Workers at the Toronto Star are sticking together as the paper undergoes lay offs and continues to contract out work. Stuart Laidlaw, chair of CEP local 87M that represents the Toronto Star newsroom reports on recent acts of grassroots solidarity.
Amid deep staff cuts and contracting out, CEP members at the Toronto Star have shown what they are made of, and Wednesday April 18 was no exception. The Star hands out awards in the newsroom every month, and solicits staff to nominate their co-workers.
This month, staff in the newsroom overwhelmed the nomination committee with nominations for the laid off co-workers – so much so that the committee had no choice but to recognize all the editors, designers, artists, EAs and librarians who are being laid off from the paper. The staff’s own words about the important contributions of all these people to the newspaper were read out, and then all their names were read out, one by one. It was a very long list.
Then the applause started, and went on and on across the newsroom. It was the longest applause of the ceremony, in fact. The longest anyone could remember in a while. On the edges, a few uncomfortable managers didn’t applaud, and it was noticed by the membership. This simple act of grassroots solidarity comes after weeks of such moments.
Hours after the lay offs being announced March 4, an emergency meeting of those being targeted was called. With just half an hour’s notice, the room was packed as co-workers emptied the workplace to show support for their colleagues. Two days later, these same people withheld their bylines from the paper en masse in a further show of support. Some reporters had been working for weeks or months on investigative pieces, but pulled their bylines. Then, last month, reporters and others came to work with home-cooked meals for the page editors whose jobs are being contracted out – a little comfort food in difficult times. These incredible acts of support and solidarity came from the grassroots, and show what unionism is really about – caring and comfort for our fellow man and woman.