Their struggle was first brought to national attention in December when 35 police cars descended on a solidarity rally of 400 union activists, sponsored by the Alberta Federation of Labour.
John Webster, president of Local 34M of the Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU), said there were also "four mounted police in full riot gear. We were not trying to stop production. It was a solidarity rally."
The strike began November 8. According to striking reporter Naomi Lakritz, the unions are demanding an agreement that includes the "most basic of contract clauses providing for seniority, job security, a wage grid, and freedom from harassment." Production workers are members of the GCIU and journalists are members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).
"In the last 10 weeks I've had a picket sign in my hands rather than a camera," Shannon Oatway told a meeting of the Vancouver District Labour Council last month. Oatway has been a photographer at the Herald for 17 years. "One thing I've discovered is that a union means solidarity. I want to thank you for the solidarity you've shown and I'm asking you to dig deeper. We need your help," she said.
Oatway's comments were part of a short tour by the strikers to Vancouver, Victoria, and Nanaimo in British Columbia. The Herald is the only daily in Calgary and was purchased in the last few years by newspaper magnate Conrad Black, who owns more than 600 newspapers worldwide.
In an open letter calling for support, the striking locals point out there are also labor disputes at the Jerusalem Post, the Regina Leader-Post, Le Soleil in Quebec City, and the Castlegar Sun in the Kootenay in British Columbia.
"As collective agreements come up for renewal at his other newspapers," the letter says, "Black will try to crush them, too. The outcome of the Calgary Herald strike will have far-reaching implications for thousands of workers."
The two unions have launched a boycott of the National Post, Conrad Black's Canada-wide daily. The Canadian Labour Congress, the major trade-union federation in Canada, backs the boycott. The unions can be contacted at the CEP/GCIU Strike Fund, P.O. Box 37009, Calgary, Alberta T2E 8V1. Tel: (403)207-1554.
Annette Kouri is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Ned Dmytryshyn, a member of the International Association of Machinists, contributed to this article.
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