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.