Life as a freelancer isn't necessarily easy.
Sure, you get to make your own hours, you can go without shaving for days, and your business attire may actually be your bathrobe. But living from piece to piece, without benefits, without a pension, sometimes without not even getting paid – it all takes a toll.
But that's no reason to cross a picket line and perform scab labour at the Chronicle Herald, says Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) president Leslie Dyson.
“A short-term influx of work for freelancers during a lockout, will not benefit any of us in the long-term,” says Dyson. “Crossing the picket line, and helping management to keep the paper running smoothly during a lockout, will undercut the Typographical Union’s ability to negotiate a fair contract. Conditions will only get better for communication workers—union and non-union—if we remain united and support each other.”
The 61 members of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU) currently working at the Herald, are facing a lockout situation as early as January 22. Management's reaction to the HTU has been bullish, to say the least. Yesterday, January 12, reporters and photographers had their bylines and photo credits pulled from the Herald “indefinitely”. Aside from being a proverbial 'slap in the face' of workers, it also makes the newspaper scab ready.
According to the HTU, Herald management has informed potential scab workers that they will have no picket line to cross and will be able to work from virtual workplaces. Without the need to attach their names to their Herald pieces, they will also not have to worry about being branded a 'strike breaker', which would have the potential to tarnish their professional reputation. Both the King's Student Union and the director of the University of King's College Journalism School have noted the long-term, negative, impacts that strike breaking can have on a journalist's career.
The Herald is privately owned and operated, so, while pulling names from articles and photos might be perceived as a 'dirty trick', there's not much aside from public pressure to stop them. Without many cards to play, the HTU – and now the CFU – are asking potential scabs to show solidarity with fellow workers in a tough situation, whatever the potential benefits being offered to them by Herald management might be.
While the CFU and Dyson acknowledge that “not all freelancers are in the position to turn down paid work”, they'd like freelancers to see the difference between the work you do because you have to, and the work you do and feel good about.
Strike breaking to pay the bills is nothing to feel good about. Or so the argument goes.