Journalism students from King’s College made the trip to the Chronicle Herald offices on Feb. 3 to show support for the workers on strike, and to send a message to the Herald.
Their message? Students will not be scabbed out.
It was reported by the CBC Nova Scotia bureau on Jan. 12 that the Herald management had reached out to freelancers and students, offering them the possibility of up to four month contracts with the paper in the event of work stoppage.
“I think that management thought it was going to be easy to find freelancers, students and recent grads to scab out while these people were on strike,” said Rebecca Rose, who is an organizer with Canadian Freelance Union. “I think the fact that it wasn’t, and folks at the journalism school spoke up about it, and people at the Canadian Freelance Union spoke up about it, a lot of our members and journalism students refused to scab out.”
Rose coordinated the event by speaking to journalism classes at King’s College about the importantance of not giving scab labour. The students were so supportive of Rose’s message that many decided to show support by joining the picket lines.
“I wanted to come because I wanted to show my support and solidarity”, Ashley Corbett, a fourth year student at King’s, said. “I just hope that the people who are striking are given a fair wage. We have a lot of problems with media cuts right now in Canada, so I’m happy to see people standing up for workers rights.”
Corbett is one of the many students who refuse to scab out to the Herald.
“It’s important in any industry, for people who are students hoping to go into that industry, that they support those who are standing up for workers rights that will soon affect them,” she said.
Many students felt that it was not only important to show solidarity to the workers because of the strikes, but also for the future of workers’ rights in Nova Scotia.
“It’s not just about the workers at the Herald today, it’s about everyone who needs fair wages and fair benefits,” Julia-Simone Rutgers said about her motivation for attending the protest.
“I think that it’s really important to be supporting. For me, this is the industry that I want to spend the majority of my career in, and to be supporting fair wage over all.”
The opportunity to pursue a career in journalism in Halifax is already limited, and with the recent cuts at the Chronicle Herald, this equates to even less opportunity for the next generation of journalists in the city.
Students and freelancers, however, are still taking a stand against being a cheap labour alternative for the Herald, hoping that this will force the Herald into returning to the bargaining table with its employees.
“There is a dearth of good journalism jobs already, which is why I’m out here, because these folks are fighting for some of the last good journalism jobs, and if they don’t win this fight, there’s going to be less jobs for us, our friends, our colleagues” Rose said.
“I think that if they see students and freelancers are standing up against this then they’ll know it will be more difficult to run a paper going forward, they’re trying to bust the unions and it will be more difficult to run a paper if they know that freelancers and journalism students won’t be compliant.”
While it is not certain what the future of the Chronicle Herald will hold, students and freelancers are asking for the Herald to hear the voices of the workers and to hold negotiations.
The younger generations of journalists in Nova Scotia adding their voice to the cause may have an effect.
“If you see that there are younger journalists that are aware of what’s going on, and the situation that the Herald has put them in,” Rutger said, “that’s their future employee base and it adds potency to the message.”