AFL-CIO in Solidarity with Locked Out Canadian Workers

Washington, DC – On September 12, 2005, a solidarity rally was held by the AFL-CIO in John Marshall Park, 501 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, at Constitution Ave., next to the Embassy of Canada. It was in support of the 5,500 members of Local 30213, Canadian Media Guild, (CMG), who have been unfairly fired and locked out of their jobs for over a month by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), an agency of the Canadian government. [1]

John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, which is made up of fifty-four affiliated unions, was one of the main speakers at the spirited event. [2] He said: “I bring to the members of the CMG, a message of support. We know that their families are suffering, but the fight that they are fighting is worth it. They are fighting for all of us. The CBC, own by the Canadian government, is acting like any giant, multinational media conglomerate, trying to use its size and resources to crush the hopes of workers for a better life.”

Sweeney continued, “The issues those workers are fighting for are our own issues: More job security, the right to careers with a future, decent compensation, job training and development, and a life outside of work. The concerns that these worker have are the concerns of every worker in America – of every worker in the world. And, that is why we are protesting today in Washington, in London, in Moscow and Jerusalem, in Brussels and Tokyo, in Seoul and Berlin, and in Paris and Sydney.”

Linda Foley, President of “The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America,” (TNG-CWA) also spoke at the demonstration. [3] Foley said, “We’re here today to send a message to the Canadian government that it is time to end the lockout at the CBC of 5,500 of its staff employees and to achieve a fair agreement and to get back to producing some of the best journalism in North America on the CBC.”

Recently, the feisty Foley came under a barrage of vicious criticism from attack dogs associated with the looney Far Right; including hacks from Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting. Foley had dared to mention that unembedded journalists have been “targeted, for real, in places like Iraq.” Since March 20, 2003, 85 journalists have been killed in Iraq, and, at least 14 of them “were killed by American military forces!” Whether the deaths of these journalists were the result of an accident of war, criminal negligence and/or intentionally deliberate, remains an open question, that needs to be answered. Why hasn’t it been answered? It’s because the Bush-Cheney Gang has revealed “an unwillingness to objectively investigate the deaths,” despite repeated and urgent requests to do so by officials of the TNG-CWA and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). [4]

One of the locked out CMG members, Neil Macdonald, a native of Canada, also spoke at the solidarity labor rally. He had been working as a correspondent for the CBC, since 1988. The CBC is a corporation comparable to the the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the U.S. [5] “The lockout has been very hard on our members,” he told me while we were sitting together on a bench at the park, just before the rally began. “I don’t’ believe it (CBC) wanted to bargain in good faith with us,” Macdonald said.

In referring to the lockout, Larry Cohen, President of the 700,000 membered Communication Workers of America, (CWA), (6) raised these relevant questions at the rally: “This is an issue of do we still have meaningful careers where we work in this global economy? Or, are we going to stand by while a public corporation, the CBC, owned by the Canadian government, drags us to the bottom of the world economy?” The CMG is affiliated with the TNG-CWA, one of the most action-directed, labor movement-oriented unions, within today’s, sadly, splintered AFL-CIO. [7]

John Connolly is President of AFTRA. He issued a strong statement in solidarity with the locked out members of the CMG. He called for an embargo of the CBC. Connolly asked the 12,000 TV and radio reporters of AFTRA, “not to do debriefs with CBC management, and to write their stories in a way that will make it difficult for CBC to air them.” He labeled the deplorable tactics of the CBC, “vile and stupid.” (8)

Another union, the Screen Actors Guild, (SAG), recently made it clear that it, too, is supporting the embattled members of the CMG in its struggle with the CBC. "It is disgraceful and entirely unacceptable that management at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has locked the doors on thousands of working men and women who sought only one thing: a just and equitable agreement with their employer," said SAG president Melissa Gilbert. "The [actors’ union] is urging its members, particularly its high-profile members, to seriously consider this situation and wherever possible avoid granting interviews with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until this matter is resolved," Gilbert continued. SAG is the largest labor union representing working actors, with nearly 120,000 members. (9)

After the rally ended, Presidents Sweeney, Foley and Cohen, walked over to the front door of the Canadian Embassy, where they each presented a letter of support for the 5,500 locked out workers to an embassy official. Cohen, when he handed his letter over, said that the lockout was "a shame on the Canadian government!" Foley added that the lockout was "especially shameful," while Sweeney pressed the embassy official for a very fast response to their legitimate concerns. (10) My personal suggestion is, and I say this with a heavy heart since I dearly love Canada and its people, that every card-carrying union member, and supporters of the Labor Movement in the U.S., decline to vacation in Canada, and recommend the same to their family and friends, too, until this situation is equitably settled.










[9]. For full disclosure purposes, this author is a member of AFTRA, SAG and Actors’ Equity.

[10]. A full transcript of the remarks of Presidents Sweeney, Foley and Cohen, when they were at the front door of the Canadian Embassy and confronting the embassy’s representative, can be found at: