Thursday, 3 May 2007

SONG anniversary

It has been almost three years since the first Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild contract was signed on behalf of Toronto Sun newsroom employees.

May 14, 2004 to be exact.

A union at the anti-union Sun? That was the reaction of media watchdogs, Sun co-founder Peter Worthington and others when SONG entered 333 King Street East.

The union experience at the Toronto Telegram before the Bassett family called it quits over union demands in 1971 left a bitter taste in the mouths of the 62 Toronto Sun Day Oners.

No union for the Sun, they said.

There was little need for a union during the first 25 years or so because management did its best to provide comfortable wages and generous benefits.

We were the underdogs, working more for less, but when the going got good, management shared the good fortunes with staff by giving us pay hikes, profit sharing, sabbaticals, Christmas bonuses, stock options etc.

The union tried to get in the Sun's front door with a membership drive in the mid-1980s, but there was little interest. The numbers - and the need - just weren't there.

Then along came Quebecor in 1999 and the start of annual cutbacks, layoffs and firings. Job preservation in the workplace replaced job satisfaction and loyalty.

The numbers, after 30 years in a non-union environment, were suddenly there and SONG was welcomed with open arms. The vote in January of 2003 was 71% in favour of joining SONG, but it took more than a year of tough negotiations to get their first contract.

The informative new online edition of SONG's PDF newsletter recaps the first three years of union activity within the Sun and the benefits of membership.

Columns by Brad Honywill, Rob Lamberti, Jim Slotek and Charles Greene paint a clear picture of post-union life at the Toronto Sun and the continuing membership drive.

After eight years of Quebecor cutbacks throughout 333 King Street East, we wonder if Peter Worthington's anti-union sentiments expressed in Sun columns in 2004 have subsided.

Perhaps we can goad him into writing a May 14 column on the union's presence since 2004.

We also wonder what the Toronto Sun landscape would look like today without the union.

Much like the decimated non-union Edmonton and Calgary Suns, no doubt.

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