When employers seek to divide and conquer, our only defense is solidarity
It was a bad week for media workers. Halifax-based newspaper The Chronicle Herald is getting scab-ready for a bargaining round in which they are hoping to lower wages, increase work hours, and layoff over a quarter of their sixty staff. The Toronto Star announced the closure of a Vaughan printing plant, meaning that 220 full-time and 60 part-time workers will lose their jobs. The industry is shifting, and workers are left wondering what tools they have to resist short-sighted profit-obsessed employers and present a vision of the future where integrity, sustainability, and quality journalism are at the heart of the industry.
This week, it was discovered that The Chronicle Herald reached-out to freelance workers as an attempt to replace locked-out staff. Freelancers are often young, fresh out of school journalists who are eager for experience and contacts in the hopes of eventually working their way into a career. Those are understandable goals, and they should be supported in their efforts, but undermining their comrades and allowing their services to be exploited by management would be misguided, and would only further erode opportunities for dependable, full-time employment.
There are no easy solutions to these problems since legacy economic models of publishing are no longer sustainable. Making matters worse, owners and managers of the Herald seem to think a crisis is a good opportunity to target their workers instead of finding a progressive solution that can provide an example for the industry.
Solidarity amongst workers is the moral basis of a peaceful society and democracy. It is also the glue that allows workers to resist being exploited under capitalism. Fortunately, media workers have an opportunity to equip themselves with the power and voice of a union. Despite the ongoing crisis at the Chronicle Herald, the media industry is likely to see new, unconventional organizing activity. For instance, the Huffington Post writers in the United States are the latest group of media workers to unionize.
In Canada, freelancers have been organizing under the Canadian Freelance Union. Their new website features actions and events the union has been working on, most recently calling for freelancers to refuse work from The Chronicle Herald. Their call aims to reach-out specifically to those workers who have never come into contact with a union. It is one that seeks to educate young workers and contextualize the high cost of a single short-term scab contract when contrasted with the damage from eroding good jobs in the media over the long-term. It’s a direct attempt at building worker solidarity across generations and across the union/non-union divide. It puts meaning in the act of performing work and getting paid for it.
Through organizing, media workers can weather storms where jobs are lost and journalism is undermined and do it together. In the long-term, media workers can also work together to put forward a vision for the media sector that is sustainable and worker-friendly.
• [[http://www.canadianfreelanceunion.ca/why_freelancers_should_refuse_work_from_the_herald_during_a_lockout][6 reasons freelancers should refuse work from the Chronicle Herald during a lockout | Rebecca Rose]]
• [[http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/nora-loreto/2016/01/nobody-likes-scab-journalists-must-oppose-chronicle-herald-lockou][Nobody likes a scab: Journalists must oppose Chronicle Herald lockout
Taking Refuge in Nature
Citizens' Press contributors and Whatâ€™s Left editors continue their road trip through the United States. This past week, they spent a few nights in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the largest black water swamp in North America. Itâ€™s home to American alligators, black bears, vultures, turtles, and hundred of species of birds and plants. They outline some of the reasons itâ€™s so important to protect and maintain wildlife refuges, especially in the context of capitalist expansion and relentless resource extraction projects that seek to encroach on the few remaining preserved spaces.
First contract reached at Casino Rama
Roughly 1,700 workers at Casino Rama in Orillia have reached a tentative agreement with their employer. The deal is the result of a successful organizing drive that saw workers join Unifor in February 2015. The gaming sector in Ontario is mostly organized with only a few casinos and gaming facilities that remain non-union. Given the Ontario government’s attempt to privatize most of the sector, collective agreements are the best way for workers to be involved and have protections given ongoing changes.
Solidarity in the “new” economy
The labour dispute at the Halifax Chronicle Herald has again raised important questions of maintaining inter-generational solidarity. There are no easy solutions to the problems of the Herald as they are the result of economic models of publishing that are no longer sustainable (if they ever were). Unfortunately, the owners and managers of the Herald seem to think that this crisis is a good opportunity to target workers instead of finding a progressive solution that can work for the industry in the long-term.
Paying workers decently improves their experience at work, indeed
An article published this week in the Washington Post reports on the changes felt in San Francisco restaurants since worker-friendly laws imposed a decent minimum wage on workers. The result has been a de-casualization of the industry where workers are well-respected and employers have an incentive to train and retain their workforce. It is an interesting read that provides further argument for decent pay in service-sector jobs.
Book Review: Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate and The fight to save a public library
In this short but dense series of investigative pieces, journalist Scott Sherman reviews the latest round of attacks on the New York Public Library (NYPL), an institution well known in the city for its prized academic collections and as a community hub.
• [[https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/working-families-party/422949/][Working Families: The Pugnacious, Relentless Progressive Party That Wants to Remake America]]
• [[https://theintercept.com/2016/01/11/companies-scientists-and-activists-worldwide-call-on-global-leaders-to-protect-strong-encryption/][Companies, Scientists, and Activists Worldwide Call On Global Leaders to Protect Strong Encryption]]
• [[http://www.michaelgeist.ca/2016/01/why-mayors-john-tory-and-jim-watson-are-against-competition-for-access-to-affordable-fast-broadband/][Why Mayors John Tory and Jim Watson Are Against Competition for Access to Affordable Fast Broadband]]