cal 120.

Dur­ing his re­por­to­rial ca­reer, he cov­ered the po­lice beat for The Times-Leader, The Evening News. In the early ’70s, he was as­signed to the court­house beat and re­mained there un­til his re­tire­ment, re­port­ing first for The Times-Leader, Evening News-Record all-day pa­per cre­ated fol­low­ing the Agnes Flood, and then for The Cit­i­zens’ Voice after the his­toric news­pa­per strike be­gan on Oct. 6, 1978.

While on the court­house beat, Wal­lace cov­ered many changes of ad­min­is­tra­tion in the pre-Home Rule days. He did ex­ten­sive cov­er­age of the George Banks trial. His in­depth sto­ries fill binders in The Cit­i­zens’ Voice li­brary, telling the story of the Wilkes-Barre man who killed 13 peo­ple on a cool Oc­to­ber night in 1982. Wal­lace also cov­ered the trial of Dr. Glen Wolsi­ef­fer, the Wilkes-Barre den­tist who mur­dered his wife.

In a supreme irony, Wal­lace led the Guild ne­go­ti­at­ing team that bar­gained the first con­tract for Cit­i­zens’ Voice em­ploy­ees when the 1978 strik­ers cre­ated a for-profit company, The Cit­i­zens’ Voice, Inc., in 1989. In ef­fect, Wal­lace was bar­gain­ing against him­self as he was one of the share­hold­ers in CVI. He didn’t blink as he again took on “man­age­ment,” one of The News­pa­per Guild’s field rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

His obituary ap­pears to­day on page 32.



Jack Wal­lace, left, is con­grat­u­lated after he was named to the South Wilkes-Barre Lit­tle League ‘Ring of Fame’ in 2011.

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