Daily newspapers a critical part of democracy

January 15th, 2014

Kamloops has become the largest Canadian city without a daily newspaper. This is not simply a piece of information, but a profound and disturbing development that could threaten the very foundation of democracy.

Glacier Media closed the 85-year-old Kamloops Daily News (Saturday was the last edition) because of declining revenue. While everyone understands this is bad news for the 45 Unifor members who worked at the paper, it may be less obvious that the closure negatively affects the entire community of 85,000 in the B.C. Interior.

From the Chamber of Commerce to the Western Hockey League Kamloops Blazers to local politicians, the 37th largest city in Canada has lost a critical forum for discussing what is happening to whom, when, why and where.

While the city will still have the Kamloops This Week  (produced three times per week, also by Unifor members) daily newspapers have been the main source of newsgathering in Canada for over a century. They employed more journalists than any other media and still do. Even today more stories are uncovered by those who work at daily newspapers than radio, television or the thousands of websites.  A large proportion of the news necessary for the proper functioning of democracy is first reported by daily newspaper reporters who are trained and paid to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” (or at least should be at quality news organizations).

So, when newspapers disappear it destroys part of the essential fabric of the communities they once covered.  When a city the size of Kamloops loses its daily newspaper the loss tears at the fabric of the whole country.

We can hope that the Daily News closure is just a one-off local calamity, that it does not represent a trend, but unfortunately there has recently been too much bad news from the Canadian newspaper industry. At least three free dailies disappeared in 2013; other dailies became weeklies and many weeklies ceased publication; almost every daily newspaper newsroom across the country is smaller today than at the start of 2013.

The industry has been struggling to keep its financial footing in the face of high debt levels and advertising shifting away from newspapers. To cope, publishers have cut costs, which too often has meant disappearing jobs.

What has remained constant, and even growing, is the pubic interest in the news reported by newspapers. According to the organization that audits readership, NADbank, eight in ten Canadians read a newspaper at least once per week. The problem is not a lack of interest, but rather the changing technology and the resulting breakdown of the historical financial model that supported newsgathering. Over the past 20 years changing technology has been both a huge cost saver and a source of financial problems for newspapers. More readers are reading newspapers on computer screens, tablets or cellphones but publishers have not yet been able to make enough money from those digital readers to make up for the loss of print revenue.

While Unifor, which represents more journalists and newspaper workers than any other union in Canada, is very concerned about the loss of our members’ jobs, we are also worried about the damage done to our communities and the very foundation of democracy. If we lack information about what governments, corporations, political parties and other institutions are doing, how can citizens make informed choices about how to vote? While we may not always like how newspapers report (or don’t) our activities, we understand the critical role they have played and must continue to play.

We need newspapers and especially the newsgathering capacity that they have embodied.

While most of us aren’t directly affected by the closure of the Daily News in Kamloops, all of us should be concerned, because if it can happen there it can happen elsewhere.

Hopefully we realize what we have before it’s gone.

Posted in Blog |

Why unions need to join the climate fight: Naomi Klein

September 4th, 2013

This speech was delivered on September 1, 2013 at the founding convention of Unifor, a new mega union created by the Canadian Autoworkers and the Canadian Energy and Paper Workers Union.
I’m so very happy and honoured to be able to share this historic day with you. The energy in this room — and the hope the founding of this new union has inspired across the country — is contagious.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Unity slate for Unifor named

August 13th, 2013

With the Unifor Founding Convention only weeks away, the CAW and CEP have created a Unity Team that is being proposed to lead the new Canadian union.

CAW President Ken Lewenza announced on Thursday that he will not be seeking the nomination for president at a press conference in Toronto. Lewenza will be staying on as CAW National President until the Unifor Founding Convention.  In a heartfelt address, Lewenza said that achieving the goals and ambitions of Unifor is a long-term effort and requires a new generation of leadership to carry it through.

He spoke candidly about how through his membership and involvement in the union, he was able improve his standard of living and that of his family.

“I went from earning a minimum wage to a middle class wage when I got a job at Chrysler,” said Lewenza.  “For my family, that meant we could consider buying our own house, buying a car, having independence. For too many families then, and now, that’s still only a dream. And that’s unfair.”

Similarly, CEP President Dave Coles will also be retiring with the formation of Unifor, but staying on as CEP National President until then.

“I have full confidence in the ‘dream team’ of leadership candidates being put forward to lead Unifor, and revitalize the Canadian labour movement,” said Coles.

Both leaders endorsed CAW Assistant to the President Jerry Dias as the nominee for President of Unifor. Dias is joined by a team of 24 other trade unionists, all of whom will be nominated to fill each of the 25 positions on the new union’s National Executive Board.  This includes the three top officers of the union: President, Secretary-Treasurer, and the Quebec Director. This is the only time that the complete National Executive Board will be presented at a Unifor Convention as a slate.

“CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy, who co-chaired the New Union Project and has served as CAW National Secretary-Treasurer since 2009, has our continuing and unwavering support,” Lewenza said. Kennedy will be the Unity Team’s candidate for the position of Unifor Secretary-Treasurer.

Michel Ouimet, current CEP Executive Vice President for Quebec, is the Unity Team’s nominee for Quebec Director of Unifor.  CAW Quebec Director Sylvain Martin will continue on as Michel’s assistant. CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaétan Ménard will assume the role of an additional senior position called Transition Officer, who will oversee the transition and integration of two unions into Unifor.

Also nominated as part of the Unity Team is CAW Health Care Director Katha Fortier, in the role of Ontario Director, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne as Atlantic Director, and CEP National Representative Scott Doherty as Western Director.

There will also be Quebec and Regional Council Chairpersons :

Quebec – Marcel Rondeau (CAW)
Atlantic – Penny Fawcett (CEP)
Ontario – Dino Chiodo (CAW)
Prairie – Christy Best (CEP)
B.C. – Andrea MacBride (CEP)

Industry Council Representatives (11):

Energy – Angela Adams (CEP)
Resources – Earle McCurdy (CAW)
Services – Cheryl Robinson (CAW)
Media – Randy Kitt (CEP)
Health Care – Nancy McMurphy (CAW)
Retail – Christine Connor (CAW)
Forestry – Jean-Pierre Lafond (CEP)
Communications – Marc Rousseau (CEP)
Manufacturing – Roland Kiehne (CAW)
Auto – Gary Beck (CAW)
Transportation – Heather Grant (CAW)

Three other designated NEB positions:
Skilled Trades – Dave Cassidy (CAW)
Retired Workers – Len Harrison (CAW)
Racialized and Indigenous Workers – Ruth Pryce (CAW)

For more information on the Unifor Founding Convention, please visit: http://www.newunionconvention.ca/

Posted in Blog |

It’s time to expand the Canada Pension Plan

June 3rd, 2013

It’s been a long wait to see meaningful action on giving the Canada Pension Plan a bigger role in our overall pension system. Some of us have been around long enough to remember the heady days of 1981 when a high-profile National Pension Conference was held and raised some hope that meaningful reform was not far away. But here we are in 2013, and basically no progress has been made over more than three decades. In fact, there has been some erosion of Canada Pension Plan provisions — for example, the penalty for taking an early CPP has been increased.

Posted in Blog |

Every vote matters

May 9th, 2013

Did you know that B.C.’s 2009 provincial election was decided by 3,500 votes? And that winners in 11 ridings were decided by about 500 votes or less?

Your vote counts and is important.

Go to the polls on Tuesday, May 14. Polls will be open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Or advance polls are open in every riding through Saturday May 11.



Posted in Blog |

Member-to-member surveys due

April 15th, 2013

The member-to-member survey forms that have been distributed must be returned to the union office by May 1. They can be mailed, faxed, scanned or brought in in person.

Thanks to all who filled out the forms.

Posted in Blog |

New Union Project update

February 1st, 2013

The project to form a new Canadian union (building on the existing strengths of the CAW and the CEP) is off to a very busy start this New Year.

After all, the clock is ticking: The new union’s founding convention will be held August 30 to September 1 in Toronto – just in time for members to march under their new banner in the 2013 Labour Day parades that will occur across Canada.

But before delegates arrive at the convention (to approve the union’s constitution and plan of action, and elect its first leaders), a tremendous amount of work must be completed. To this end, leaders of the CAW and CEP have established six specialized Working Groups, to talk through the details of forming a new union, and develop recommendations on many of the specific issues.

Posted in Blog |

New union logo and name survey

January 31st, 2013

The Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) are working towards creating a new union, including developing a new name and logo.

Please take a moment to let us know your opinions and ideas and participate in the first part of this exciting process. This questionnaire is brought to you by the new union communications working group.

Ideas, concepts and suggestions generated from this questionnaire will be considered along with ideas and information gathered from communications and design experts, focus groups and other sources in order to finalize a new name and logo.

Posted in Blog |

CLC president blasts Harper for hypocrisy, lies on Bill C-377

December 19th, 2012

The President of the Canadian Labour Congress has sent a strongly-worded letter to the Prime Minister regarding legislation that will harass unions, invade the personal privacy of Canadians and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

“I write to you to express my disgust with the recent conduct of the government regarding Bill C-377,” Georgetti says in his letter to Stephen Harper.

Bill C-377, a Private Member’s Bill brought forward by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, passed the House of Commons on December 12. It will now move to the Senate. The bill would force every labour organization in Canada to file detailed financial information annually on their spending, including what they pay out to private contractors for janitorial services and snow removal. The information would be posted publicly on a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

The Canadian Bar Association says that Bill C-377 invades personal privacy, is likely unconstitutional and should be withdrawn. Canada’s federal Privacy Commissioner also expressed deep concern.

Georgetti says Bill C-377 was a Private Member’s Bill in name but in reality it was orchestrated by senior staff in the Prime Minister’s office. “To present this bill as serving a demonstrable need or policy objective lacks any credibility,” Georgetti says in his letter. “The premise of your government’s Bill C-377 is that tax deductibility creates a public interest, however, an amendment to include business organizations, whose members enjoy the same tax treatment as our members do, was voted down by all Conservative members. This confirms to us and any objective observers that this bill is nothing more than an attack on the four million hard-working Canadian union members.”

Georgetti accuses proponents of the bill of lying to Canadians in saying the cost to the CRA of monitoring compliance with the legislation would be negligible. “It is hypocritical in the extreme,” he says in his letter, “to proclaim fiscal conservatism and lean government, cutting front line public services like marine safety on both coasts for example, while committing tens of millions of dollars to create a wasteful bureaucracy that will serve no purpose other than to reward the Conservative Party’s political friends and punish groups that challenge your government’s policies.”

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca Follow the CLC on Twitter @CanadianLabour

Posted in Blog |

Harper launches war on unions

December 13th, 2012

Stephen Harper’s class war against Canadian unions came out into the open Wednesday when the PM led the Conservative majority to pass the anti-labour bill C-377. Every one of the 147 votes for the law that singles out union finances for discriminatory treatment by the government was cast by a Conservative. Every opposition MP and five Conservative backbenchers mustered 135 votes against.

Posted in Blog |

  • Categories

  • Black Press
  • Canwest
  • General
  • Glacier