Statement from Jerry Dias
There was a twitter buzz about Unifor last week. It happened when the federal government announced its $595 million aid package to journalism while, in a seemingly unrelated event, conservatives everywhere took deep offense at a parody meme in which Unifor announced its state of readiness for the 2019 election.
The conservative backlash charged that the independence of any journalist represented by Unifor was compromised.
However, here is something we hear over and over again from journalists: no one will ever tell you what to write. It doesn’t matter if its opinion, analysis or straight up news.
Now if anyone was likely to tell you what to write, it might be your editor, never your union. Newsroom unions exist to make sure journalists can work independently.
If editors try to exert political influence on your work, we step in as we did at the Toronto Sun last spring when a leaked memo suggested rank and file journalists were conscripts on an anti-Liberal team.
Here is what the Unifor leadership would like to you to know: whether it's journalists, media workers or any of Unifor's 315,000 members, we know everyone’s political conscience is their own. That’s our Canadian birthright.
When the Unifor leadership speaks, it’s on behalf of a democratically constituted union. The National President and our National Executive Board are elected every three years by the convention delegates, who are also elected by their local memberships.
We advocate for labour legislation, human rights, and health and safety. We also fight for government policy affecting your material life: trade deals, health care, and child care, to name a few.
That means the choice of government matters. In the 2014 election, Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak vowed to slash public services by laying off 100,000 front line public sector workers, as well as legislating union-busting “right to work.”
Unifor got politically active to prevent that catastrophe.
We did the same in BC to help convince voters to boot the union hating Christy Clark out of office.
Now in 2019 a wave of right wing populists is hoping to seize office and roll back good government policy that affects your daily lives.
Which brings us to the meme. Unifor was probably late to the party with our parody of the Maclean’s cover.
It seems that every left-wing group in the country was poking some good fun at the tone-deaf characterization of five right-wing guys forming “The Resistance” to power.
So we joined in the fun.
Judging from the reaction, there are those who didn’t get the humour. Certainly conservatives expressed outrage.
These are the same conservatives who recently smeared Bloomberg reporter Josh Wingrove as a “Liberal” reporter because they didn’t like one of his news stories. Doug Ford is on record calling reporters “maggots.”
We hope we’re wrong, but we can probably expect more demonization of journalists as we roll into this election year. It fits the right-wing populist narrative nicely. Apparently we are all elitists: that is everyone outside the party of Harper, Scheer, Ford, and Kenney.
That is why we can not sit on sidelines while the right chooses the populist road to power.