A History of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild
By Daniel Drolet
Table of contents
Section I: In the beginning
Chapter 1: A share of the pie
Chapter 2: Getting going
Chapter 3: A template contract
Section II: Growing Pains
Chapter 4: The Ozzie and Harriet world
Chapter 5: Show us the money!
Section III: Discovering self-respect
Chapter 6: You say you want a revolution?
Chapter 7: Poking at profitable paternalism
Section IV: A show of solidarity
Chapter 8: The walkout of 1970
Chapter 9: Pushing for progress
Chapter 10: Meanwhile, at the Journal
Section V: Downsize me!
Chapter 11: TGIF, or what we missed while we were disco dancing
Chapter 12: Pushing back, pulling ahead
Section VI: Google ‘outsourcing’
Chapter 13: A whole new ballgame
Chapter 14: Facing down the bean-counters
Section VII: Epilogue
Chapter 15: Looking back, looking ahead
Bibliography, sources and thanks
About the author
I have always taken great pleasure in learning new things – in fact, I’ve always considered learning to be one of the great perks of being a journalist. That very fact made writing the history of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild an interesting project.
I learned all sorts of things, but particularly about the fight for self-respect – and about how leadership can make a difference.
The Ottawa Newspaper Guild has made a difference – often in surprising ways.
For example, the Guild has never gone out on strike during contract negotiations. Its only walkout was a wildcat strike in the summer of 1970 in support of locked-out members of the International Typographical Union.
I think it can be argued – in retrospect – that that strike was instrumental in the Ottawa Citizen’s eventual victory in the circulation battle with the Ottawa Journal. And that the Guild’s leadership was crucial not only in determining the outcome of that labour dispute, but also in securing the Citizen’s long-term viability. The Guild in 1970 insisted that the ITU modify its standard contract by getting rid of the so-called “bogus type clause” at the Citizen. A few years later, it was the Journal management’s determination to make similar modifications in their contract that led to the long and nasty labour dispute at that paper. Weakened by that dispute, the Journal eventually folded. If it hadn’t been for the Guild’s courageous stand in 1970, who knows how things would have ended?
In a history like this one, it is impossible to touch on everything. I could have written more, for example, about the fight for a greater Canadian voice in the international union in the 1960s and 1970s, or about other elements of the Guild membership. The Guild, after all, represents not only workers at the Citizen and CJOH but also at the printing firm DLR International.
But in the end, it is the Ottawa Newspaper Guild, and the Citizen is – and has always been – at its heart.
The issues that arose at the Citizen over the years were to a very large extent a true reflection of what was happening both in Canadian journalism and in the economy as a whole. And I have attempted to situate this history in a broader context.
The title of the book sums up what I think every worker, at the Citizen and elsewhere, hopes for. And I think that this history shows how members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild fought to achieve it.
Section I: In the beginning
Chapter 1: A share of the pie
Once upon a time at the Albion
Saturday, June 25, 1949, was a real scorcher. The Dominion weather office predicted a clear and hot day for Ottawa, with a high of 33 C; late at night, violent thunderstorms swept through the city, causing a rash of traffic accidents.
On that hot, muggy night, 28 pioneers gathered at the Albion Hotel, a venerable institution at the corner of Daly and Nicholas streets then at the height of its glory as a watering hole for lawyers, judges, policemen and journalists.
There, amid the red vinyl benches and the rounds of cheap draft, the Ottawa Newspaper Guild was born.
It was a quiet beginning. The assembled were not rabble-rousers, but a collection of solid, hard-working journalists from the Ottawa Citizen. As a terse account of the meeting later reported, “those who attended represented night and day deskmen, reporters and office boys, the sports department, the music department and proofreaders.”
What they were all looking for was a better life – more money, of course, but also respect for their craft and for the work they did every day. And they hoped that by unionizing, by combining forces to show the paper’s owners that there was strength in numbers, they could get it.
The people who gathered at the Albion that night had already answered the question: “Why unionize?” They had moved on to answering “How?” And to help them, they had invited as the guest speaker Dennis Braithwaite of the Toronto Guild. The Toronto papers had already organized. Braithwaite would tell them how to go about it – and explain the benefits.
By the time the 28 headed out into the night to go home, the Ottawa Newspaper Guild had been conceived. That evening, a temporary committee was formed to push for certification, which eventually came on December 1 of that year. A few months later, Citizen employees had their first contract.
Since then, in the words of Bob Rupert, a Guild president in the 1960s, “the Ottawa Newspaper Guild has altered – for the better – the lives of thousands of journalists and other media employees.”
This is its story.
A world in turmoil
It’s difficult, from the vantage point of the first decade of the 21st century, to imagine what the world was like in 1949. It really was a very different place – socially, economically, journalistically.
It was into that world so different from our own that the Ottawa Newspaper Guild was born, and the issues of the day framed its early behaviour.
For example, mid-century was, from our perspective, a sexist world. Jeff Keshen, in his book Ottawa: Making a Capital, writes that when the Second World War ended, many married women were dismissed from their jobs in the public service – effectively told to go home to their husbands and children because the men coming back from the war needed jobs. Want ads well into the 1970s were divided into men’s and women’s sections, and women’s salaries were usually lower. Men, it was believed, needed higher salaries because they had families to support, and this view was supported by law.
It was a world in which optimism and confidence in the future existed side by side with new and terrible fears. Barely four years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the world in 1949 was awakening to the realities of the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear Armageddon.
Uncertainty about the future masked the fact that Ottawa was on the verge of a new and prosperous era. In the past were the years of war and depression; ahead were decades of prosperity, social change and growth.
Keshen writes that the Second World War had changed Ottawa. It was still a small place – 162,442 people in 1949, according to city figures – but its economy was now on a solid footing. The size of the federal public service tripled during the war, and fears of massive dismissals never materialized. In 1951, there were more than 30,000 public servants in the city – people with solid jobs. That solidity may have been envied by the capital’s “ink-stained wretches” and inspired them to seek a better deal for themselves.
The world was getting richer. The Citizen employees gathered at the Albion that night in June naturally wanted a piece of the pie.
And from the perspective of 1949, it seemed that one of the best ways to get a share of the growing wealth was by unionizing.
The golden age of labour
In his book The Canadian Labour Movement: A short history, Craig Heron describes the years just after the Second World War as a high point for Canadian labour.
“The great watershed was the 1940s,” he writes. “Before that point, almost every effort by various labour movements to win a permanent place in Canadian industrial and political life was beaten back by hostile employers and a generally unsympathetic state.
“It was only during and immediately following World War II that unions made the breakthrough that allowed them to operate, in most mass-production, resource, and transportation industries.”
Heron writes that workers realized their power in an era of labour shortages, and union membership soared. Just as the labour movement in Canada surged after the First World War – culminating in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 – so the end of the Second World War brought a surge in labour disruptions and strikes.
“In the peak year, 1946, strikers shut down the British Columbia logging industry, the Ontario rubber industry, the central Canadian ports, the Southam newspaper chain, the country’s steel industry, and dozens of mass-production plants, in the biggest strike wave Canada had ever seen,” writes Heron.
The wave continued for several years, and one of the high points was the Asbestos Strike of 1949, one of the biggest news stories of the year in Canada. The strike began on Feb. 14, 1949, and lasted for months.
Left-wing political parties gained support in the 1940s in tandem with the growth of the labour movement, and government – as well as capital – found they had to start giving in to demands from the workers. Heron notes that the federal government reacted by passing the Industrial Relations and Disputes Investigation Act to establish a permanent framework for industrial relations in Canada.
The Rand Formula, meanwhile, was created in 1945 as a way to end a Ford strike in Windsor. It was beginning to become the standard for labour agreements. Employees didn’t have to join a union if one was certified, but they had to pay dues since they benefited from whatever the union negotiated.
The stage was being set. It was in this context that the ONG was born.
Snapshot of Ottawa, Saturday June 25, 1949:
Political Ottawa was sweated through the heat in a final burst of glad-handing as the country geared up for a federal election the following Monday. Louis St-Laurent would lead his Liberals to victory over George Drew’s Conservatives.
For those not caught up in politics, there were diversions.
Don Messer and his Islanders, “the coast-to-coast sensation of 1949,” were coming to Lansdowne Park on the 29th – admission: $1 – and Frank Sinatra was booked to perform at the Auditorium Ottawa on July 6.
The Canadian Grill at the Château Laurier announced its summer hours for dancing, and the Golden Grill at 303 Bank St., was advertising its 50-cent businessmen’s luncheons.
The tightly-controlled wartime economy was giving way to the postwar boom. But the transition was not smooth. The major problem was a lack of consumer goods. After all, factories that had been producing bombs could not start producing plowshares overnight.
There had been a shortage of cars, for example, until 1948, and there continued to be a serious shortage of housing. This was only just beginning to be alleviated by new home construction: The value of building permits issued in Ottawa jumped from $3 million in 1945 to $36 million in 1950 – and that was just within Ottawa city limits.
The Albion: An Ottawa institution
Citizen columnist (and former ONG president) Tony Côté eulogized the Albion in an essay published in the 1995 book Fair Play and Daylight celebrating the Citizen’s 150th anniversary.
“There was nothing there before the Albion Hotel, and nothing has replaced it,” he wrote. “Perched at the corner of Daly Avenue and Nicholas Street, for more than 135 years the Albion was as much a part of the community’s judicial system as the courthouse across the street and the police station and jail around the corners. It housed the bar that wetted the legal system’s whistle.
“The lounge was divided in two by a louvered wall. The tin that lined the 18-feet-high ceilings had been painted red. Red vinyl benches lined the walls along one side, and tables – some with high-backed oak chairs – filled the other. A red and black rug covered the floor on both sides. The place had been decorated with department store remainder bins in mind. But no one went there for the decor.
“One of those tables belonged to legendary Citizen reporter Joe Finn.
“Joe used to sit there, drinking CC, and wait for the visits from the lawyers, judges and cops. They fed him everything he needed to write his stories.”
World events of 1949:
* The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb.
* Germany is officially divided into East and West.
* NATO is created.
* Mao’s Communists take control of China.
Section I: In the beginning
Chapter 2: Getting going
You have to start somewhere
In April of 1950, after what the Guild’s thin archives describe laconically as “vigorous debate,” the members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild voted 17-12 to accept a first contract.
Dated April 6, 1950, it was a 12-page document with 20 clauses. The one-year deal was retroactive to the date of certification, December 1, 1949, and was set to expire on November 30, 1950.
Was it perfect? No. What contract is? But in the words of Jim McCarthy, an ONG activist in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a good, solid deal, signed by William Arnott and Eric Cawdron for the Guild, and by R.W. Southam, whose family owned the paper.
The two sides – the Guild and the Southams – had very different takes on how the world should operate. And there’s no doubt that the Southams would have preferred not to have to deal with the Guild.
The Citizen and the Southams
William Southam bought the Ottawa Citizen in 1897 for the grand sum of $9,000, plus a promise to collect debts for the previous owners. The Southam family controlled the paper for nearly a century after that, running it with a firm hand.
Staff knew and worked closely with the Southams, whose belief in the concept of a family paper often extended to finding jobs at the paper for the relatives of employees. Their paternalism was also tempered by active concern and involvement: Members of the Southam family worked in the newsroom themselves before moving on to managerial roles, and as a result they knew about journalism as well as the bottom line.
“The company believed in certain principles for any newspaper: accurate news content, fair editorial comment, availability of advertising space to any purchaser ‘subject to considerations of truthfulness, decency and the public interest,’” writes Charles Bruce, in his book News and the Southams.
But there were limits, and those limits were tested in 1946, three years before the formation of the ONG, when the Citizen lived through a nasty labour dispute.
On Thursday, May 30, 1946, the Ottawa Citizen’s compositors, members of the International Typographical Union (ITU), walked off the job, along with colleagues at the Hamilton Spectator and the Edmonton Journal. The strike forced the paper to suspend publication.
It was a sympathy strike in support of fellow compositors in Winnipeg.
The Southam family did not sit idly by and wait for the matter in Winnipeg to be settled. They moved swiftly to circumvent the ITU and put the Citizen back onto the streets.
Within days, on June 5, 1946, a pared-down version of the Citizen was back in circulation – without help from its striking employees. H.S. Southam then sent a letter to the striking composing room employees saying the paper would welcome them back – but if they didn’t come back to work by June 8, they could consider themselves fired. When there was no response from the strikers, the Citizen began to hire new printers.
Among employees, it was evident that the Southams were a force to be reckoned with.
“They crushed the ITU,” said Jim McCarthy, the 1960s ONG activist. “They were driven out and scabs were brought in and made permanent employees.”
Gordon Hutcheson, who came to work in the composing room in 1950 at the age of 18, recalled that fired ITU members were still picketing the Citizen one evening a week at the time. The picketing continued into the 1950s, and feelings of bitterness lingered.
The ITU strike was not far from Citizen editorial employees’ minds when they formed the Guild in 1949.
It was on the Southams’ minds, too.
First off, the 1946 strike had signalled to them a change in their employees’ attitudes. Not only were people prepared to be militant, but they were prepared to do so in support of fellow workers in another part of the country. Until then, the management had counted on labour issues being local.
“It is our conviction that daily newspapers must be administered in the cities in which they are published,” said Southam president P.S. Fisher in a statement published in the rival Ottawa Journal on May 31, 1946, the first day the Citizen was shut down.
“Authority to deal with labour relations in the different cities in which we operate has been traditionally vested in the local publisher. This method of negotiation on a local basis has been traditional practice for many years throughout Canada and the United States.”
The second effect of the 1946 strike was to show how vulnerable the Southams were financially.
The strike had hurt the Citizen, causing its circulation to drop from 52,710 in May of 1946 to 38,791 in June. It took some time for the paper to recover.
Were the owners prepared to accept the Ottawa Newspaper Guild in 1949 out of fear of another strike? In News and the Southams, author Charles Bruce doesn’t say. However, he quotes a letter sent by Harry Southam to his brother W.J. in 1951 in which Harry Southam tells how the 1946 strike almost put them out of business:
“The Citizen was forced to open its columns to liquor and patent medicine advertising by the ITU printers when they nearly put us out of business,” he wrote. “As a result of that walkout and the reduction of our operating revenues and the skyrocketing of our operating expenditures, we had to accept copy pretty much from any advertiser who was willing to pay for it.”
“White collar slaves?”
If the Southams were concerned about making money, so were their employees. Journalism jobs were traditionally not the best-paying jobs around. In fact for a long time, the pay was just awful.
“The story that used to be told was that reporters would almost fight to get an assignment to cover the Kiwanis Club or the Lions Club or whatever the club was, because it was a free lunch,” recalls Jim McCarthy.
Despite that, journalists were slow to organize. Trade unionism among editorial staff didn’t take off until the Depression, at a time when a lot of other trades and crafts were organizing.
The American Newspaper Guild grew out of a column published in the New York World-Telegram on August 7, 1933 by Heywood Broun. In it, he recounted how journalists, the fourth estate, looked down on the blue-collar workers around them, including printers at their newspapers – and as a result were being taken advantage of.
“The men who make up the papers of this country would never look upon themselves as they really are – hacks and white-collar slaves,” he said in his famous column. “Any attempt to unionize leg, rewrite, desk or makeup men would be laughed to death by these editorial hacks themselves. Union? Why that’s alright for dopes like printers, not for smart guys like newspapermen!
“Yes, and those ‘dopes’ the printers, because of their union, are getting on an average some 30 per cent better than the smart fourth-estaters.”
Newspaper owners, he said, were toying with the idea of classifying their editorial staff as professionals and therefore ineligible to unionize. And he not only urged editorial staff to organize before this came to pass, but began actively working to set up a union for journalists.
Soon, the American Newspaper Guild was organizing editorial staff at newspapers across the U.S. It quickly expanded into Canada, organizing papers in Toronto and other cities.
“By 1949, the stories I heard was that the Citizen newsroom was feeling that they were being left behind, that they weren’t getting their just desserts,” said McCarthy.
That feeling fuelled the birth of the ONG.
After the June, 1949, meeting at the Albion, events moved swiftly.
By July, 35 people had signed up. At a meeting that month, William Arnott was elected president.
By October, the Guild was working on draft contract proposals to send to management, and word came that certification was approved. Negotiations were well underway by the time the ONG’s charter was granted on December 1.
Members began paying dues in January, 1950, and the contract was signed in April after what appeared to be a relatively painless negotiation process.
In June, flush with its initial success, the Ottawa Newspaper Guild held its first social event. The members must have felt they had gone up a notch, because they didn’t go back to the Albion; they went instead to the Château Laurier. Guild records show that C.W. Crissey, the ANG’s international rep, and ONG president William Arnott, were both presented with thank-you gifts: Crissey got wood-burning chisels, and Arnott got a briefcase.
The Guild had arrived.
Names of the founding members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild (Local 205 of the American Newspaper Guild)
|Robert H. AbraA. Roger AppletonW.M. ArnottWilfred Bell
James G. Bloom
Verner A. Bower
Eric R.J. Cawdron
William R. Channon
Greg J. Connolley
Archie K. Davie
Joseph C. Finn
William M. Gladish
Frank E. Hanratty
William J. Hurlow
|Fred R. InglisJohn B. KinsellaWilliam T. LarmourAlex J. Larose
Fred D. McGuire
John T. Pask
William J. Seeley
Richard W. Statham
Section I: In the beginning
Chapter 3: A template contract
Two weeks’ vacation and $30 a week!
“It is the intention of this agreement to maintain harmonious relations between the company and its editorial department for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a satisfactory collective bargaining procedure and of further cooperating in the maintaining of the standards, qualifications and traditions of Canadian Journalism and to set forth the conditions of employment between the company and the Guild.”
Thus begins the ONG’s first-ever contract, a 12-page-long typewritten document dated April 6, 1950.
Signed by both R.W. Southam and William Arnott, the Guild’s first president, it would set the tone for the contracts of the next decade. By modern standards, it is short and very much concerned with one thing and one thing alone: Money. But that was fine. At least a contract had been settled. And the 20-clause deal set a standard by which future change would be measured.
It covered “all editorial employees” except the managing editor, the city editor, the chief news editor, the executive editor, the night editor, the chief editorial writer and the sports editor. It also specifically excluded temporary employees and any part-timer averaging 20 hours a week or less.
It guaranteed that there would be no discrimination or coercion by either the publisher or the Guild with respect to Guild membership (or non-membership).
The first contract created a sort of quota system to ensure that management couldn’t hire a bunch of non-Guild members:
“Employees entering the service of the publisher after the date of the signing of this agreement shall be engaged upon the following basis: Such new employees shall be grouped by fives, listed in order of the date of their employment by the publisher. In respect of any such individual group of five employees, at least four shall be Guild members at the time of employment or shall become Guild members within 30 days of the date of their employment.
“If all employees in respect of such five shall be, or become, Guild members, the required number of Guild members in the next subsequent group of five employees shall be reduced by one. It is understood and agreed that at no time shall the total ratio of Guild members to non-Guild members among employees engaged in accordance with this article be less than four to one.”
Night differential entrenched
The concept of night differential was also entrenched in the first contract: “Except as to the social department, the weekly salary of any employee whose normal working schedule requires him to be on duty at any time during the week between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. shall be increased at the rate of 50 cents per night.”
There was a long section on hours of work and overtime. The regular work day for days was set at eight hours falling within an eight-and-a-half-hour period; for nights, it was 7.5 hours falling within eight consecutive hours. Overtime was to be paid at time-and-a-half in cash.
As for vacations, employees who had a full year’s service were entitled to two weeks a year.
Sick leave, however, was at the discretion of the employer, “it being understood that the parties will continue negotiations to reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement.”
Contract disputes were to be dealt with by a standing committee of two employees designated by the Guild, who would meet with the publisher to settle matters. Grievances were to be taken up with the shop steward, who, if the matter were not settled in three days, was to report it to the standing committee and the publisher.
The publisher’s right to discharge people for cause was acknowledged, along with the idea that “economy shall be a sufficient cause.”
The contract also said that employees discharged for reasons of economy, “or by reason of incapacity through infirmity or old age,” were to receive a cash severance package unless eligible for disability benefits or pension.
The publisher also retained the power to grant leaves of absence without pay “for good and sufficient cause in the opinion of the publisher.”
Maternity leave (without pay) was also an option, but only “if such leave seems advisable to the publisher.”
There was an embryonic non-discrimination clause, in which it was recognized that the publisher “may hire employees without regard to sex, race, creed, colour or national origin.”
There was also a clause covering office boys who – it seems – were encouraged in some cases to take very early retirement:
“Office boys who wish to become reporters may be given an opportunity to demonstrate their ability by filling minor assignments when, in the judgment of the publisher, they are qualified for such a trial and provided there is an opening for such work. Office boys who in the judgment of the publisher have not demonstrated their aptitude or willingness to advance to a higher classification before attaining the age of 19 shall retire from employment with the publisher at the request of the publisher.”
Salaries in the first contract
|Night City Editor||$75.00|
|Telegraph Editor, Night Telegraph Editor, Magazine Editor, Assistant City Editor, Assistant Sports Editor, Day Relief Editor, Night Relief Editor, Assistant Night Telegraph Editor||$72.50|
|District Staff Reporters (After 4 years)||$55.00|
|District Staff Reporters (to start)||$40.00|
|Music and Drama Editor (5 years’ experience)||$57.50|
|Music and Drama Editor (to start)||$35.00|
|Women’s Page Editor, Art Editor (5 years’ experience)||$45.00|
|Social Editor (5 years’ experience)||$50.00|
|Social Writers (after 3 years)||$40.00|
|Librarian (5 years’ experience)||$57.50|
|Book Editor (6 years’ experience)||$65.00|
|Office Boys (After 2 years)||$19.00|
|Office Boys (After 1 year)||$17.00|
|Office Boys (After 6 months)||$16.00|
|Office Boys (to start)||$15.00|
Section II: Growing Pains
Chapter 4: The Ozzie and Harriet World
“Sweetheart, get me rewrite!”
A Canadian newsroom in the 1950s was a noisy, smoky place.
In fact it’s difficult, in the early years of the 21st century, to imagine how different the newspaper business was back then.
The smoke came from cigarettes. And pipes. And cigars. Smoking was a way of life, an unquestioned habit that continued in newsrooms until the 1980s. Desks were filled with overflowing ashtrays and the air with blue smoke.
The noise came from big black teletype machines, which clattered ceaselessly along a wall in the Citizen’s Sparks Street newsroom and delivered wire copy from across Canada and around the world.
And the business of journalism was done in a very different way.
Ottawa, as a city, was smaller, less ethnically diverse than today, and more tight-knit. People were more likely to know one another and exchange information on an informal basis – over a drink, perhaps. There were no spin doctors and no media training seminars.
There were no computers: Stories were written on typewriters, with slips of carbon paper sandwiched between the sheets. Mistakes by inaccurate typists were XXXXed out, editing was done by blue pencil and the phrase “cut and paste” had a very literal meaning that involved scissors and glue.
There were no cellphones, no voice mail, no touch-tone phones. Until the late 1980s the Citizen newsroom was equipped with dial phones. Away from your desk when a call came in? The reporter next to you might pick up your phone and take a message, or else the receptionist would do it. Reporters coming back from lunch would check a spike at the receptionist’s desk for written messages. And if you went out on a story, you had to remember to take change for the payphone. “Sweetheart, get me rewrite!” was not myth, but a daily reality.
At the end of the day newsmen (and it was still very much, though not exclusively, a man’s world) repaired to the Bytown Inn, a tavern on nearby Albert Street.
Through it all, as Jim McCarthy recalls, there was fun. “I certainly remember the newsroom as a happy place. There was crisis after crisis, of course, but I am not sure that I really like some of the changes since then.”
The big box in the living room
Television, which arrived in Canada in 1952 and Ottawa the following year, was just beginning to make an impact both on our habits, and on the way news was reported. “Canada adopted television more quickly than any other country in the world,” writes W.H. Kesterton in A History of Journalism in Canada. “By the end of 1955, she had become in many respects the world’s second television country – in terms of programmes, number of stations, network service, extent of coverage, and per capita ownership of sets.”
But television news was still in its infancy, hampered by cumbersome technology and the fact that stations only broadcast a few hours a day. In its early days, television news was not too much of a threat to print. TV pictures came on film, which had to be processed, so broadcasters were often not able to scoop print with images. Until the 1960s and the advent of satellites, film from overseas had to be flown across the ocean, meaning visual images from far away might not arrive until the next day.
So print was still king, and newspapers had an air of authority.
Through it all, there was prosperity. With the exception of a downturn at the end of the decade, the Canadian economy sailed along nicely through the 1950s and Guild members went along for the ride, negotiating a series of contracts that saw wages rise and benefits increase, particularly for people at the low end of the scale.
The reporter starting rate, for example, more than doubled over the course of the decade, rising from $30 a week in the 1950 contract to $61.30 in 1959. The women’s page editor saw an even more dramatic increase, from $45 a week in 1950 to $114.50 in 1959. And the office boy starting rate went from $15 a week to $36.70.
Those salary increases allowed workers to buy consumer goods and dream of living the good life – which at the time usually meant owning a car, a suburban home, basic appliances and a TV.
Ottawa highlights of the 1950s
* CBOT, Ottawa’s first TV station (and only the third in Canada) began broadcasting in 1953.
* Ottawa’s first shopping centre, Westgate, opened in 1954.
* In 1957, construction began on the Queensway, dubbed “the greatest engineering project in Ottawa’s history.”
* The city started to sprawl, with developers Assaly, Campeau and Teron announcing multi-million-dollar developments through the decade. Between 1949 and 1953 alone, the value of building permits issued by the city rose from $10.2 million to $36.3 million.
* Ottawa even got its first fully air-conditioned building when the new city hall was opened in 1958 by Princess Margaret.
Jim McCarthy explains how a hot-type newspaper is put together
“A reporter writes a story on a typewriter. It then goes to the desk and they do whatever they do to it.
“Then it gets shot up a pneumatic tube to the second floor – this is in the old Citizen building – where it gets handed to a typesetter, and he sat at his machine and he re-typed that into hot lead instead of into printed letters.
“It then went to proofreaders, who essentially had a proof of the lead type, and matched that against what had come from the desk to make sure there weren’t any new errors creeping in through the typing process.
“Then all of those pieces of lead, one line long, and the same length as the newspaper column was wide, they were strapped into a metal frame on a flat metal table. The frame was tightened up so that the little pieces of lead didn’t fall out. And that went to the stereo department where what they did was make a mould of that flat type.
“The material was such that they could then curve it. Then they could put it into another machine and pour lead into that mould and they had a half-circle which would sit on the press.
“The press would be like a drum, and that half-circle was fitted onto the press by the pressmen and the press coughed out the newspapers. Those mighty machines even as they do today gave you folded newspapers just as the customers would see it. They went on a conveyor belt to the mailroom, where they bundled them into appropriate sizes and shipped them out the back door to the trucks which sped them on their way.”
Section II: Growing Pains
Chapter 5: Show us the money!
Here we grow again!
“By the 1950s,” writes Craig Heron in The Canadian Labour Movement: a short history, “it seemed that many Canadian workers had never had it so good. With strong new unions to promote and defend labour interests within a state-supervised system of collective bargaining, workers could push for greater improvements in their living standards.”
They were, he said, “limited only by the intransigence of the corporations they faced over the negotiating table.”
This was certainly the case with the Guild. Not only did it win increasingly better wages and conditions for its members over the course of the decade, but it grew out of the newsroom and into other departments of the paper. It would eventually expand to other news media as well.
“In order to successfully negotiate agreements with employers, you had to represent as many employees as you could,” said Bob Rupert, an ONG president in the 1960s and later a Canadian international rep. “The Guild may have gotten its initial start as a craft union representing editorial people, but very quickly it became an industrial union which recognized that the way to really do things was to organize front door to back.”
Circulation, encouraged by what the newsroom got, was the next department to sign on, and they got their first contract in April, 1952. Wages were more or less in line with those in the newsroom, but there were also some important gains: For example, on termination, circulation employees were given accrued vacation pay at the rate of one day for every four weeks of service instead of one day for every five weeks as in the first newsroom contract. Probation in circulation lasted 45 days instead 90 days.
The gains must have been appealing, because the Guild continued to grow through the 1950s: By 1954, building and maintenance employees had joined the Guild, and so had proofreaders and teletype perforator operators. (In most papers, the proofreaders were members of the International Typographical Union; the Guild more or less ‘inherited’ the Citizen’s proofreaders after the paper pushed out the ITU in 1946.)
In 1955 the employees in the publisher’s business office signed on, and in the following year so did the people in the engraving and printing departments. Eventually even part-time truckers and ramp attendants joined. In 1959, the Guild signed on circulation department workers at the Ottawa Journal, and much later, in 1970, news gathering staff and production assistants at CJOH.
Also by 1954, a tradition had been established that remains to this day: With few exceptions, Citizen contracts are dated July 21.
And the last contract of the decade, dated July 21, 1959, now covered a whole swath of Citizen employees.
Gordon Hutcheson, who joined the paper as an apprentice in the composing room in 1950 and worked at the paper until his retirement in 1991, was never a member of the Guild. But he had many friends in the newsroom and elsewhere, and remembers the Guild’s growth period as one of relative quiet, both for Guild and management.
“I think most people were quietly supportive,” he said. “I don’t recall it being a contentious issue particularly.”
He said that whatever feelings management had about Guild activity, “they certainly didn’t wear them on their sleeve.” And he added that being active in the Guild was never seen as a career-threatening move – at least in the newsroom and in those departments the Guild organized over the course of the decade.
The growth and the succession of contracts with higher wages and benefits proved the Guild had staying power.
A decade of gains
Over the course of the 1950s, the Guild had managed in some cases to more or less double wages. Often, the increases were proportionately higher for the lowest-paid categories, but even people at the top end were doing considerably better.
The night city editor’s salary, for example, went from $75 a week in 1950 to $120.20 in 1959.
In circulation, a five-year supervisor got $100 a week in 1959, compared to the 1952 top rate of $70; the top rate for clerk-typists jumped to $52.50 a week from $35.
Money must have been the main motivator, because many of the benefits were still not very good.
For example, the standard vacation throughout the fifties was two weeks for most employees.
The contract signed in December, 1952, was the first to offer three weeks – but only to employees with at least 20 years of continuous service. That number was whittled down to 15 years in 1955, 12 years in 1958, 10 years in 1959, seven years in 1960 and five years in 1961.
In the first contract, sick leave was entirely at the discretion of the publisher. The Guild obviously found this unsatisfactory but was unable the first time around to do better. The 1950 contract added that “the parties will continue negotiations to reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement as to sick leave.”
By the end of the decade, the sick leave clause had been considerably expanded, though with some caveats: The publisher agreed to grant sick leave, with full pay, “to all employees except to any employee who refuses to be medically examined by a duly qualified medical practitioner designated by the publisher.” There was also a paragraph on how to terminate extended sick leave, and another stipulating that the publisher was to provide employees with life, sickness and accident insurance.
Guild life in the 1950s
Guild records for the decade are sketchy, but the documents that do exist paint a picture of what life was like.
For example, money was still tight. Very tight. On May 19, 1954, for example, the executive was called upon to approve the spending of $7 on phone calls and the rental of an adding machine “for the compilation of a mid-year trial balance.” The executive still found ways to have fun – in keeping with the spirit of the times. For example, on May 29, 1954, a “business social” was held:
“Moved by Abra at 9:40 that the business meeting be adjourned and the executive joined the wives to enjoy refreshments prepared by Sylvia and Murray Goldblatt and to listen to a few of Murray’s propaganda records.”
Selected wage comparisons over the 1950s
|Position||weekly salary||weekly salary|
|Night City Editor||$75.00||$120.20|
|Assistant City Editor||$72.50||$117.50|
|Women’s Page Editor||$45.00||$114.20|
|Social Writer (top rate)||$40.00||$82.50|
|Reporter (starting rate)||$30.00||$61.30|
|Office Boy (top rate)||$19.00||$41.80|
|District Manager/Supervisor (top rate)||$70.00||$100.00|
|Sales Agent (top rate)||$57.50||$75.30|
|Bookkeeper/Cashier (top rate)||$40.00||$57.50|
|Night Office Clerk (hourly rate)||$1.34|
|Proofreader (top rate)||$78.00||$94.80|
|Building and Maintenance||1954 contract||1959|
|Business Office||1955 contract||1959|
|Senior Clerk (top rate)||$70.00||$80.00|
|Payroll Clerk (top rate)||$60.00||$69.50|
|Clerks (top rate)||$41.00||$50.00|
|Engraving and Printing||1956 contract||1959|
|Engraver-Printers (top rate)||$50.00||$57.50|
Section III: Discovering self-respect
Chapter 6: You say you want a revolution?
A tavern plot
Bob Rupert was a twenty-something Ryerson graduate fresh from his first job as a suburban reporter at the Toronto Telegram when he joined the Citizen in 1961. Soon afterward, he went to this first Guild meeting. That meeting made him into an activist – though not in the way the Guild leadership of the day intended.
After the meeting he and Paul Dunn, another young reporter, retired to the Bytown Tavern, the usual after-work haunt of Citizen staff. Over a few beers, they hashed over the meeting, the Guild, and what a fiery and idealistic young reporter should do.
The next day, Rupert had made up his mind: He would make a bid to take over the Guild leadership and re-energize an organization which had become, in his opinion, too timid for its own good. He did just that, breathing new life into the Guild before going on to become a major player in The Newspaper Guild at the international level.
In that sense, the ONG in the sixties mirrored the social upheavals of the counterculture decade. The establishment was challenged by a younger generation moving in to claim its rights.
No movies, please, it’s Sunday
Just how square was Ottawa in the early part of the decade? In 1962, it was illegal in Ottawa to operate a movie theatre or organize a sports game on a Sunday. Residents were asked in a plebiscite that year whether the bylaw should be changed. Voters said yes– an indication that we were ready for a change.
And change we did. This was the decade during which the birth control pill, LSD, rock music, hippies and the counterculture generation burst onto the scene. The decade that started with a ban on Sunday movies ended with Woodstock.
And as society’s horizons expanded, so did contract demands, which came to include not only money – an important factor as the postwar prosperity boom continued – but also such things as women’s rights, which were gaining in importance in Canada as a whole. It was often an uphill battle, because though attitudes were changing quickly, it was for some not fast enough.
One example? In 1967, the Citizen wrote about the miniskirt revolution, quoting one public servant, presumably male, who voiced approval of the trend: “I love miniskirts, even at the office,” he said. “If girls have nice legs, there’s no reason why they should not wear them. But there should be an age restriction, depending on the individual.”
The Rupert Revolution
Jim McCarthy, who joined the paper in 1963, said that by the early 1960s, the Guild had fallen into a rut – something that was not particularly unusual for a new union. The pioneers had worked to create the Guild, get a first contract, and expand it not only to other sections of the paper but eventually to other employers – including reporters at the TV station CJOH and radio station CKOY.
By the early 1960s, the Guild’s founders were still running its executive. But they were all a decade older. Their key battle – founding the Guild – had been fought and won and they were more settled now and less willing to ruffle feathers.
“There wasn’t any fire,” said McCarthy. Contracts had become routine, with small percentage wage increases and not much else. “I’d call them mediocre contracts,” he said.
In stepped Bob Rupert.
Rupert had been indifferent to the Guild until he went to that membership meeting in the early sixties.
He got angry when he heard Bill Arnott, the Guild president, tell the membership that the Guild would never go on strike, that it would never do something so awful to the Citizen.
“I just sat there in disbelief, because I can tell you the paper was not very good, the salaries were terrible and the degree of professionalism was awful,” Rupert recalled.
Over a few beers at the Bytown Tavern, Rupert told Dunn that he was either going to ignore the Guild and look out for himself, or try to take it over.
“I went home and thought about it and I thought, ‘The hell with it, I’m going to do it!’”
Rupert recruited a new team and challenged Arnott and the founders for the executive. The upstarts won and the 1963 contract was the last one bearing the signatures of the old guard. From now on, a new gang was calling the shots.
The takeover did not go smoothly, however.
Rupert says Arnott was distraught when he heard he was being challenged, because he was looking forward to going to a Newspaper Guild convention in California. He pleaded with Rupert not to run, saying that he would never be able to afford to take his wife to California unless the trip was paid for by the Guild.
So Rupert cut a deal: If he won, he would let Arnott and his wife go to the California convention as the ONG delegate.
“I felt so sorry for him. But I was a Young Turk, spoiling for a fight. I really wanted the Citizen to be more than a kind of money-making paper that had no regard for its editorial quality or its employees. I can still remember the election: I was saying to people, ‘If you are not willing to stand up, don’t elect me. We’re going to take them on.’ And very shortly after that, we did!”
First, he fired up the membership by publishing After 30, the Guild bulletin, every two weeks. And he changed its tone from informational to confrontational. What he wanted to do was convince members that they deserved better – and that they shouldn’t be afraid to push to get it.
The 1963 contract was due to expire on July 21, 1966. Even before the Guild went to the bargaining table, Rupert called a membership meeting at the Château Laurier and asked for a strike vote.
The timid Guild of 1961 had become a tiger: The strike vote passed, 100 to one.
“Somebody printed up buttons that everybody wore,” said Rupert. “100-1 Self-Respect.
“And we took that attitude to the bargaining table, which was unheard-of at that paper!”
Across the table
The Citizen in the 1960s was run by the gentlemanly Bob Southam – assisted by his business manager Edgar Leigh, who had quite a different reputation. “Black knight” was one of the kinder epithets.
Southam himself was a by all accounts a modest, retiring man.
Charles King, who came to the paper in 1967 as associate editor in charge of editorial policy, recalled asking Charles Woodsworth, who had worked at the paper before going into the diplomatic service, what Bob Southam was like.
“You will find that your publisher reads nothing but Reader’s Digest,” Woodsworth told King.
King added that was not quite true: He said Southam also read the editorial page and the Globe and Mail.
Southam for the most part left the business side of the paper – including contract talks – to Leigh, who left no fond memories among Guild members.
Rupert, for example, said that after one particularly scathing edition of After 30, Leigh called him into his office.
“He said, ‘I’m not sure that somebody who talks like that to my employees can work here anymore,’” Rupert recalled. Rupert angrily said he wasn’t writing After 30 for Leigh, he was writing it for Guild members. And he walked out.
With the Rupert team leading the Guild bargaining, contract talks quickly reached an impasse. The newly militant union set a strike deadline. And on January 15, 1967, Guild members showed their determination by rejecting the last management proposal by a vote of 79 to three.
The next day, Ottawa mayor Don Reid – whom Rupert knew because he was a city hall reporter – volunteered to act as a mediator. On January 17, 1967, Rupert and Fred Jones, an international representative with the American Newspaper Guild, met with Bob Southam and Toronto labour lawyer Colin Morley in the mayor’s office.
In four and a half hours, after what Southam described as one of the longest and toughest bargaining sessions he had ever attended, they reached a deal.
“It was the first time I think there had really been a genuine victory for the collective,” recalled Rupert.
He also noted that it was Bob Southam himself, and not Edgar Leigh, who had taken over the lead management role at the contract talks. After the Guild started showing its strength, “Edgar Leigh suddenly vanished for a while and Bob Southam came to the bargaining table.”
In his 1980 essay, Charles King stated that he was no friend of the Guild: “I felt its presence and attitude at the Citizen were a disruptive influence,” he wrote.
But Rupert was proud of that attitude – and of the disruption it caused. He described the unionization of journalists as “an almost heroic effort to get some self-respect.”
“Any relationship that is dominated by one side is not a dignified relationship,” he said. “I think this is fundamentally important. That has always been my feeling about collective bargaining. Despite the errors employers and unions may make, you can’t have a relationship that’s worth anything where one side calls all the shots.”
At last, he said, journalists were standing up and telling their employers that bylines weren’t enough, and that they weren’t going to be pushed around anymore.
Rupert says the mid-sixties were emotional times, and that deal reached in January of 1967 fundamentally changed things.
“One hundred to one: That just turned everything around and made things possible. People were believing in themselves!”
The revolution explained
The Rupert Revolution at the Citizen was a perfect example of something much broader. In this extract from his book The Canadian Labour Movement, a short history, author Craig Heron describes how the arrival of the baby boomers changed the dynamics of the Canadian labour movement in the 1960s:
“A new generation of workers was entering the Canadian labour force in large numbers by the 1960s. These so-called baby boomers had grown up in a period of relative prosperity and therefore had high expectations of their opportunities … They developed a vibrant youth culture that celebrated self-expression and contested authoritarianism …
“By the late 1960s, the young workers that emerged from this culture were chafing under the traditional management practices of most firms. They also held different attitudes toward unions … Not having helped to build these organizations from scratch, they grew impatient with the bureaucratic constraints and cautious leadership, which almost universally consisted of the union pioneers of the 1930s and 1940s.
“Not surprisingly, workers in the 1960s more regularly rejected contract settlements and ignored their leaders’ advice against wildcat strikes.”
* In 1960, Sparks Street was closed to traffic and became the Sparks Street Mall.
* On March 13, 1961, CJOH began broadcasting.
* The cost of a new three-bedroom, split-level house in Rothwell Heights in 1962? $16,174 ($1,690 down).
* In June, 1969, R.W. Southam announced the purchase of 7.5 acres of land from the Campeau Corporation for the tidy price of $470,000. Architect Ronald Ogilvie was appointed to direct the construction of the new Citizen building on Baxter Road.
This After 30 bulletin, dated Dec. 8, 1967, gives an idea of the climate and attitudes at the Citizen at the time.
“A tempest in a coffee cup has been the subject of a grievance for some time between the dayside proofreaders and Citizen management.
“The latest development could see the proofreaders’ twice daily cup of coffee costing the Citizen $1.27 a cup.
“Here’s how it came about:
“A decree from production manager Syd Roberts recently stopped the practice of sending a man out for coffee twice a day, on the grounds that too much time was wasted in this manner.
“It was alright, however, to procure the dubious product dispensed underground in the building by the good old “Hot Drinks,” the mechanical monster which inhabits the cafeteria, gobbling up the dimes of the unwary, while masquerading as a coffee machine.
“A survey of proofreaders who have tried the good old “Hot Drinks” product shows that nine out of 10 prefer coffee.
“The Guild maintains that by verbal agreement, coffee breaks in PTBM were assured by management during contract negotiations. In return for that, proofreaders are scheduled for an eight-hour day, rather than the seven and one half hour day called for in the contract.
“In a meeting with the Guild rep, Roberts told them coffee breaks were not a negotiated right.
“The Guild then said since Roberts would not honour the verbal agreement, it considered itself under no obligation to do so, and proofreaders were thus entitled to half an hour’s overtime every day.
“The Guild executive felt it had no choice but to carry the grievance to that point, and voted to do so, with every expectation of winning on the half-hour overtime question.”
Section III: Discovering self-respect
Chapter 7 – Poking at profitable paternalism
A second-hand typewriter
The Citizen management style in the 1960s had a strong streak of paternalism.
For example, Charles King, an editorial writer in the late sixties, described Citizen publisher Bob Southam as “a generous employer – provided you remained in this good books.”
Paternalism can also mean arbitrary decisions and policies, and that was still the case at the Citizen.
King himself was not a member of the Guild. But he still got wage increases – good ones at that.
“In over 10 years at the paper,” he continued, “I received an automatic – and unsolicited – salary boost each year at Christmas, along with a bonus. The sums were substantial, averaging better than 10 per cent annually.”
Not many Guild salaries were rising at the rate of 10 per cent a year during this period. Of particular concern were the paper’s female employees, whose salaries were generally lower.
It was during this decade that their concerns began to be addressed seriously.
But it was hard to squeeze money out of the paper’s publisher. Despite his generous wage increases, King saw how tight-fisted the paper could be – even with him.
“It seemed incongruous,” King wrote, “that I had to make do with a second-hand typewriter.”
A profitable enterprise
It’s not that the media of the era were lacking in cash. The 1960s were a time of economic expansion and profitability for newspapers and TV stations, and from that perspective it seems strange that the Citizen should scrimp on typewriters or begrudge equality to women.
How much money were newspapers raking in?
In December 1969, a special Senate committee began a study of the media in Canada. Volume 1 of its report, entitled The Uncertain Mirror, gives some figures, adding that the money was generated by advertising sales, which had grown tremendously as the economy grew and more consumer goods became available.
“One of Roy Thomson’s most memorable observations was that a television broadcasting permit is ‘like having a licence to print your own money.’ … Ownership of a daily newspaper often amounts to the same thing, except you don’t need a licence,” said the report.
“Net advertising revenue for newspapers and periodicals has more than tripled since 1950 and accounts for 65 per cent of the gross income of newspapers,” it continued.
Wages and salaries constituted the largest proportion of total costs, but that proportion remained fairly constant in the early part of the decade, the timeframe for which the Senate committee had statistics. In other words, employees were not getting a bigger share of the pie.
As for TV stations, the bigger the station, said the report, the bigger the profits.
“The big TV stations’ worst year was 1967, when pre-tax profits declined to 40 per cent; in most other industries, that kind of margin would be considered fabulous.”
However much money they were making, media owners were not investing their profits in better journalism.
King said that by the late 1970s, though the Citizen was a roaring commercial success, “sadly, the paper never seemed to aim for excellence, except in advertising and circulation sales.”
The Senate committee put it this way:
“It seems harsh, but it happens to be utterly accurate, that editorial and programming content in the media fulfills precisely the same economic function as the hootchy-kootch girl at a medicine show – she pulls in the rubes so the pitchman will have somebody to flog his snake-oil to.”
“Hootchy-kootch girl?” That was pretty much the view many men of the era had of women. But it was starting to change.
While it was a struggle to get a bigger share of the profits for Guild members, there was notable success on some fronts. It was during the 1960s that issue of gender parity in wages began to be addressed.
“It was Bob Rupert who put on the table parity for the women’s department,” recalled McCarthy. He said that in the 1966-69 contract, Rupert managed a half-way victory by getting management to close half the gap between female and male reporters.
“Rather than go on strike over it, since the rest of the contract was good, the Rupert gang said, OK – but you have to go the other half next contract,” recalled McCarthy.
“As far as the union was concerned, the management said they would. But they didn’t put it in writing.”
By 1969, Rupert had left to become an international rep with the Newspaper Guild, and McCarthy was on the negotiating team, “We were close to a settlement, but there was one issue outstanding: It was the women’s issue.” Management, recalled McCarthy, offered to cover half of the remaining gap.
“The bargaining team voted 3-2 to say ‘No way, they made a promise, we want it and we’re going to demand it.
“Suffice to say, we got it – and we didn’t strike.”
Still a man’s world
Eleanor Dunn worked at the Citizen from 1967 to 1973, and at CJOH for two years after that. As the Guild’s first female president in the early 1970s, she found she had to fight against blatant sexism.
When she joined the Citizen, female reporters, she said, were more or less automatically assigned to the women’s section and covered social events. For a long time, the legendary Phyllis Wilson was the only woman working as a regular reporter. By the late sixties those attitudes were beginning to change, but not without a fight.
Dunn, as a union activist, recalled taking “a fair amount of verbal beating” for being a woman, particularly from older men on the rim; she says she dealt with the comments by basically ignoring them. Her husband Paul Dunn, who had left the Citizen to join CP, actually was given a rougher time than she was: “Can’t you keep your wife at home?” his colleagues would grumble.
Women were paid less than men – it was perfectly legitimate at the time – but the Citizen offered at least one compensation to female reporters:
“One thing they did in order to keep our pay low was allow us to leave early on Fridays to have our hair done,” recalled Dunn. “They wanted you to be respectable-looking when you attended these social functions with Mrs. Southam’s friends.”
Management also insisted that women adhere to a strict dress code: “They wanted us to wear skirts or dresses, and high heels.”
In fact, Dunn said it took some doing to get management to agree that women could come to work in pantsuits: “We wanted to wear pantsuits because they were more comfortable in winter. The breakthrough of the pantsuit was quite something!”
Selected wage comparisons over the 1960s
|Position||weekly salary||weekly salary|
|Night City Editor||$128.29||$183.32|
|Assistant City Editor||$125.28||$173.72|
|Women’s Page Editor||$121.87||management|
|Home Page Editor||n/a||$131.85|
|Social Writer (top rate)||$88.00||$150.70|
|Reporter (starting rate)||$66.30||$102.71|
|Office Boy (top rate)||$46.30||$70.70|
|District Manager/Supervisor (top rate)||$106.65||$152.60|
|Sales Agent (top rate)||$80.55||$113.89|
|Bookkeeper/Cashier (top rate)||$62.50||$93.35|
|Proofreader (top rate)||$101.16||$143.98|
|Building and Maintenance||1961 contract||1969|
|Business Office||1961 contract||1969|
|Senior Clerk (top rate)||$85.42||$125.86|
|Payroll Clerk (top rate)||$74.55||$111.68|
|Clerks (top rate)||$55.00||$90.75|
|Engraving and Printing||1961 contract||1969|
|Engraver-Printers (top rate)||$62.50||$97.47|
Section IV: A show of solidarity
Chapter 8 – The walkout of 1970
A barbecue at the farm
In the summer of 1970, some 300 people converged on Bob Rupert’s farm near Kemptville for a party.
There were children and hayrides and a big barbecue – all the elements of a fun time. And there was good reason to celebrate: An 11-day labour dispute, the biggest at the Citizen since the strike of 1946 – had just ended with a victory for the workers.
But it wasn’t just the victory that was sweet that summer day. It was the fact for the first time, various unions at the Citizen had worked together towards a common goal. And now, out on the farm near Kemptville, they were all celebrating together.
Their newfound solidarity ushered in a new era of cooperation as unions that had previously distrusted each other – to the point of refusing to work together – learned to put aside differences and find common ground.
Everyone was like a big family that day – printers, journalists, mailers, it didn’t matter.
“I thought it was terrific,” said Bob Rupert, who nearly 40 years after the event still regards that day as a high point in his career.
One walkout to another
The labour dispute that hit the Citizen in the early days of July of 1970 had its roots in the composing room walkout of 1946.
As a result of that earlier strike, the International Typographical Union (ITU) had been forced out of the Citizen plant. Composing room employees were allowed a union, but it was not affiliated with the ITU.
The ITU, a very powerful union with locals in most newspapers in North America, wanted to get back into the Citizen. Gordon Hutcheson, who worked in the composing room in the 1950s and 1960s, recalled that every so often the ITU would put out feelers, contacting employees they thought might be willing to join.
Citizen management was adamant that the ITU would never be allowed back in – and told supporters of the ITU their jobs were on the line.
“That was a major threat to a lot of people at the time – the people with families and so on,” said Hutcheson. “And we believed them. I knew they were serious.”
But Hutcheson says management unwittingly created the right conditions for the ITU’s return by treating its composing room employees unfairly. For example, he said composing room employees at the Citizen regularly worked a six-day week even though by the late 1960s the five-day week had become the industry standard.
To add insult to injury, the Citizen’s business manager Edgar Leigh decided at one point that holidays would be based on a five-day week – which meant that employees on vacation were paid as if they regularly worked only five days a week instead of six. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The ITU managed to sign up enough members to get certified, and by 1970 it was negotiating its first Citizen contract since the 1940s.
By the early summer of 1970, talks were at an impasse.
A bit of background
Jim McCarthy, who was ONG president in the 1970s, said that during the 1960s, Bob Rupert had worked hard to build good relations with other unions at the Citizen.
He recalled one incident during which a manager ordered a pressman to clean up an ink spill that had happened in the mailroom.
“The pressman, being in an ugly mood, said ‘That’s not my job.’ And to skip over all the bits and pieces, he was suspended on the spot.”
The pressman’s union supported their man and vowed to walk out until he was reinstated.
Then the pressmen phoned Bob Rupert to ask for the Guild’s support – which he readily gave. Then Rupert went to management, told them the Guild would support the pressmen on this, and urged management to settle the issue.
“And it was solved,” said McCarthy, adding that while it was a small incident, it proved to other unions that the Guild would support them in a crunch: “What’s important about it is that Rupert had good relations with those other unions, and those of us who followed him built those relations.”
By the summer of 1970, those good inter-union relations were crucially important.
On Friday, July 3, 1970, ITU members walked off the job, and the paper failed to publish that day for the first time since 1946.
They went back to work after 17 hours when both sides agreed to return to the bargaining table. The Citizen published on Saturday the 4th.
But talks broke down again on the weekend, and on Monday the 6th, the compositors, stereotypers, pressmen and mailers were locked out. However, other employees, including editorial and other Guild members, were allowed in to work.
Jim McCarthy describes what happened next:
“The ITU phoned the Guild inside and said, ‘Will you support us?’ And that’s why the ink spill is important, and why the work Rupert did in making the unions cooperate was so important. We said yes we will, but we need a picket line. The ITU put up a picket line, and we walked out.”
The strike was on.
Rupert, the Guild revolutionary from the 1960s, had by this point moved on. He was now an international rep with The Newspaper Guild.
“I get a call in California saying there’s a big problem at the Citizen, you’d had better get up there and see what you can do,” he recalled.
A strong believer in the principle of union solidarity and the inviolability of a picket line, he urged the 165 Guild members to walk out in support of the ITU – even though this was technically illegal. After all, Guild members had a valid contract.
“We had no legal right to strike at all,” said Rupert. “But I just thought if we can’t act as a collective here, there is nowhere to go. There’s no pride, there’s no effectiveness, there’s nothing. If unions don’t support each other, they are dead in the water.”
The show of solidarity threw management for a loop.
The first thing management did was send letters to all striking Guild employees to tell them that if they weren’t back at work by Wednesday the 8th, they faced dismissal.
But that didn’t work. Guild employees remained off the job, and so did the ITU people. The paper was published without their assistance.
The composing room employees, meanwhile, were thankful for the Guild’s support: “Had it not been for the Guild as the largest unit supporting us, I think we’d still be out,” said Hutcheson.
But Guild support was called into question when Rupert found out that the ITU was trying to negotiate a closed-shop contract containing a so-called “bogus type” clause.
Bogus type was an ITU response to changing technology.
At one point, typographers had been responsible for setting all the type at a newspaper. But somewhere along the line, advertisers started showing up with their own press-ready ads – thereby depriving typographers of a certain amount of work.
The ITU’s response was to negotiate what came to be called “bogus type” clauses. By 1970 they were in many ITU contracts, including the one covering ITU printers at the rival Ottawa Journal.
The clause stipulated that if advertisers brought in their own press-ready ads, ITU members had to set the type for ads anyway – and then destroy it. In other words, papers were being forced to pay people for work that would never be used.
Naturally, Citizen management was dead seat against a bogus type clause.
So was Bob Rupert. He thought it was silly to pay people to do work that would simply later be destroyed.
However, when he arrived at the Citizen from California and led the Guild out on an illegal strike in support of the ITU, he didn’t know that the ITU was trying to get a bogus type clause in its Citizen contract – and a closed shop as well.
He soon found out – and suddenly realized he and the Guild were in a precarious position.
“I’ll tell you, these were the 11 longest days in my life,” he recalled.
“I knew all along that I really didn’t have a legal position. I felt I had a moral position, not a legal position. Then I found out that that bogus type proposal was on the table.”
Rupert took matters into his own hands.
While ITU reps were in Toronto at the Ontario Labour Relations board trying to get a ruling that the Citizen was bargaining in bad faith, Rupert met with the Citizen printers – many of whom he knew – and argued that the proposals for a closed shop and bogus type had to come off the table.
The printers agreed.
When the ITU reps got back from Toronto, Rupert told them flat out that the Guild would withdraw its support if those two proposals were not dumped.
“The proposals came off the table,” said Rupert, “and the whole thing was settled.”
The paper was back to normal by Saturday, July 18.
“Both sides compromised heavily,” recalled Hutcheson, “but Citizen management had to eat their words that they would never allow the ITU on their premises, and in turn the ITU agreed to a contract that was a major departure from their usual iron-clad agreements.
“It was a mixed victory. We got our jobs back – that was really the main part of the victory. We did not win retroactive pay or anything like it, but we were back to work again, with a five-day week.
“Fortunately the Guild supported us, as did the other craft unions. Although the ITU hated to hear it, without this support we had no chance of winning – and most of us knew it.”
After the strike, the paper’s crafts unions sued the Citizen for breach of contract, arguing that they had a legal contract saying they didn’t have to handle hot work and the Citizen had tried to go around it.
The Citizen, for its part, sued the Guild for an illegal walkout.
Neither suit went to court. Instead, there was a swap: The crafts unions agreed to drop their suit against the Citizen if the Citizen dropped its suit against the Guild.
The end of the ITU
“For many old-line printers, the ITU was almost a religion,” recalled Gordon Hutcheson, who worked in the composing room in the 1950s and 1960s.
Founded in 1852, it had grown very powerful. But by the 1970s, its heyday was over. The Citizen victory, three years before the paper moved to its Baxter Road plant and new technology, was in some ways a last hurrah.
“Technology was overtaking a very labour-intensive trade,” said Hutcheson. “And nothing could stop it.”
The ITU died officially on December 31, 1986.
Section IV: A show of solidarity
Chapter 9: Pushing for progress
“I think the Guild was at the height of its militancy in the 1970s,” said Donna Balkan, who worked at the Citizen at that time.
“And I think that the labour movement in the early 1970s was stronger than it had been before. I was really buoyed by the mood.”
So were others. The 1970s marked not only a period of union cooperation, but of victories of many different sorts. By the end of the decade contracts were thick documents with expanded benefits, and union activities had won important victories.
Among those was a better say for Canadian workers at the international level of the union: After years of battling, Canada’s autonomy was won.
“The Ottawa local was probably a thorn in the side of the international,” recalled Katie FitzRandolph, a Citizen reporter and Guild activist. “It was feisty and sure of what it wanted.”
It was, looking back, a good time for the ONG.
Money and more
During the 1960s, Canada’s governments introduced a series of social security programs that changed the lives of Canadians. From the Canada Pension Plan to government health insurance, they gave workers greater security – security that did not depend on their jobs. As Desmond Morton writes in his book Labour in Canada, workers’ security no longer depended on holding a single job for most of one’s life.
A decade later, the world underwent a radical shift. The long postwar boom ran its course, killed off for good by the oil embargo of 1973. From that point on, inflation was a major factor in Canada’s economy, and demands for raises to match the increase in the cost of living became an obsession.
Even while winning big salary gains, during the 1970s Guild negotiators managed to win a whole range of improved conditions for employees. As a result, the last Citizen contract of the decade, which covers the period 1978-1981, is vastly different from the contract that ushered in the decade.
First off, the language had changed, reflecting the fact that old sexist attitudes were fading. “Women’s editor” had become “Lifestyles editor;” “office boys” had become “office persons.”
Other social changes were recognized: Marital and parental status were added to the list of recognized categories for non-discrimination in hiring, and the question of age was given partial protection.
At CJOH, the 1978 contract brought improved severance pay and better protection for pregnant employees: In addition to better job protection for pregnant women, the sick leave plan was amended to cover pregnancy-related disabilities or illnesses beyond normal childbirth and recovery.
The rights of journalists were recognized and efforts made to protect them.
Health and safety issues were part of the contract now: At the Citizen, vehicles had to undergo mandatory safety checks and equipment had to be properly maintained.
There were more holidays and vacations and sick leave rights were expanded.
Salaries had risen dramatically. For example, the weekly starting rate for a Citizen reporter nearly tripled, rising to $276.26 in 1979 from $102.71 in 1969.
Management even sometimes felt generous.
In September 1979, the Ottawa Journal announced it was switching to morning publication, leaving the afternoon market to the Citizen. The Citizen responded by raising everyone’s salaries by two per cent, effective immediately.
New clauses also reflected concerns over job cuts and changing technology.
For example, by the late 1970s the proofreading function at the Citizen had been eliminated, and as a result the last contract of the decade contained a clause stating that should the function ever be reinstated, the workers would be placed in the Guild bargaining unit and paid at a rate comparable to the old proofreading rate in relation to other Guild jobs.
There was a clause stating that no person employed by the Citizen in February 1977 was to suffer loss of employment solely as a result of the introduction of new equipment or new processes or as a result of the contracting-out of work.
Elsewhere in the paper, employees whose positions were “considered excess to the publisher’s requirements” could keep their employment if they found someone else willing to quit their job at the paper – an attempt to take some sting out of staff cuts.
However, the 1979 contract also recognized that the publisher could use freelancers and contributors, as long as it was not to the financial detriment of editorial employees.
The gains had been won through the strong militancy and union solidarity of the time.
For example, Jim McCarthy said the first contract after the 1970 strike was “the single greatest contract gain in the history of the local.”
Newspaper employees in Victoria, B.C., had signed a contract with what McCarthy called “monstrous” gains in pay and benefits. The Ottawa local decided it wanted everything Victoria got – and more. Hence the term Victoria Plus. And the paper’s unions banded together to try to get it.
“We built this inter-union solidarity and we had a joint council,” recalled McCarthy. “We couldn’t force management to bargain with us all, as one collective unit, but the Guild went to the bargaining table and put everybody else’s contract proposals on the table along with its own, and everybody else did exactly the same thing. So we forced them to accept that we were working together. Legally we had to bargain separately. But we were in cahoots as far as we could be.”
The end result wasn’t quite as much as the Guild wanted: McCarthy said the Guild accepted grumpily (“some of us very grumpily”) less than it was demanding because the other unions were satisfied with what they had got and as a result they weren’t willing to risk a strike in support of the Guild.
“Sadly, after that the inter-union stuff dissipated a bit,” said McCarthy. “Why, I’m not sure.”
Winning rights for journalists
Progress didn’t come without a fight.
In October of 1977, Citizen reporter Katie FitzRandolph was suspended for three days for “insubordination.”
She had been asked by city editor Gordon Fisher to flesh out a CP story about two doctors, practitioners of Chinese medicine, who had been charged with defrauding public health insurance.
“Gordon Fisher asked me to interview the doctors and find out what they were charged with,” recalled FitzRandolph.
But a publication ban had been issued during the preliminary hearing, and FitzRandolph decided the assignment was unethical.
“I said I wasn’t going to do it,” she said, explaining that she felt that no matter what she wrote, she was going to be held in contempt of court. “The employer had no right to put me in legal jeopardy,” she said.
(The response from Fisher when she told him, FitzRandolph wrote at the time, was: “Oh, Jesus Christ!’ He then hung up the phone.”)
When she was suspended, she filed a grievance.
After 30 reported on October 17 that “an already sagging morale fell to a new low Thursday as news of the suspension spread among reporters, copy editors, photographers and copy persons.
“A grievance was filed early Friday and a meeting of Guild editorial members was called for Friday afternoon to discuss possible action to be taken.
“About 40 members at the meeting backed FitzRandolph’s stand wholeheartedly. They expressed concern about working for a newspaper which expected obedience at every turn and disregarded ethical and moral issues in order to pursue stories at any cost.”
Sagging morale turned to elation when FitzRandolph won her case nearly two years later before a board of arbitration.
“The substance of argument on behalf of the company is that there was no reason whatsoever why the griever could not have conducted the interviews as instructed and written the story, as the decision as to whether or not to publish was for management and not for the griever,” wrote board chair Ross Kennedy.
“I am satisfied that the griever had every anticipation that the story would, in fact, be published; and a consideration of the authorities which will be set out later in this award would indicate that the reporter, equally with the publisher, has a potential liability when what is published goes beyond the bounds of propriety.
“Accordingly, I would not accept the distinction made by the company … The grievance is allowed, and the suspension is to be stricken from the grieveor’s record. She is entitled to be compensated for all wages and benefits lost.”
“I won my case and expanded the right to refuse in Canada – they expanded it to say that the employer cannot put you in legal jeopardy,” recalled FitzRandolph. “This was an important grievance that the Guild took forward.
You mean they didn’t have cellphones?
Technological change wasn’t always suspect. In September 1973, about the time the Citizen moved to its Baxter Road location, the Guild executive endorsed a proposal to obtain two-way radios for all photo department cars “so that spot news can be better covered from our new location in the outback.”
Gone with the wind?
Guild records for some years are sketchy. In the 1970s, for example, the financial records aren’t what they should be.
Apparently, that’s because a Guild treasurer from those years basically used his car as his office, keeping all financial records in his trunk. One day he got a job in another city, and drove off with part of the Guild archives. It was weeks before anyone noticed what was missing, and by then the man was unreachable.
Long-held secret finally revealed
The story can now be told: It was Jim Scheer who got the bishop involved in the Citizen’s contract dispute.
In the spring of 1979 talks at the Citizen were not going well, and a strike looked imminent.
But then Guild executive member Jim Scheer came up with a clever and unusual way to apply pressure on Citizen publisher R.W. Southam.
Scheer knew Southam well enough to know that he was a churchgoer who would respect the word of an Anglican clergyman. So he arranged to have Rt. Rev. William Robinson, the Anglican bishop of Ottawa, invite the two sides to come settle their dispute in a Christ Church Cathedral anteroom.
It was done in a very indirect way: Scheer, who was the Guild bargaining committee chair, got Citizen music and drama critic Betty Swimmings to arrange for him and Jim McCarthy to meet with the bishop. The bishop wasn’t told of the reason for the meeting, just that they wanted to see him. Once they were in his office, they asked him to mediate the dispute.
Although perplexed as to why he was being asked, he agreed.
On April 30, 1979, the Citizen carried a story under the headline: “Bishop enters fray, strike vote averted in Citizen dispute.”
“An 11th-hour appeal by a leading Ottawa clergyman averted a scheduled strike vote Sunday by 250 Citizen employees currently involved in contract negotiations,” the story began.
“Saturday, the Rt. Rev. William Robinson, Anglican bishop of Ottawa, invited both sides in the dispute to meet with him the following day . …
“The meeting had not been entirely his own doing, he said. Someone, whom he declined to identify, told him of the stalemate in negotiations and asked for his intervention. He said he would be glad to help, though he felt a little uncomfortable.
“ ‘This is a whole new world for me,’ he said.”
The next day, May 1, was another story announcing that the two parties had reached a tentative agreement.
“ ‘I think my job is done,’ Robinson said. ‘I’ve been preaching reconciliation for years, but this is the first time I’ve tried to put it into effect in this manner.”
Section IV: A show of solidarity
Chapter 10: Meanwhile, at the Journal
Like many Canadian cities in the 1970s, Ottawa had several daily newspapers. Le Droit, as the only French-language daily, was off on its own. But the two big English-language dailies, the Ottawa Journal and the Citizen, were cross-town rivals involved in a decades-long battle for readers and advertising dollars.
For a long time they were well matched, and each prospered.
But changing economic times were transforming the Canadian daily newspaper business, and in cities all across the country, one paper was coming to dominate. The losers were folding or being merged with the winners.
All through the 1970s, the Citizen and the Journal battled it out in Ottawa. Both understood that it would be a fight to the death. When the battle was over only one would remain.
The Guild, which represented workers at both papers, had more than a passing interest in that battle.
Charles King, an editorial writer at the Citizen from 1967 to 1977, lived through the decade and describes it succinctly in a 1980 essay:
“The years between 1967 and 1979 changed the newspaper scene in Ottawa drastically.
“For many years, the Citizen and the Ottawa Journal had remained close together in circulation; the Citizen came to dominate the city, while the Journal was left with the more widely scattered and less profitable country circulation.
“Both papers by the 1970s needed new plant and equipment. Both were owned by large corporations which could afford to buy the best. The decisions made in their respective head offices in Toronto were crucial in determining the long-term future of both.
“In short, Southam Press guessed right, and FP Publications guessed wrong.”
The Journal built its new plant downtown, with old letterpress technology. “Papers, pencils, scissors and paste moved with the Journal staff to the new shop,” King wrote.
The Citizen built its new plant at Baxter Road, where the trucks carrying the paper to subscribers would not be caught in downtown traffic. It also went to computers and cold type; its offset presses were so new they were regarded by some as experimental.
The Citizen gamble paid off.
“At the end of 1973 the two papers were neck-and-neck in circulation,” writes King, “each with about 85,000 subscribers. Within two years, the Citizen had shot past the 100,000 mark, while the Journal went into sharp decline.”
Oddly enough, it was the 1970 labour dispute at the Citizen that started a train of events that led to the Journal’s demise.
That dispute saw a return of the ITU to the Citizen. But the ITU contract at the Citizen – unlike the ITU contract at the Journal – did not contain a bogus type clause and other so-called entrenched language.
“The Journal management wanted a Citizen-style contract with their own pressmen,” recalled Katie FitzRandolph, adding that when the Journal employees resisted, management locked them out in October, 1976.
In fact, they locked out all their unionized employees, including the press room, the composing room and circulation, which was represented by the Guild.
It was a long and nasty strike during which the company ran the paper with non-union personnel.
Eventually, said FitzRandolph, the circulation employees presented a decertification petition.
“Faced with the decertification petition from the circulation department, the Guild signed a contract and went back in,” she said.
“We won the vote against decertification by two votes,” FitzRandolph added.
It was a win that hadn’t been expected.
“I went back to the Guild office and told Bill McLeman, the Canadian director, that we had won.
“He said: ‘You couldn’t possibly have!’
“And I burst into tears.”
There would be more tears to come.
“We came along and rashly organized their newsroom,” said McCarthy. “That was because the newsroom came to us and said they wanted to be organized.”
But it was all for naught.
On December 17, 1979, three years of picketing in front of the Journal finally ended. The following month, the Journal’s owner, FP Publications, sold the paper to the Thomson group.
On August 27, 1980, Thomson suddenly closed the Ottawa Journal.
All the certainties of the last century were gone. A new era was about to begin.
Section V: Downsize me!
Chapter 11: TGIF, or what we missed while we were disco dancing
A decade of change
Looking it back on it, it was a time when we thought we had it all.
But we couldn’t see past our disco clothes that the world was about to change – radically – in ways that would transform our lives.
As the 1980s progressed, all the old certainties were slowly eroded. Technological change, coupled with a radical transformation in the economy and the rising tide of economic conservatism, had begun to transform the relationship between worker and management, upsetting the old order and ushering in a new age.
It was also a time when management, after years of being on the receiving end, started pushing back. Empowered by the new technologies, which reduced the need for human skills, and by new economic thinking, management seized the initiative and began forcefully pushing its own agenda.
By the early 1980s, the new management attitude had forced the Guild to shift from active to reactive mode. Instead of pushing for new rights and better conditions, it became increasingly concerned with preserving what had already been acquired and mitigating the effects of new technologies and new work methods.
This would be the leitmotif of the coming decades.
The new wave
In his book on the history of the Canadian labour movement, author Craig Heron says Canada has seen four waves of major changes in the organization of work – after 1840, after 1890, after 1940, and after 1975.
“Each disrupted the previous mix by altering the technological base of production, dispensing with old skill requirements and creating new ones,” he wrote.
This was certainly the issue with technological change, which from the day the Citizen moved to its Baxter Road plant in 1973 came to play a huge role in labour relations. Old skills and old jobs were not needed anymore. Changing technologies also affected television, as film was replaced by video tape and eventually digital recording. Each change required a new skill set – and eventually meant some jobs were no longer needed for production.
And it wasn’t just the organization of labour that was changing; the organization of capital was as well. Writes Heron:
“The structures of capital accumulation were again being transformed. The concept of an independent national economy that had guided business and state policy for half a century before the 1930s no longer existed. International free trade was the new capitalist orthodoxy. Tariffs in long-protected Canadian industries slowly came down. By the 1970s the ‘new international division of labour’ had shifted much of the production of clothing, shoes, textiles, appliances and other light consumer goods to the Third World.”
Many of us missed the implications of those changes. Secure in our jobs, we thought life would continue as before. It wouldn’t.
The other important thing we missed during the decade was how television had changed journalism.
The change manifested itself in two ways.
The first was the notion of time: Suddenly, newspapers found themselves competing not with each other, but with the evening TV news. That competition grew stronger as TV technology moved from film to video tape and became critical when the appearance of all-news channels made TV, rather than print, the medium of record. Suddenly, print reporters found themselves all but shut out of events and forced to watch Newsworld, like everyone else.
The second factor was tied to how TV itself operates. A hot medium, it thrives on emotion and drama. “Television is popularly understood to be a medium of entertainment,” wrote Andrew Osler in News: The Evolution of Journalism in Canada, adding that by 1988, polling was showing that nearly half of all Canadians – 47 per cent – kept up with the news via television, while fewer than a third – 31 per cent – relied primarily on newspapers.
As circulation and ad revenues slid, newspaper owners began to look at ways to cut costs yet keep market share. That was sometimes interpreted to mean having fewer reporters writing less news and more fluff.
Heron writes that starting about 1975, “Canadian capitalists sought their own cures for their headaches. International competitiveness was their goal, ‘restructuring’ was the remedy, and greater flexibility in corporate operations was the main ingredient.
“Mergers proliferated. Across corporate empires, campaigns of ‘rationalization’ led to drastic reductions in staff.”
In retrospect, the lockout at the Journal had been the first sign that management was on a counter-offensive. That counter-offensive was to continue throughout the decade as companies all across the country either cut staff or threatened to do so. By November 1982, for example, the Guild was telling its members that “management is putting pressure on the Guild to come up with suggestions on how to cut costs and save money.”
The threat of layoffs hovered in the air: Cuts at other Southam papers left Citizen employees fearful.
The economy went into recession in the early 1980s, and workers’ economic security was rocked by sky-high interest rates. High interest rates were great if you had money invested, but this also meant that during the early years of the decade, mortgage interest rates of 18 per cent were the norm. Times were tough.
The early 1980s saw a rise in unemployment along with interest rates. After hovering just above seven per cent in 1980, the unemployment rate shot up to a peak of 12 per cent in 1983 and would not reach seven per cent again until 1988.
The key to all the change was new technologies.
“From the 1950s onwards,” writes Craig Heron in The Canadian Labour Movement, “thousands of workers, especially in white-collar jobs, started to find computers installed in the workplace; the goals of computerization included replacing manual skills, speeding up work, and coordinating and monitoring workers more closely.
“This new technology opened up job opportunities for some workers, but it frequently displaced many more.
“Printers, for example, were shut out of the new computerized typesetting operations. The postwar compromise that left most of these matters exclusively within employers’ control was coming home to roost.
“The issues of technological and managerial change remained a source of recurrent friction and contributed to many workers’ smouldering resentment and bitterness into the 1980s and 1990s.”
Section V: Downsize me!
Chapter 12: Pushing back, pulling ahead
Coping with change – reluctantly
Pat Bell, a Guild activist in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said the membership didn’t immediately catch on to the change in management’s attitude.
Yet in the 1980s, she said, “papers were starting to realize that readership was going down and they were trying to contain costs. So people in newsrooms were being treated differently. Things just started to change in the way newspapers were managed.”
Some of those changes were pointed out by the Kent Commission, which was established by the federal government to look at the concentration of newspaper ownership in the wake of the simultaneous closing of the Ottawa Journal and the Winnipeg Tribune.
The Kent Commission report, issued in 1981, noted the growing concentration of newspaper ownership carried social costs — driving good journalists out of the profession because of inadequate pay, failing to train newsroom managers properly, and sometimes prioritizing economic considerations at the expense of responsible journalism.
Attitudes among staff were changing, too: For example, by 1986, three-quarters of Citizen Guild members wanted smoking banned in the workplace, or at the very least smokers separated from non-smokers.
Smoking was also a big issue at CJOH, where After 30 reported in May 1987 that the issue was still unresolved: Management had been required to come up with a comprehensive smoking policy within 60 days of the signing of the new contract, but nothing had been done.
And society was becoming more commercial. Sunday, for example, was no longer a day of rest. We were now expected to work, and the ongoing debate about Sunday shopping in the late 1980s was punctuated by decisions by both the Citizen and CJOH to create new Sunday products: In the fall of 1988, the Citizen began regular Sunday publication, while CJOH began running a new public affairs show.
Because staff for the Sunday show would be working outside regular working hours, CJOH management wanted the Guild to waive certain provisions of the collective agreement.
The Newspaper Guild convention of 1980 signalled a slow acceptance of the new realities.
In addition to resolutions demanding better conditions for journalists – a Freedom of Information Act, for example – the convention also found itself urging the provinces to “adopt legislation requiring employers to negotiate the terms of plant closures with the unions involved.”
Cutbacks, closures and other similar issues dominated the decade as the Guild fought economic rationalization.
But even as it reacted to – and tried to mitigate – management moves to cut costs, the Guild also succeeded in obtaining some significant new rights.
By the early 1980s, sexual harassment had become a concern. In 1982, a contract negotiated by the British Columbia Government Employees Union was one of the first in Canada to outlaw sexual harassment.
By the middle of the decade, the Guild was pushing for protection against sexual harassment.
It first had to explain to employees what sexual harassment was – which it did through explanatory articles – and to raise consciousness about the issue through surveys. For example, a survey at the end of 1987 revealed that a number of circulation and editorial department employees at the Citizen felt they had been sexually harassed within the last six months. About half of the incidents involved offensive jokes, comments and sexual innuendo.
But at least two cases in circulation were much more severe, “including two cases of unnecessary physical touching, patting, pinching or brushing up against, and one incident involving an invitation for a date with the implication that refusal would be penalized.”
Contracts reflected increased concern with equality: Over the decade a number of new conditions came to be added to the Citizen contract’s clause 5.2 on non-discrimination.
The contract signed in 1981, for example, stated that “sex, race, colour, creed, national original, marital or parental status have never been considerations for employment by the publisher or membership in the Guild.”
The 1984 contract reworded that clause significantly – and expanded its range to include “age (except for the circumstances outlined in 5.2.1), sex, race, colour, creed, national origin or marital or parental status and irrelevant handicap …”
By 1987, sexual preference had been added to the list.
The Guild also worked to raise consciousness among its members about the health dangers of working on computers, in particular the danger of repetitive stress injuries (RSI), which were starting to show up among reporters and others who worked regularly on computer keyboards. Concern about RSI eventually led the Citizen to develop work stations that were ergonomically adjustable.
Tony Côté, who was Guild president in the early 1980s, says it was a time when non-monetary issues dominated.
“We knew we were going to get X per cent,” he said. “We were always looking at how do we improve the lifestyles of our members. My recollection was that that’s where we made big gains in the early 1980s.”
Grievances often helped smooth out bumps related to technological change.
For example in the late 1970s, the Guild won a major arbitration on behalf of Bill Hartnett, a former proofreader who had been transferred to circulation when the proofreading department was disbanded.
The contract stated that the hours of work for employees in Hartnett’s classification should be between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.; however, when he was transferred to circulation, he was assigned to work between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
After 30 reported in April 1978 that an independent board of arbitration had ruled that all the time Hartnett had worked between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. between July and December 1976 was to be considered overtime, and the Citizen was ordered to pay.
The ruling pointed out that Hartnett had been transferred to another department under a technological change clause and that his transfer did not interfere with his other contractual rights in any way.
The issue of freelance work also arose: In 1987 the Guild took on the case of permanent newsroom employees who were paid freelance rates for covering evening meetings – meetings that took place after their shift had ended. The Guild argued that these people were staff, not freelancers, and should be paid staff rates.
“We don’t want our work contracted out to freelancers who are paid by the piece,” the Guild stated.
The Guild lost that one when, in the summer of 1988, an arbitrator ruled in favour of the company.
Côté said journalists in the early 1980s were slow to catch on to the idea that technological change affected them as well as people in the trades.
“I got my first computer at home in 1982, and I started doing some work from home. I brought it in on a floppy. The technological revolution was happening. But at that point we had our heads in the sand because we were journalists.”
Côté said The Newspaper Guild’s Washington office helped the ONG realize the importance of this and other issues and start dealing with them.
“That’s why you go to conventions!” he said.
The mood at the paper was sometimes testy. The Guild got through the decade without a strike, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. In 1984, for example, Guild members voted to accept a new contract by only a slight margin – 55 per cent. And that was a contract that saw salaries increase by more than 23 per cent over three years.
Yet Côté says relations between the Guild and management were generally good.
“Russ Mills and I came to one agreement under the clock in the newsroom,” he recalled.
Said Pat Bell: “Because the Guild was so well established – and, I would say, accepted by management at the time as an element at the paper – we were able to consolidate what we had already gained.”
But it was tough, because she said membership was not as militant as it had been a decade earlier.
In the fall of 1987, she said, the Guild called a membership meeting to present them with a management offer. The executive urged that the offer be rejected, and that a strike vote be taken.
Bell was stunned by what happened: “The strike vote did not pass. It was lost! And immediately, members instructed the bargaining committee to go back and ask for more – which was stunning to the negotiating team. I felt I was being told, ‘OK, you didn’t get any meat for supper, so here’s a gun with no bullets and go back and get something,’
“This was a really interesting lesson for me.”
The next round of talks went much better, she said.
“We went into negotiations again in 1990 and we did get a strike vote – and we did well. We really got some good percentage raises in that round.”
News flash: VDTs cause RSI
There was concern in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the computer screens of the day – called video display terminals, or VDTs – not only caused eye strain and other injuries, but also gave off dangerous levels of radiation. The Guild was actively involved in campaigns to ensure that VDTs were safe to use. In December 1981, for example, After 30 reported that two ONG members, Tim Harper and Sue Hanna, had been sent to Toronto to attend a conference on the safety of VDTs.
“Our areas of major concern related to eye strains, headaches, the need for new prescription glasses, back strain and the monitoring of the ongoing research into the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to low-level radiation.
“The Guild has asked the Citizen to make available lead aprons for pregnant employees willing to work on the terminals, for added protection.” The lead aprons did not remain a newsroom feature for long. But by the end of the 1980s, Guild pressure helped bring about recognition of the need for ergonomically appropriate furniture in the workplace – proper chairs, adjustable work stations, wrist rests, foot rests, proper lighting – and regular breaks.
Chalk one up for the ONG
Sometimes, the Guild found advantages in the new technologies: In July 1987, for example, it was announced that the Guild’s newest unit was made up of the Citizen’s computer people – 12 full-time staff and one part-timer.
1980s pay rates
The three-year contract signed at CJOH in 1989 brought the key rate for a general reporter to $877 a week; a senior reporter earned $1,025 a week. The employer also agreed to pay all employees required to work from home – for example, by conducting telephone interviews – at a rate of time and a half for a minimum of one hour.
In 1989, Citizen reporters started at $585.93 a week; the top rate was $851.01. The top editorial rate, covering such jobs as Assistant News Editor, Chief Parliamentary Writer and Night City Editor, was $955.76 in 1989.
Sometimes a small threat can have big implications. Eleanor Dunn, Guild president in the 1970s, recalls that CJOH employees who appeared on air were always concerned about a clothing allowance.
In an effort to push the issue of a clothing allowance for on-air staff, Dunn says CJOH reporter Charlie Greenwell once threatened to write to his good friend Liberace to ask whether he could borrow a few gold jackets to wear on TV.
Section VI: Google ‘outsourcing’
Chapter 13: A whole new ballgame
Just e-mail me
Nothing since the arrival of television has changed our lives so profoundly as the Internet. In the space of a few short years, starting in the mid-1990s, it completely transformed the way we work, the way we play, the way we communicate, and especially the way we perceive and manage time. It abolished distance and allowed us to stay connected with friends, family – and the office – 24/7. It killed joke-telling: Who tells jokes anymore? We just e-mail them instead. And it created a world of virtuality, in which we have traded real-life relationships and experiences for virtual activities and virtual friends.
The Internet has also profoundly shaken up traditional journalism and radically shifted the way we work. Journalists e-mail sources in other time zones and expect an answer within minutes. They can instantaneously research all manner of topics from anywhere in the world: What year was the ITU founded? Let me just Google it … Who needs a morgue when you have Wikipedia and Infomart? Meanwhile, blogs and YouTube have allowed non-journalists to contribute to the information mix and caused traditional media to wonder how they can continue to maintain their status – and their profits.
Journalists have been told they must become jacks of all trades. It is no longer enough to write one blockbuster of a story: Now the story must be sold and promoted on television and blogs and websites that offer the latest developments minute by minute.
Television, too, has undergone a tremendous transformation, from all-news channels to the arrival of the high definition television, time-shifting and the 500-channel universe. The concept of ‘local’ is diluted by the availability of TV stations from all over North America and the world.
Actually, the concept of local has also been diluted by the arrival of globalization and a radical shift in the economy.
And for Canadian media, the seismic shift came in 1996, when Southam Inc. (including the Citizen) was taken over by Conrad Black’s Hollinger Corp.
When Conrad came calling
When, on May 23, 1996, Hollinger Corp. acquired Southam Inc., many Canadians were in shock.
Newspaper employees were fearful: What would happen to their jobs? Hadn’t Hollinger fired 173 people at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post earlier in the year? And what about editorial policy and general approach? Black had often stressed that most Canadian communities were more conservative than the newspapers that served them.
Jim Jordan, the Liberal MP for Leeds-Grenville, spoke for many when he described May 23, 1996, as the “black Friday in the Canadian newspaper business.” The Council of Canadians tried to launch a court challenge to the takeover, but their bid was rejected when Federal Court Justice Bud Cullen ruled that the council had missed a 30-day period to appeal the federal Competition Bureau’s approval of the Hollinger Group purchase.
The issue of the concentration of media ownership had festered for a long time. More than a decade earlier Senator Keith Davey, in response to the Kent Commission report, had said that “press concentration in Canada has become almost total.” Now it seemed worse! We waited with bated breath, wondering what was about to happen.
Before the takeover, Black himself visited the Citizen to look it over.
Wanita Bates, who was Guild president at the time, recalls being called into the office of publisher Russ Mills. He nervously asked whether the Guild was planning a protest or action of some sort to mark Black’s visit.
The Guild had nothing planned, and the visit went smoothly.
In retrospect, the Hollinger takeover did revitalize the Citizen, boosting circulation and giving the paper a higher profile. But it came at a cost. And the costs increased when, a few years later, CanWest Global acquired the paper and began transferring jobs to Winnipeg.
The distancing of ownership
The two transfers of ownership – first to Hollinger, then to CanWest – had another effect, a more subtle one: They increased the physical and psychological distance between management and employees. This, in turn, changed the way contract bargaining was conducted.
However paternalistic they might have been, the Southams had a personal stake in the Citizen’s success and saw the employees to some extent as family. And even if R.W. Southam rarely strolled through the newsroom, he lived in the community. Employees (and Guild executive members) might occasionally encounter him in church, or at a shopping centre. Relationships were personal.
But Conrad Black never had an office at Baxter Road. And neither, later on, did the Aspers. And as a result, the relationship with the owners was indirect, conducted through professional managers who measured success by the bottom line.
The Southams had been the first to use professional managers; by the time Hollinger took over, the gap between workers and owners had widened to a chasm. The owners, meanwhile, were playing by new, harder rules.
At one point the Guild discovered, for example, that the company had an insurance policy with a Bermuda company to pay for replacement workers in the event of a strike. The policy, however, did not apply in the case of a lockout. Which meant, when bargaining got down to the wire, that it was in the company’s interest to provoke employees to strike.
Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize!
The economic landscape, meanwhile, changed dramatically as globalization and the instant Internet world took hold.
In the 1990s, according to an analysis of job quality in Canada by The Graham Lowe Group, it was all about “downsizing, restructuring, de-industrialization, economic insecurity, the end of work, work intensification, contingent workforces and polarization.”
By the mid-2000s, as the baby boomers edged to retirement and the Internet came to dominate communications, the buzzwords became “labour and skills shortages, globalization, retention and engagement, expanding work, stress and wellness, flexibility and living standards.”
That change was reflected in unemployment: After rising to over 11 per cent in the recession that hit in the early years of the 1990s, the rate fell and stayed below eight per cent for the first years of the 2000s.
The paper, meanwhile, was trying to adjust to the new world.
One of the biggest adjustments of the early 1990s was the decision to abandon afternoon publication and switch to mornings. The change was made in the spring of 1991.
More was to come. By the turn of the 21st century, when the Internet came into its own, a whole other set of issues arose and the words convergence, multitasking, outsourcing and rationalization were added to our vocabulary.
These issues would dominate the late 20th century and the early years of the 21st.
Section VI: Google ‘outsourcing’
Chapter 14: Facing down the bean-counters
Haven’t I heard that song before?
Kurt Johnson, Guild president in the late 1990s, recalled how immediately after the takeover by Hollinger, Conrad Black’s associate, David Radler, “told all the properties that they needed to rationalize their budgets – and that labour was the only place where they could make savings.”
This was to be a constant refrain as the Citizen’s new owners – first Hollinger and later CanWest – began to exert control. At the Citizen and elsewhere, the 1990s and early 2000s were all about coping with management efforts to whittle away at money and jobs in a rapidly changing economy.
Victory for women
The 1990s had begun well. Pat Bell, a union activist in the 1980s and 1990s, said the Citizen was the first newspaper in Ontario to complete the pay equity exercise that brought women’s salaries into line with men’s.
The issue of accommodating employees who were not white, heterosexual males had been a constant theme since the 1960s. At first it was mostly an issue of gender parity but gradually the concept grew to encompass other groups.
As early as 1971, for example, The Newspaper Guild had begun to focus on minority rights. After 30 reported that year that Eleanor Dunn had been to two special conferences within the last year, one on women’s rights and one dealing with the recruitment and training of minority group employees in New York City.
Dunn was in fact elected chair of the human relations subcommittee at the TNG convention in Chicago that year, and produced a six-page report with recommendations as to how locals could best help their women and minority groups.
Pay equity was one way to help women, and the issue gained prominence in the late 1980s.
In February 1988, After 30 gave this example of what pay equity would mean:
“At the Citizen, some jobs traditionally seen as women’s work have lower salaries than jobs usually done by men.
“For instance: The clerks, typists, bookkeepers and cashiers who work in the business office are all women. Their salaries range from $441 to $502 a week.
“In the circulation department, all the district supervisors are men. Their salaries range from $534 to $787 a week.”
The idea was that the work done by the district supervisors was equivalent to the work performed by the business office women and that the business office salaries should be increased. 
The Citizen and the Guild started work on pay equity in the spring of 1989, with the goal of having a pay equity plan in place by January 1990.
This goal was achieved. Eighteen female job classes involving 76 Guild members had come under review. Fourteen of the 18 classes got pay adjustments. That meant pay raises for 66 people; the raises ranged from 55 cents an hour to $3.57.
The Guild was successful in getting some of the money early: By law, the pay raises had to be in effect by January 1, 1991. The Guild asked that the entire raise be given starting in January 1990. The parties compromised. The first pay equity adjustment, representing half the raise, was made on January 1, 1990; the second – and final – adjustment was made one year later.
The pay equity exercise had an unexpected spin-off during contract talks when it became apparent that the very people who would benefit – women in clerical jobs in circulation and the business office, as well as support staff – were being offered smaller percentage salary increases than those offered to better-paid employees.
“We found that terribly unfair,” said Pat Bell, adding that the Guild was able to use that to advantage.
“We knew the public would find that unfair because it targeted women, so we had a pretty strong strike vote that year as well. It was wonderful that even those who were to gain very nicely stood with those who wouldn’t have – and so the company backed off.”
Gender issues continued to progress: By the late 1990s, sexual harassment had become officially taboo. And in early 1999, 600 Citizen employees were require to attend one of 23 seminars in order to familiarize themselves with the company’s new sexual harassment policy.
A constant battle
The whole tone of labour relations in the 1990s and early 2000s was nasty as management continued efforts to downsize. The Citizen offered buyouts in an effort to reduce costs; at CJOH, things were harsher. In the spring of 1999, 19 CJOH employees – including two Guild members – were laid off as part of a round of 131 layoffs at CTV affiliates across Canada.
Job security became a major issue. An ONG survey at the Citizen in the spring of 1994 identified it as the number one concern: “Buyout offers and company downsizing have members worried for their jobs,” the Guild reported.
Also in 1994 – one year before the Citizen switched to Apple computers and gave everyone Internet access and email – the Guild was already warning about the pitfalls of “telecommuting,” or working from home. Other related issues of the 1990s concerned demands on the part of management for greater worker flexibility – i.e., being available to work weekends – and the use of freelancers or part-timers who, of course, had no benefits.
The Guild took on the freelance issue in 1994.
In one case it grieved the use of a freelancer in the entertainment department, saying the woman was in effect a full-time employee and should be classified as such.
A bigger battle had the Guild seek reclassification of 12 Citizen editorial employees to full-time status. The paper had been increasingly using part-timers on the night news desk and on copy staff. Even though most were working full-time hours, the company was arguing that they were part-timers and not entitled to benefits. The Guild championed their cause and by the end of the 1994 it had won its case: Nine of the 12 part-timers gained full-time jobs and became entitled to sick leave, vacations and increased job security.
It was a two-step victory: In the fall of 1994 the Citizen agreed to take on five of the people as full-time staffers; four other cases were sent to arbitration. (Of the three remaining employees, one had in the meantime quit and the two others were dropped from the grievance.)
The arbitration board ruled in the Guild’s favour just before Christmas of that year – at which point the Guild filed a similar grievance on behalf of nine part-timers in circulation.
Wanita Bates was one of the people who got a full-time job as a result of the Guild intervention.
“The reason I got involved in the Guild was because the Guild fought for me,” she said, adding that if the Guild hadn’t taken up her case, “I might still be freelancing for the Citizen.”
The first contract negotiated after the Hollinger takeover was a tough go, with management negotiators maintaining they wanted a wage freeze or wage reductions.
But the Guild came up with a good counter-argument.
“It was at that time that Ric Davey found out that the company had a 24 per cent rate of return,” recalled Kurt Johnson. That, he said, put the wind in the Guild’s sails.
Citizen employees faced new battles following the sale of Hollinger to CanWest Global. Questions immediately started to surface with regard to benefits and the pension plan.
But even more worrying was the long-term trend toward staff reductions.
This was done through a combination of buyouts, transfer of jobs to head office and the replacement of employees with independent contractors.
In March 2002, for example, it was reported that 65 part-time customer service jobs at the Citizen were to be transferred to CanWest’s Winnipeg call centre. The transfer of the jobs resulted in the layoff of 60 people in Ottawa. Later that year, the Guild filed two layoff grievances following the transfer of Citizen accounts payable work to Winnipeg.
Parallel to this was the trend toward reducing the number of employees by contracting out. In some cases, whole departments were eliminated and the work transferred to independent contractors.
In the summer of 1999, for example, all hell broke loose when the Guild was told that management was planning to eliminate 15 full-time and 15 part-time jobs by contracting out the district supervisors’ jobs in circulation.
Guild president Lois Kirkup reported that six of the full-time employees were offered an enhanced buyout, while the rest were offered a regular buyout package and a chance at one of the nine distributorships.
The Guild filed a grievance under the contract, as well as an unfair labour practice complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Within a few weeks, a deal was reached: The 15-full time employees were offered the enhanced buyout; 14 of them took the package, while one took a new position.
“On the surface this seems like a victory,” Kirkup said at the time. “But after many long discussions with the guys, I know many of them didn’t want to leave. They liked their jobs and wanted to continue working for the Citizen. Unfortunately, Citizen management was able to persuade them that this was the best opportunity they were going to get. That it would only be a matter of time before their jobs would disappear for good.
“I couldn’t convince them that we would continue to fight for their right to stay.”
Those whose jobs remained found their work transformed and their tasks increased.
For example, by the early 2000s, print journalists at the Citizen were being asked to appear on television as part of their jobs. As a result, cross-media work began to be the subject of grievances.
It was the Guild’s view that on-camera appearances were not optional for reporters and that they should receive extra compensation for them. In October 2002, a compensation settlement was reached following an arbitration case.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere continued to be unpleasant:
“Executive members of the Guild have been hearing an increasing number of complaints from members about incidents of harassment and intimidation in the workplace,” FYI reported in the spring of 2002.
The brave new world was not a very friendly place.
In February 1998, TNG Canada Today reported that “TNG Canada’s web page is nearly finished and could be accessible on the World Wide Web this month.”
The Citizen faced its first labour dispute in 26 years when it locked out some 70 pressroom employees on March 11, 1996. The pressmen were members of the Graphic Communications Union. The dispute centred on how many people worked, when they worked, and who got to keep their jobs. As usual, cost-cutting was the theme: The company wanted to put seven workers instead of nine on each of its three presses, and it was offering retirement and buyout packages in an effort to reduce the number of people running the presses by about 25 per cent over two years
The GCU lockout lasted for more than 14 weeks.
One example of the tone of the decade: the flurry of complaints about management actions following the ice storm of January 1998, a major natural disaster that was the focus of most news reporting for three weeks. There were complaints about the way management at the Citizen had treated employees who had been unable to get to work because of nasty road conditions. An editorial employee, for example, had one day docked from her timebank because the ice storm had prevented her from leaving her rural residence to get to work.
CJOH was more accommodating, and the Guild sent off a letter of appreciation to CJOH management for not requiring that employees unable to get to work be required to use their annual leave to account for the time off.
Section VII: Epilogue
Chapter 15: Looking back, looking forward
Strength and leadership
Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, believed that strikes were necessary. “Show me the country that has no strikes,” he once said, “and I’ll show you the country in which there is no liberty.”
Jim McCarthy, a Guild activist in the 1970s, doesn’t agree with Gompers that strikes are a necessity. However, he believes that unions have to be strong in order to get for the workers what is rightfully theirs.
He recalled a story that was told about a Guild local in the United States:
“They apparently did their homework, they did surveys, they did statistical studies,” he said. “They backed up everything they asked for – including the paper’s ability to pay.
“Then they went to the bargaining table and they said, ‘Here’s what we want and here’s the justification for it.’
“And they put that to the publisher, and he examined it and said, ‘This is an excellent job and I agree with practically everything here. And when you are strong enough to take it from me, you’ll get it. Until then, you won’t.’
“One’s got to remember that business is in business to make a profit. And one of the highest-priced things is labour. So even good employers have no real urge to pay more than they have to.”
McCarthy says a union doesn’t have to go out on strike to demonstrate strength. The Guild, he said, showed its strength in other ways.
“Management is no fool,” he said. “They pay a price for a strike, just as the union does. And they know the union’s strength. They know when you are strong.”
McCarthy said the Guild won strong settlements in the 1970s because its support of the ITU in 1970 demonstrated union strength and union solidarity, and because members stood behind their leaders.
Times have changed since McCarthy’s day.
Tony Côté, who was active from the 1980s, said it’s since become very difficult – “almost impossible” – to motivate people and get them involved in the Guild. “And the company knows this.”
But Côté says the ONG has always been blessed with great leadership – people who are trusted by members and fellow employees. And that has made the difference. Russ Mills agrees.
Mills started out at the Citizen on the night desk as a Guild member and went on to become editor and publisher.
“The leadership of the Guild were generally intelligent and reasonable people,” said Mills in an interview in his office at Algonquin College, where he is executive dean of the Faculty of Arts, Media and Design.
“You could have intelligent discussions with people and come up with solutions with them.
“We went through a period of enormous technological change when the whole nature of work changed dramatically – and we got through that with practically no labour disputes at all.
“We went down to the wire with negotiations a few times, but we were always able to reach agreements peacefully.
“From the big picture perspective, it was a good relationship.”
That good relationship worked both ways: In 2002, when Mills was dumped from his job as Citizen publisher, the Guild called for a byline strike in protest.
“When we asked for support,” said Côté, “we got it.”
Pat Bell, an activist in the 1980s and 1990s, said another good thing about the Guild was how it got people in different parts of the paper to know each other – and forced them to challenge their own ideas about what the paper is.
“We have a tendency in editorial to think that the purpose of a newspaper is gathering and disseminating of news and information,” she said, “and that everybody else is there to support that.
“But by working in the Guild with people from other departments, I learned that they didn’t all think that way.”
The future, of course, is a blank – an empty slate waiting to be written on. Where will it lead? One can only guess.
But in thinking ahead it is interesting to consider the words of W.L. MacTavish, a Southam newspaper editor in the 1930s and 1940s. In a radio broadcast on July 12, 1937, he gave this appreciation of the newspaper business:
“The newspaper is a business, true enough – but this is the strange thing about it: The newspaper that is operated strictly as a business becomes, in a very few years, a business that isn’t worth owning.”
The statement, 70 years down, still rings true.
Bibliography & Sources
Abella, Irving. The Canadian Labour Movement. Canadian Historical Association #28, 1975.
Bond, C.J. An Ottawa Chronology, 1950-1983. Manuscript (Ottawa Room, Ottawa Public Library), 1984
Bruce, Charles. News and the Southams, Macmillan of Canada, 1968.
Haig, Robert. Ottawa: City of the Big Ears, 1969.
Heron, Craig. The Canadian Labour Movement: A short history. 2nd edition. James Lorimer & Co., 1996
Ibbitson, John, ed. Fair Play and Daylight : The Ottawa Citizen Essays. Ottawa Citizen, 1995.
Keshen, Jeff. Ottawa: Making a capital. University of Ottawa Press, 2001
Kesterton, W.H. A History of Journalism in Canada. McClelland and Stewart Ltd., Carleton Library Series, 1967.
Lamb, James B. Press Gang: Postwar life in the world of Canadian newspapers, Macmillan of Canada, 1975.
Morton, Desmond. Labour in Canada. Grolier, 1982.
Osler, Andrew M. News: The Evolution of Journalism in Canada. Copp Clark Pitman, 1993.
Stewart, Walter, ed. Canadian Newspapers: The Inside Story. Hurtig, 1980.
Arbitration Board ruling in the case of Katie FitzRandolph, signed by Ross L. Kennedy and dated at Toronto, May 1, 1979.
Mass Media, Vol. 1 The Uncertain Mirror. Report of the special Senate committee on mass media. 1972 printing.
21st Century Job Quality Webinar #1, The Graham Lowe Group, 2007.
Newspapers & Periodicals
After 30 (Guild office)
Carleton Journalism Review, Vol. 2, No. 3, Autumn 1979: The Perils of Court Reporting, by Kathryn Fournier.
The Ottawa Citizen microfilm (Ottawa Public Library) Infomart, clippings
The Ottawa Journal microfilm (Ottawa Public Library)
TNG Canada Today
Agenda of the 1999 Sector Conference (64th convening of The Newspaper Guild). April 29-May 2, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario.
Guild contracts from 1950 to present
Newspaper Ownership in Canada: An overview of the Davey Committee and Kent Commission studies. Joseph Jackson, Political and Social Affairs Division, Public Works and Government Services Canada, December 17, 1999: dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/prb9935-e.htm#B.%20The%20Kenttxt.
Special thanks to Pat Cavalier of the Guild office for her kind assistance.
About the author
Daniel Drolet (www.danieldrolet.com) is an Ottawa writer. He worked as a journalist for the Canadian Press, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen, covering many major national issues before becoming the Citizen’s Assistant News Editor. As a freelance writer/editor since 2003, he combines journalism with corporate work for government and private sector clients, and his byline regularly appears in newspapers and magazines across Canada. He is also chair of Algonquin College’s Journalism Advisory Board. This is his second book.
 Charles Bruce, News and the Southams, Macmillan of Canada, 1968.
 The column was reprinted in Agenda of the 1999 Sector Conference (64th convening of The Newspaper Guild). April 29-May 2, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario.
 James B. Lamb’s Press Gang: Postwar life in the world of Canadian newspapers, offers a colourful account of life in small-town Ontario newsrooms of the period.
 From Robert Haig’s 1969 book Ottawa, City of the Big Ears.
 King’s comments here are taken from his essay Ottawa Papers : The Profits of Parochialism, in Walter Stewart’s book 1980 book Canadian Newspapers: The Inside Story.
 Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Historical Review 2006, as quoted in a webinar on 21st century job quality prepared by The Graham Lowe Group.
 Quoted in The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom website, www.presscampaign.org/index.htm.
 After 30, September 1988.
 After 30, January 1988.
 From ‘It’s Black’s day in Canadian journalism’ by Chris Cobb, Ottawa Citizen, July 22, 1996.
 Newspaper Ownership in Canada: An overview of the Davey Committee and Kent Commission studies. dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/prb9935-e.htm#B.%20The%20Kenttxt.
 Quoted in News : The Evolution of Journalism in Canada by Andrew M. Osler, 1993.
 At the same time, stereotypes were breaking down: One month later, in March 1988, it was reported that Anne Marie McNulty had become the first female hired as a district supervisor in circulation.
 Ironically, within months, the Guild was reporting that problems of understaffing were the subject of talks with management.
 Quoted in News and the Southams by Charles Bruce. MacTavish was editor of the Winnipeg Tribune and later of the Vancouver Daily Province.