Reflections on the Chronicle Herald strike

012317rally2By Frances Willick

My Herald colleagues voted on August 10 to accept a deal after a year and a half on strike. For many — most, I dare say — this is little cause for celebration. Yes, it brings a much-needed resolution to this toxic situation.

But the toll it has taken is deep.

Unless you’ve been on strike for a lengthy period, you probably can’t fathom what that feels like. I was on strike with my Herald co-workers for about 14 and a half months, although I was on maternity leave for 12 of those months, and have since taken a job at the CBC. But I certainly got a good taste of what it’s like. The anger just gnaws at you. Anger towards management who forced you out. Anger towards scabs (I’m not using that other term, which is way too nice for them). Anger toward those who could have helped, but didn’t.

The anxiety is constant. What will become of me? What will happen to my career? How will I pay my bills?

It even can affect your self-esteem. You start to wonder, “Am I any good at what I do?”

There were so many dark times during those 566 days on strike. (566! Think about that for a minute.)

But thank goodness for those who showed support. You helped us get through it. Those quick honks of the horn as you passed by the picket line helped. Those surprise coffee deliveries on cold winter days helped. And those cheques donated by other unions helped, too.

The strike was at times divisive, even among union members. But it also forged bonds among co-workers who weren’t very close before the strike started. These friendships will go on, even after our little Herald/Local Xpress family breaks up.

The Local Xpress, the online strike publication we started shortly after the strike began, was another bright spot. It was, as veteran sports reporter Monty Mosher has said, “a lifeboat in stormy seas.” It allowed the reporters, photographers and editors an opportunity to keep doing the work they love. That publication will cease with the ratification of a deal. RIP Local Xpress. You were a good little news source.

Some people are leaving the Herald “voluntarily.” I use quotation marks because yes, they’re opting to collect severance and go, but these are people who never would have left the job they loved if this hadn’t all happened.

Others are simply losing their jobs. What a way to go, after years — and for many, decades — of hard work.

The coming days and weeks will be difficult for everyone, whether they walk through the doors of the building on Joseph Howe Drive again or not. Those who return to the Chronicle Herald will have to work alongside management who kicked them to the curb a year and a half ago, and maybe also with the scabs who thought nothing of their role in all this (you will forever be known as scabs, by the way).

Those who walk away will grapple with an uncertain future and possibly an end to the career that was part of their identity for so long. These journalists and staff are talented. They’re kind. They’re dedicated and they’re strong. They’ll get through this. But they still have challenges ahead. Now begins the time for healing. I wish all of my friends and former co-workers every bit of strength, luck and resolve.

I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.

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One thought on “Reflections on the Chronicle Herald strike

  1. I am relieved to see the workers at the Chronicle Herald get a deal. Having spent 718 days (JUST shy of two full years) on strike from MBS Radio in Saint John, I know intimately what a toll can be taken in such disputes, but also the pride of knowing you stood up and were heard and fought back to finally win a deal! Our strikers ALSO had an outlet for our creative energies during our strike… Radio Free Saint John was operated by our 7 members on strike with help from our supporters and union, and streamed live, 24-7 for most of the strike’s duration. Also like the CH workers, a few of us… myself included… did not return to the stations once a deal was struck. Although I miss my colleagues and my radio career of over two decades, I still remain proud having stood up for what we believed in… upholding the duty a local media outlet has to it’s community, and fair treatment for the workers who perform that duty. Congratulations to all the CH workers who held their ground until the battle was won!

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