How PressProgress Covered Underreported Stories About Canadian Workers and Strikes in 2023
Here's what our labour journalism looked like this year
In 2023, PressProgress made strides in our mandate to report on workers’ issues in Canada. Not only did we break new ground in our reporting, we also were at the forefront of rebuilding labour journalism in Canada.
PressProgress highlighted how media workers are at the forefront of labour journalism on Spring Radio:
“The labour beat will be pushed forward by people who are interested in doing labour stories. When you’re pitching stories to editors, to publications, what you have to do every time is you have to make a case for it. You have to go, this is why this matters, this is why we should tell this story, this is why I can tell it. The more reporters are able to do that and articulate why it’s important, the more expansive labour reporting we will see.”
This year, the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies invited PressProgress to speak about labour reporting on a panel alongside reporters from the Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The Canadian Press and The Tyee.
We also continued our Labour Reporting Internship for its third year, welcoming UBC School of Journalism student Phoebe Fuller to the PressProgress team for the summer.
PressProgress interviewed Faiz Shakir, co-founder of the US labour media outlet More Perfect Union about the need for more labour reporting.
“What is labour journalism? It’s really the struggle of people to fight for a better life for themselves and their families,” Shakir told PressProgress.
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough compatriots but I’m glad that you guys are one of them and I hope that there are many more to come.”
Labour Journalism as Popular Education
PressProgress spoke with workers in-person at the Canadian Labour Congress and Canadian Building Trades conferences. We encouraged workers to fill out a survey on why labour reporting matters to them. Here are some responses:
“Corporate media doesn’t support much reporting on the class struggle.”
“We need more media focused on working class people.”
“There are way too few labour reporters on labour beats”
“I wish it was as mainstream like sports coverage is.”
PressProgress’ national labour newsletter Shift Work had its two year anniversary in September. Shift Work is the only place you can find a running list of all active strikes and lockouts across Canada.
Through tracking strikes over two years, we were able to make some general observations about media coverage of strikes and lockouts in Canada. One significant observation is that strike coverage is incredibly inconsistent across the country:
“Strikes and lockouts are news — full stop — and deserve in-depth coverage no matter where they are. These labour disputes often have profound, lasting impacts on workers and their communities. We lose the big picture of what working class life in Canada is like when these stories are not told.”
Shift Work was also selected as a finalist in the 2023 Canadian Online Publication Awards.
Making an Impact
PressProgress’ reporting has resulted in “significant” changes to The Globe and Mail’s business relationship with Canada’s Top 100 Employers Awards.
Canada’s Top 100 Employers awards is sponsored content published annually in The Globe & Mail and produced by a third party group called Mediacorp.
The Top 100 awards have been repeatedly criticized by OH&S experts across Canada for awarding companies linked to worker deaths, Cargill and Suncor, spots in the Top 100. PressProgress has been the primary outlet covering the story over the last two years.
This year, The Globe and Mail publisher Philip Crawley told PressProgress the Globe is taking its logo off Canada’s Top 100 Employer Awards to clarify to readers that the awards are sponsored content and not journalism. Crawley also said Suncor is no longer participating in the awards and that the judging will include improved OH&S criteria.
Sean Tucker, an occupational health and safety researcher at the University of Regina, coordinated the effort to get companies with worker deaths removed from the top 100 list.
“I do think we’ve seen a significant change here,” Tucker told PressProgress.
PressProgress was the first media outlet to cover Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls’ first visit to Canada. We also reported on Amazon’s $5 million in fines over worker injuries.
On an EXCLUSIVE new episode of 🔴@pressprogress SOURCES🔴@rumneeek speaks w/ @Shut_downAmazon Union President Chris Smalls at this week’s 2023 @broadbent PROGRESS SUMMIT to talk about paving a new way forward for workers:https://t.co/DPHnpw524o https://t.co/yRi7iY3QlU 🔶 pic.twitter.com/8bMXQyLtJe
— Harbinger Media Network (@Harbingertweets) March 11, 2023
The Fight Against Rising Hate
While this year saw a dramatic increase in anti-2SLGBTQ hate, we also saw Canadian workers and the labour movement increase efforts to stand up for the 2SLGBTQ community.
Our Labour Reporting Intern Phoebe Fuller was the first to report on the Canadian Labour Congress’ initiative to mobilize workers across Canada to defend workers from far-right anti-2SLGBTQ hate groups.
Canada’s unions are organizing to defend workers from far-right anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate groups.
— PressProgress (@pressprogress) July 27, 2023
For Trans Day of Visibility, we reported on trans discrimination in the workplace and the labour movement’s role in developing protections and supports for trans workers.
We also reported on the labour movement’s efforts to oppose Scott Moe’s pronoun policy which would override the charter of rights and freedoms, and BC teachers’ efforts to counter misinformation about the 2SLGBTQ community.
This was the first year PressProgress provided comprehensive coverage of a major strike utilizing our team across Canada. We went to PSAC picket lines and spoke to workers in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario. We highlighted the kinds of jobs federal workers actually do, and why the strike was of particular importance for Black and racialized workers.
We also were the first to report on new CCPA data showing federal workers’ wages were no better now than in 2007.
We also reported on Poilievre’s Conservatives’ dodging questions about whether striking workers deserve a raise.
PressProgress also covered Quebec’s historic Common Front strikes, the BC port strike, the Metro grocery strike, the Hollywood actor’s strike, the ACTRA lockout, the Roger’s Communications strike, the Molson Coors’ strike, strikes at Carleton University and Simon Fraser University, and Canada’s longest active strike at Vancouver’s Radisson Blu hotel.
PressProgress regularly provides election coverage highlighting issues important to workers. During the Alberta election, we spoke to experts who reviewed Alberta’s labour laws and found the UCP government had the worst worker protections in the country.
We also spoke with construction workers about their campaign to end the union-busting practice of double breasting in Alberta.
During the Manitoba election, labour experts told us the Manitoba PC’s labour track record was marked by chaos and division among workers and that the PC’s had no real plan to fix the health care staffing crisis.
PressProgress frequently covers right-wing efforts to privatize public services. This year, we explored the history of health care privatization in Canada.
We also were the first to report on the world’s biggest alcohol companies’ influencing the Manitoba PCs “modernization” plans to increase private liquor sales.
These are just some of the many labour stories PressProgress has covered in 2023. Our team of journalists across Canada could not do this work without the support of workers themselves who create news every day by organizing, speaking out, and sharing their stories with the PressProgress team.
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