The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

October 12, 2008

On Strike -- Yechhhh



For the past month or two, the end to our previous three-year contract has loomed ominously for all of us. The newspaper business is changing fast.

In the U.S., thousands of layoffs have occurred. It's been the same in Eastern Canada. Advertising is drying up. Conventional readership -- the Baby Boomer generation -- is dying off.

And with those things and other factors, even though my newspaper is still by far the leading one in our province, is a money-maker and hasn't been affected all that much, the owner is demanding big changes.

For an example of just how our business is changing, go here to see a video of me (the balding guy on the left) interviewing a football player and his minpin.

This video is on our website now. It's part of the changing landscape of what newspapers have to be. They have to have a presence on the Web. Our company wants us to accept concessions and layoffs.

It wants us to agree to new job classifications for many journalists, so that fewer of those journalists can perform more tasks for fewer benefits. Personally, I would not be much affected by these changes.

But many others would and will be. And a lot of it is inevitable. Press room employees will lose their jobs as much more efficient presses come on stream that require fewer people to operate them.

It's all about efficiencies, declining revenues and all kinds of other economic conditions I don't have to spell out for you.

I'm at the top of the food chain in union jobs, just below management. I already can do a lot of the jobs that our company wants to lump into one job classification, so my job will likely be safe. But I'm in my 50s.

Yikes, it sucks to be this old in this environment.

Anyway, the company has avoided true negotiations, of course, until the very last minute.

Our union issued a strike deadline of Oct. 13, which is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and the day before our federal election.

While negotiations continued, the deadline arrived. We're now on strike. I've dreaded this moment for the past month or so. The two sides continue to meet but the strike could not be averted.

Hopefully it's not as bad as the famous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

People died. They suffered, greatly. And if a strike lasts any length of time, so will I, financially. A strike fund of $200 a week doesn't pay all the bills, not even close.

But it is what it is.

I walked the picket lines six years ago when, if I recall, we were locked out before we could actually strike. We didn't get a lot out of that contract, it was more about staying the course, so neither side won.

We were out for nine days. I brought a football to the picket line and played catch with others all the time and tried to make it as much fun as I could. But it's a depressing thing.

I feel less like an employee of this newspaper and more like a member of a family. But business is business.

Personally, I'm more concerned with long-term job security at a decent wage with decent benefits. But others definitely feel differently, because their jobs and livelihoods are much more on the line.

I figure that I'm going to grow a strike beard. If I do, and if the strike goes ahead, I'll try to monitor its growth daily with pictures I'll put up on my blog.

Have to maintain SOME sense of silliness, after all. So instead of looking THIS kind of stupid...

Eventually I'll look like THIS kind of stupid, although I'll probably just do the little goatee thing and not the full Monty beard.

Who knows, maybe I'll end up looking like this woman after the strike?

What I know is that the building below is not going to be a place where I'm going to be able to go and work and kibitz with managers and fellow employees alike.

It's going to be a place I'll only be able to walk in front of, carrying a picket sign, withdrawing my services supposedly for the betterment of everyone from headline writers and photographers to circulation, advertising and mailroom employees.

And despite what our logo below and one of our advertising slogans maintains, I will not be there for our readers.

I won't be anywhere, except marching in front of the building outside as winter approaches.



  1. Best wishes for a good resolution. I hope that things work out for the better.

    I have to say I admire your courage and your willingness to take part in this strike. It means standing up for the important things, the right things. I never cross picket lines, and I refuse to work for companies that are going thru strikes.

    I'm hopeful the Thanksgiving spirit and the importance of the elections will give the union negotiating power. Stay warm and safe.

    I'm sure your strike will make the news, but I wonder who'll be covering it? Your paper or the competition?

    Just the same, have a safe and great Thanksgiving. I'll be keeping you and your picketers in my thoughts.

  2. Wow, you get two hundred a week? We only get one fifty a week. We've been on strike for 35 days, give or take. It's been horrific.

    Family of six living on that? Not possible.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  3. We've discussed the inevitability of this day for a few years.
    The Information Revolution and emerging Knowledge Economy will have as great of an effect on all of us as did the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

    Knowledge based goods and services can be developed, bought, sold, and delivered over the Internet and it's happening on a global scale. You're at ground zero buddy..the Newspaper. Once the gold standard of the Information Trade now it is quickly dissolving into a Dinosaur of cannot go toe to toe with the needs to specialize in Local News and Events and still remain a vital part of the electronic gathering machine...spitting out as it happens stories for a new world that is online 24/7.

    I hope that everyone on both sides knows what they're really up against. They have seen it happen to most of the other turn of the century businesses...
    nobody is immune from this Genie and it has left the bottle.

  4. Chris, just know that we are thinking of you and hoping that all ends well and quickly.

    big hugs, stay safe,


  5. Eroswings:

    Thanks, man. This newspaper is a closed shop, meaning if you want to work there in a union job, you have to sign a union card.

    I also pay union dues. I'm not active in the union but I appreciate having a union job because it DOES offer job security in the sense that I couldn't get canned for unjust cause.

    I COULD cross the line but I wouldn't.

    Our managers plan to continue publishing stories on our website. The newspaper, otherwise, will be shut down. All facets of the operation are union shops.

    The union is planning on putting out its own virtual newspaper during the strike. Not sure how that will work.


    Best of luck to you too...gawd, 35 days? Makes me cringe...

    I pay $1500.00 a year in dues, not sure how much you pay, but that might explain the strike pay...

    Horrific is right.

    All the best.


    I don't agree entirely with the dinosaur analogy. People who want little 30-second sound bytes from the TV news aren't going to buy a newspaper anyway.

    The fact is, newspapers with good websites are getting the same stuff up there that they usually get into their papers the next day, but it's got the background, context, analysis and depth that only newspapers have ever provided.

    And they're getting it on the Web much quicker. Newspapers are now at the forefront of Web news.

    The only "dinosaur" analogy to be accurately drawn, I think, is to the actual production and delivery of the newsprint newspaper.

    What our owner wants to do is ditch the two older presses we currently use and buy one brand new one.

    It will, of course, need far fewer pressmen to operate. And it will allow us to get the contract to print daily copies of one of the national newspapers for distribution across Western Canada.

    All those people being laid off will require severance. A big issue in negotiations is the amount of severance.

    There will always be a role for newspapers. You can have all the bloggers in the world, but professional journalists know how to write a story, quickly, and provide context and objectivity.

    That won't change. It's a matter of finding a place on the Web that people will come to, to see all of that.

    We're making inroads there, but advertisers aren't convinced and there are many other economic aspects involved. We're in a transition period from daily home subscribers and the huge profits that has meant. That's dropping off so we have to find another way.

    And we have to bring our readers and advertisers and everyone else with us to that place.

    It's like trying to take a whole school's worth of six-year-olds on a field trip and keeping them together.

    It's a dangerous time. Not easy. We still have 130,000 daily subscribers to the newspaper. We can't just leave those people in the dust.

    It's transition, like I said. And it's tough.


    Thanks. :-)

    Big hugs back.

  6. Shall I FedEx my Thanksgiving Day leftovers to you?

  7. you better come over and do some horse whispering then!

  8. MJ:

    Well, long as I don't get listeriosis or something. But I want it hand-delivered by you!


    But you see what my price is, right? On my way...

  9. Ah...I understand what you are going through, have been through this. My reason for being part of the strike was the same as what you have just explained.

    Although it was tough going I never doubted for a moment what I felt I needed to be doing.

    I am made like that, very strong core values and I'm a bit stubborn.

    You guys are showing great courage and unity...strength and power to you all, hope the best outcome possible, happens.

    Beard is good, an interesting challenge, I would love to grow one if I could, that would be fun. A little unique, but fun.


  10. Oh for petesake..
    I didn't mean bloggers would replace REAL writers ((nyeh)) you numbskull!

    Your so-called la-di-da "Professional" Journalists will (and most of the big shooters already are) focus on the internet and the hard copies can be sent to the old folks home the next day.


  11. Wow, thanks for the inside look at strikes. I've never had to go on strike, or known anybody who has, so the whole issue is something of a closed book to me. I hope it doesn't go too long, and that the best possible end is reached for all concerned... although that rarely seems to happen :(

  12. Pam:

    Go ahead and grow a beard! That's what I'm encouraging all my female worker friends to do!

    We didn't publish today following Day 1 of the strike, but offers are being exchanged back and forth and there's optimism.

    We'll see how it goes.


    Well your words weren't exactly uplifting or hopeful. Newspapers AREN'T just this side of extinction. They sure have to evolve though, and fast.


    There's a first time for everything -- it's just not a pleasant experience.

    Especially when it's more than just a job. But things are looking better today for an agreement.

    We've started our own union website at I'm running sports over there.

    Check it out if you like!

  13. It's a totally generational thing...
    anyone over 30 will always want to have a hard copy of day old news to read in the morning.

    It's still the best way to avoid doing any work.

    Are you bringing your Football to the P-Line today?

  14. I vote for the full beard.

  15. Well that Election was worth $300 Million!

  16. DC:

    I brought my football and Frisbee for the first day, but have been on my computer at home ever since writing and editing all the sports for our strike website.


    Oh yeah, forgot about those pix...I took one of my beard on Day 1, missed Day 2, will take one today on Day 3 and post if I remember on my sidebar.

    Won't be the full monty though!


    Yep, $300 mill, down the tubes. Only advantage is that the Grits will dump Dion now and they'll retool for next time around.

  17. i've never been on a strike... and the ones in south africa are so very different to yours!
    i hope its over soon, for everybody's sake.

  18. Angel:

    How are your strikes different?

    Yes, hopefully it's over soon...


    They're talkin' about Dion stepping down this week...

  19. yell when you want a food parcel sent over

  20. Should I be packing up survival parcels for you :)

    good luck with ya strike..... only ever striked once, back when I use to work for the Ministry of Defence.... but I was young and single and not really any commitments, like house and kids....




    Yeah. Send me some of that homemade soup to the soup kitchen here, which is where I'll be soon...


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