Monday, October 12, 2015

Lost an old friend this weekend

Terry Agal was my boss for eight of my 14 years at Hart & Cooley. He lost his life Saturday (October 10) in an auto accident on I-80 near Iowa City. I know little of the details, so I will leave it at that. But I do have to acknowledge our association and friendship.

I followed Terry in several jobs during the first six years I was with the Company. When he was named V.P. of Human Resources he became my boss. We worked closely as a team even though there were rough patches along the way. He traveled quite a bit negotiating contracts around the country, so it fell on me to be the sounding board in Holland. I learned from him.

One example was the strike in 1990. Terry was chief negotiator while my job was to be sure contract language was clarified at the table because at the time I was the one who had to "administer" the new agreement. There were two accountant and an operations person... on the Company team.

When we got into the strike situation a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was assigned to our situation. The mediator was a big man whose background came from years as a negotiator for a union...he was tough in a smooth sort of way.

His advice to Terry was to be tougher. His point was that it had to appear that the Union was working hard to get every last penny out of the Company so the membership did not feel like the strike was for nothing. "Get mad. Swear at them, or something. Make your point stick," he advised.

Well, Terry was a gentleman and mild mannered. He didn't ever swear, that I heard anyway. So at the next bargaining session Terry took the FMCS gentleman's advice and said something like: "Look, guys, this is all the budget  will allow....damn it." Whoa...Terry swore. While it sounded fake-like to those of us who knew him, it was out of character for him and got their attention....I guess.

The Union rep sitting next to me (we were in a U-shape arrangement not strictly across the table) was a tough kid...sincere, but a big, tough young man. He pushed his chair back and caught my eye and mumbled just barely audible to me, "Wow, Terry swore. He must mean it." The gambit worked, or maybe the mediator had prepped the Union that Terry was going to make this gesture for them to know he was out of monetary authority.

But that was Terry. I am sure in future negotiations in Memphis, Sanger, Huntsville and elsewhere, where there was a strong union, he did better at revealing his stern side.

Terry was a Christian in several senses of the word. I will not get into theology here, but he not only followed Christ...he had a testimony to go with it. And he lived it.

I've lost touch with him since we moved to Oregon and have not seen him in years, but true to form the last time we had lunch he made it a point to thank me for helping him along the way, when really, it was the other way around. I have good thoughts about those days 20-25 years ago...peace be with you Mr. Agal.

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