The 1999-2000 Herald Strike, 20 Years Later


Twenty years ago, workers at the Calgary Herald went on what would become an eight-month strike, citing editorial overreach, a torqued political slant, and unfair treatment in the newsroom. Herald striker Terry Inigo-Jones joins Team Advantage to discuss his experience taking on the Herald and its then-owner, Conrad Black. This story has it all, folks— Canadian media concentration, scabs who you’ll now recognize as right-wing hacks, a literal press baron, police intimidation and brutality, private security goons, and much much more.

Terry:              Just, pronunciation is “Hollinger” and “Southam.”

Kate:                Right. I – so Terry, you might not know this, but kind of my thing on the podcast is that I can’t pronounce anything properly.

[intro music]

Kate:                Hello, everyone. My name is Kate Jacobson, and you’re listening to the Alberta Advantage. On Team Advantage today, we have Rory-

Rory:                Hi.

Kate:                – Karen-

Karen:              Hello.

Kate:                – and we’re joined by our guest, Terry Inigo-Jones-

Terry:              Hello.

Kate:                – to discuss the Calgary Herald strike on the occasion of its 20th anniversary in 2019. The strike ran from November 8, 1999, to June 30, 2000, so it was quite a long-lasting industrial dispute, and it also had a long-lasting impact on journalism and the extremely dire media landscape of Calgary and of Alberta.

And through our research, we’ve also come to see the strike as a key moment of resistance to the concentration of media ownership in Canada, as well as the rightward editorial shift that accompanied that media concentration.

Karen:              So in the last 20 years across many cities and communities in North America, we’ve seen newspaper workers continue to be squeezed through lower pay, increased workload, and layoffs to counteract declining profitability, which are factors that were present in the Herald strike.

Kate:                And this story of the Herald strike also features some of the scabs we have mentioned extremely unfavorably, but entirely fairly, on the Alberta Advantage before. These are people like Calgary Flames owner Ken King and Danielle Smith and her various iterations from Wildrose Party leader to talk radio host to platforms white supremacist conspiracy theories, plus Conrad Black, who most Canadians know by name but probably don’t hate as much as you will by the end of this episode.

And of course, we are going to discuss some folks from the right side of history and the picket line, like Terry. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your involvement in the strike?

Terry:              I was working as a deputy news editor at the Herald at the time. I’d been there for about 10 years when the strike started, and when you talk about a rightward shift in the way news was covered, that’s true. The interesting thing, I think, was that amongst the membership who joined the union, many of them would have considered themselves to be right-wing, but they still knew that journalism was supposed to be unbiased and not about their opinions.

And it was when the editorial directions came down to slant the news in a particular way – in a conservative right-wing way – that even they knew that they had to step in and do stuff. So it was a significantly difficult decision for those journalists to join a union, but they felt they had no other choice. And I was happy to be part of it.

Kate:                So what we’re going to do on this episode is we’re going to take you through our strike timeline, from its origins and highlights to kind of some analysis and retrospectives and the decline of the Canadian daily newspaper more generally. Our sources include the strike paper “The Last Word,” then contemporary Canadian news reports, and books and articles published since.

Team Advantage members spent some illuminating and also kind of infuriating hours in the Central Library procuring this material, and we are very eager to share it, particularly a lot of the stuff from the strike paper “The Last Word.” It was a real treat for us to find this on the fourth floor of the Central Library.

Terry:              I’d just like to say that the best journalists in the Calgary Herald were on strike. The best ones were on the picket line, so we had access to some of the best columnists, the best reporters, the best photographers in the country, so that’s why “The Last Word” was really quite good.

Kate:                I agree.

Rory:                Before we get fully into the strike itself, it’s important to talk about a larger trend that was happening in Canadian media at the time. So basically it was that the concentration of ownership in Canadian media was something that really accelerated over the 1990s, and you’ve heard us constantly complain about Postmedia, and now we have kind of a chance to explain a little bit why it sucks so much and the history behind this.

So Postmedia is relatively recent. It was formed in 2010, and it’s owned by a U.S. hedge fund. It purchased all of the Canadian newspapers that it owns from Canwest after it went bankrupt, and all of these newspapers that Canwest had were originally owned by a company called Hollinger International Incorporated.

Hollinger was owned by Conrad Black, son of a wealthy businessman. Black got involved in the publishing industry, buying his first newspaper in 1966. When his father died in 1976, Black inherited a diverse business empire which included holdings in many Canadian companies, from mining to agricultural machines to retail.

In the 1980s, Black started divesting himself of many of these stakes in other companies to concentrate on the publishing industry. This was a few years before Black would be appointed to the British House of Lords and would renounce his Canadian citizenship, and several years before he’d be convicted of fraud and embezzlement and would be sentenced to six and a half years in a U.S. federal prison.

Kate:                In the 1980s, English-language newspapers in Canada were mostly owned by five companies, and even then, this concentration of ownership was pretty concerning, and a Royal Commission on Newspapers, known as the Kent Commission, was struck in 1980 to actually investigate this issue, and the commission was concerned that newspaper owners could be more interested in profitability rather than providing news as a public good. Seems to me like an inherent contradiction of capitalism, but what do I know?

And even worse, what the Kent Commission found out was that the ownership of these media properties might be using its control of media to shape public discourse to their beliefs and might actively attempt to squash editorial independence and diversity of viewpoints. I for one cannot imagine this ever happening in our society, so it seems very far-fetched to me.

Rory:                More seriously, it’s actually hard to imagine a time when ownership of newspapers in Canada didn’t do that.

Kate:                Yes. Very much so.

So the Calgary Herald was owned by Southam Inc., which was one of these five companies, and Southam did generally allow the local editorial boards to set the tone of their paper’s coverage, and Southam also didn’t really squeeze their newspapers for particularly high profits, which meant that local communities had kind of reasonably well-resourced media outlets that could provide broad coverage.

However, in the late 1980s, Hollinger was on a buying spree of newspapers in Canada and around the world, and by 1990 they owned over 400 newspapers in North America, most of them local community papers, and by the mid-1990s, Hollinger has actually acquired 58 out of Canada’s 102 dailies.

Hollinger, just to remind people, is owned by our good friend Conrad Black.

Karen:              Black was interested in immediately increasing profitability of his newly acquired assets, so since newsrooms don’t directly generate revenue, which is – it mostly comes from subscriptions and advertising, cutting back the newsroom turned the savings straight into profits, particularly in markets where circulation growth was flat and competition was stiff.

Newly purchased Hollinger papers would then be put through restructuring to shrink or cut newsroom departments that were deemed inessential, such as culture, religion, etc. Staff workloads would then be increased to reduce total staff numbers, and new hires would be paid less, and management was expected to find other ways to cut pay for current staff. So a bunch of fun tactics right there.

Rory:                Black wasn’t just interested in increasing profits. He was also very politically conservative, and willing to use his huge platform that he now owned to share his views with Canadians. So papers bought by Hollinger rapidly underwent editorial shifts to align with Black’s politics. Editors who wouldn’t accept having their coverage dictated from the top were replaced by ones who would. Conservative columnists were hired to slant opinion sections more to Black’s liking. And Black even hired his wife, Barbara Amiel, as a columnist.

Kate:                Conrad Black also started the National Post in 1998 as a counter to The Globe and Mail, which he thought was too left-wing, and the National Post was to compete with The Globe and Mail as a national daily and it was to offer Black’s conservative perspective, and he openly used it as a vehicle for his thoughts and for his politics. And however, which I find very funny, the National Post was very unprofitable while Black owned it, and other papers in the Hollinger chain were subsidizing the National Post‘s losses.

Terry:              So one of the things the journalists at the Herald found very frustrating was the claim that the changes that you’ve just mentioned were supposed to make the paper better reflect the community, which was nonsense, because the community of Calgary was supporting the Calgary Herald. It was making a lot of money. But all of that money was being taken out of Calgary and sent to support this vanity and ideologically driven National Post project. So it wasn’t – the changes weren’t meant to help Calgary. They were meant purely to fuel Conrad Black’s national agenda.

Kate:                Yeah. So while the strike might kind of on the surface seem like a pretty basic industrial dispute over things like workloads and pay and all the types of things that you might expect strike action over, the strike really took on, and very much, from what you’re saying, Terry, took on this importance to the strikers – a national importance of a core issue about the concentration of media ownership and the use of the press in the hands of basically this, like, activist conservative press baron who was, like, using the labor of newspaper workers to fund his ideological vanity projects.

Terry:              Yeah. For us, the biggest issue was our ability to be journalists, our ability to do our job as people to report unbiasedly and [fairly] on all kinds of stories for the benefit of our readers, and that ability to be good journalists was being taken away from us. So money was secondary; even workload was secondary. It was about being good journalists.

Kate:                In 2001 after the strike had concluded, Hollinger sold its Canadian newspapers to Canwest, which we mentioned before, owned by the Asper family. The Aspers very much maintained the conservative slant of the papers, and concentration of Canadian print media really has not gone any better since, and has, in fact, got exponentially worse over the years.

Rory:                Now that we’ve talked about concentration in Canadian media, we’re going to get more into, like, the actual sort of origins of the strike at the Calgary Herald.

So unlike most large newspapers in Canada at the time, the Calgary Herald was not unionized. The paper had remained union free from its inception in 1883, in part because it paid staff competitive wages. But in July 1996, Hollinger purchased a majority stake in the Herald. Things were about to change.

Kate:                And Hollinger immediately put the squeeze on the Herald to increase profitability, and they also rapidly began implanting those editorial changes that we talked about to make the paper more conservative. The editor-in-chief, Peter Menzies, branded the paper as afflicted by left-wing groupthink, which was supposedly at odds with Calgary’s natural conservatism. He said in an interview with Maclean’s, “I thought we should be more inclined to support free markets and entrepreneurship.”

Terry, can you tell us, were you and the other journalists at the Herald afflicted by left-wing groupthink?

Terry:              Not that I recall. I don’t remember being afflicted by anything in particular, apart from desire to be a good journalist.

Kate:                Here’s one of my favorites from these editorial changes, is then-publisher of the Calgary Herald, Ken King – and yes, this is the very same Ken King who is now the CEO of the company that owns the Flames and who just got a $275 million handout from the city to build a new arena – he changed the writing of news copy that took place in the Calgary Herald, and he introduced a style where both sides would be represented at the top of the story, which in practice meant that conservative perspectives were represented first and Reform MPs were always asked for comment, no matter what kind of what the story was about or how relevant their perspective would actually be.

Terry:              He also introduced something where story assignments would be given to reporters with the initials F.O.K. on them, and this was to indicate that the source of the story was a “Friend of Ken.” So that would be there as a message to the reporters to deal with the story in a certain nonconfrontational, friendly kind of way.

Kate:                What the fuck?

Karen:              [laughs] Wow.

Terry:              That’s F.O.K., not F…

Group:             [laughs]

Kate:                Management would also rewrite stories before publication without the consent of the author. One of the worst people for this was Joan Crockatt, who would go on to be an MP under Stephen Harper from 2012 to 2015, and she was famous as managing editor for heavy editing, extensive rewrites, and drive-by editing right before a deadline, which would then be published under the original writer’s name despite the rewrite. So really kind of trafficking on the good reputations of newspaper workers at the Calgary Herald in order to do this deep ideological work.

Terry:              That was particularly frustrating for some of the reporters, because they’re experienced, they’ve done a good job, they’ve done their research, and they’ve written their story, and every reporter knows they need some editing, but when the editing is done after they’ve left the building and they don’t get to see it again and you read it in the paper the next day and it’s not only entirely different, but sometimes completely wrong – that led to some very, very serious problems.

Kate:                The paper also shied away from publishing anything that might offend their corporate clients, and they really tended towards more civic boosterism rather than any kind of objective or fair journalism.

Karen:              So the paper used to pay by a salary grid, but then it was changed to individually negotiated salaries with each new hire. This condemned young writers to low wages, and better-paid older writers are targeted with layoffs at this time.

In November 1998, 75% of newsroom employees voted to unionize.

Kate:                So in 1998, as Karen said, the Herald workers unionized under two banners: Local 115-A of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada; and Graphic Communications International Union, Local 34-M. So they unionized 160 editorial staff and 70 distribution workers out of a total workforce of 700, and this is because the circulation and advertising departments remained nonunionized.

Can you – were you present at the unionization process, Terry?

Terry:              Yeah.

Kate:                Can you talk a little bit about that?

Terry:              Yeah. So the pressmen were members of the GCIU, but they were part of a separate bargaining unit from the people that were – put the flyers and did the inserts and handled that kind of thing, so they were the second bargaining unit, the GCIU, but their organizing drive coincided with the one in the newsroom. So the journalists became part of CEP, and this other smaller section of the production crew became part of GCIU.

Kate:                Right. And even though you mentioned unionized in 1998, by late 1999 you were still trying to negotiate a first contract, and Hollinger was incredibly hostile to unions, and he really wasn’t interested in negotiating. The union wanted the company to recognize a seniority system in the event of layoffs, and they wanted differential night pay and 5%-per-annum pay increases over three years. Editorial staff were also unhappy that the ownership was too involved in changing the content of stories to toe a particular line. The union also demanded that all employees shall be treated in a respectful and equitable manner, which was for some reason a real sticking point for management.

Terry:              One of the things that led to the journalists there joining a union which was a big change in their attitude before was that they’d had a newsroom group before, but the management had forbidden the newsroom group from meeting during work time or on work premises, so we weren’t even allowed to talk about the issues. They wouldn’t listen; they wouldn’t let us talk about it. So that’s when we formed the union. So the idea that they would need to treat us respectfully was clearly out of their area of expertise. They had no idea how to treat people with respect.

Rory:                Shortly after the successful unionization, Ken King departed as publisher, to be replaced by Dan Gaynor. So Gaynor was the publisher for the Hollinger-owned St. Catharines Standard in Ontario, where he defeated a three-week strike in 1998. The union there ended up with a contract that had three years of pay freezes for current workers and a 7% pay cut for new hires. So Gaynor was brought to Calgary because the ownership was preparing for a strike and wanted an experienced union buster. The managers at the Herald were trained in other jobs and replacement workers were lined up, as the ownership did not intend for the strike to interrupt publication of the 137,000 daily circulation.

By early November 1999, the union was set to strike, but management struck first, locking them out on November 7, a day before they were going to walk out. Both sides understood this was going to be a long strike.

Kate:                Terry, can you talk a little bit about the buildup to the strike itself and what that process was like?

Terry:              Well, clearly when you’re in that process, the tensions are running high every day. Management would summon us all into meetings to talk to us about, you know, the dangers of being in a union, and they were allowed to intimidate you in the labor laws [as they stood 00:17:36] in Alberta back then. And, you know, when you’re dealing in the newsroom with a bunch of grizzled newspaper veterans, it’s really kind of hard to intimidate those people. They don’t care if you sit there and grill them and have management tell you all terrible things about unions. It made no difference. It was just – it was just – it was laughably bad.

But yeah, it – we just carried on doing what we felt we needed to do. We’d been pushed too far at that point to be turned away by any acts of intimidation.

Kate:                The strike itself began on November 8, 1999, and it ended on June 30, 2000. However, the day before the strike was set to start, management moved first and they locked out the union, claiming that it was time off with pay. And the unions felt that this was an illegal lockout, as management deactivated their security cards and access to email as part of taking a day off.

However, the Alberta Labour Relations Board, our favorite plucky friend, ruled that management’s actions were legal.

So what was kind of getting that news like, or were you pretty prepared for it?

Terry:              I don’t think we were that prepared for it. I remember working that night and being told at the end – after getting that night’s newspaper out, because they didn’t want to interrupt that, of course – that after our shift was over at about 11 o’clock at night, saying that we needed to hand in our key fobs to get in and out, past security. I refused to hand mine in. They said, “No, you need to hand it in.” I said, “Well, if you tell me I’m coming back to work, then I’ll need it,” so I refused to hand it in, so security was shouting [unclear 00:19:15] out of work that night. And we immediately went to a hotel where we’d heard people had been seen who could become scabs, and we found the scabs at the Radisson Hotel, so we sat down and invited them for a beer and tried to ask them why they felt it was appropriate to come and take our jobs, so it was kind of fun.

Kate:                How’d that go?

Terry:              Oh, it was fun, it was nice. They didn’t stay in the bar to drink with us for very long, so …

Group:             [laughs]

Kate:                So when the strike began, the union really quickly set up picket lines outside the Herald in southeast Calgary and got to work delaying delivery trucks and blocking scabs, sometimes for hours. In many cases, picketers actually had to jump out of the way as vehicles tried to run them down on picket lines. Charges were sometimes laid on drivers. And management actually immediately brought in 24 replacement workers, and they were flying them in from as far away as Montréal.

Terry:              I just had to tell you a story about being hit by a car on a picket line. So I was walking across on a picket line, as you do, and a car drives up, and it just nudges into my shins with its bumper. It’s no big deal – broke the skin, but no big deal. And then he backed up and he did it again, and then I was, of course, you know, quite shocked that I would be treated this way when exercising my democratic right to picket. And he got out of his car and started shouting obscenities about unions and whatever, and then my best friend, Talbert Walters, who is six-foot-four, 240-pound Jamaican Canadian, shouted at him, “You are damn lucky you didn’t hit me,” and the guy shrunk back into his car, apologizing profusely. It was very funny.

Kate:                That is beautiful. So management immediately brought in 24 replacement workers, flying them in from as far away as Montréal, and the scabs were put up, as you said, in the nearby Radisson for 120 bucks a night, given rental cars, per diems, and 400 to 600 dollars per day.

Karen:              Strikers quickly established their own newspaper called “The Last Word,” first published on November 8. This one-to-two-page paper would be published almost daily for the entire length of the strike, with the final issue published July 5, 2000.

Kate:                So you talked a bit about “The Last Word” already, but tell me a little bit about the decision to publish a strike paper and what putting that paper together was like on the picket lines.

Terry:              Right. So traditional activity during a strike is to be on a picket line to stop people coming in and out and to delay the business at hand. When the Labour Board stepped in to say that we were allowed to picket but not to delay any traffic coming in and out – which meant, basically, we were banned from picketing, effectively – then we had to find other things to do.

Many of the journalists, being journalists, wanted to continue to be journalists. So we didn’t have the resources to create a full-blown 24-page-to-36-page newspaper, so we created “The Last Word,” and instead of picketing, sometimes we would deliver thousands of these to neighborhoods all of Calgary, just doing walks and dropping them in mailboxes. So we worked really hard, and very successful in getting our message out to the public that way.

Kate:                So by November 10, some columnists at other papers or columnists who weren’t on strike withheld their columns in solidarity, and in some cases, and in the case of film critic Mike Boon, the Herald just promptly fired him.

On November 11 – so this is still, like, three days after the strike starts – a big rally of about five to eight hundred people was held with solidarity participation from other unions, including some very familiar faces: the Teamsters, CUPW, CUPE, AMWA, CAW, the AFL, IBEW, AUPE, the Calgary Labour Council, and even Alberta NDP leader Pam Barrett.

That same day, the unions actually attempted to block scabs from crossing the picket line with some success, and the situation was quite heated, with police making one arrest. And the Herald‘s headline the next day was “Police under fire over picket-line violence: Union mob roughs up Calgary Herald workers.”

Terry:              Yeah, that was an example of bad journalism. That didn’t – it didn’t happen the way they said it happened.

What we found interesting about the police presence on the picket line was they were there not to prevent violence, but to provoke violence. Right? We were very peaceful. We’re a bunch of middle-aged desk [dwellers 00:23:40] who were not intent on doing any damage, and we had a lot of friends who still worked inside the building in other departments, so we were very peaceful. But I know that the company had spent a lot of time showing videos to the people inside the building about angry, violent strikes in Detroit and other parts of the world, and they tried to frighten them. The police, when they came out, were there to – more likely to cause violence than to prevent it.

Rory:                Yeah, so the right-wing Calgary Sun took advantage of this strike at a competitor, because the Calgary Sun was not owned by the same owner as the Herald, like they are today, and so it began wrapping their newspaper in a cover that looked like the Herald and then sending it to people’s houses, in some cases for free.

Kate:                Incredible antics.

Terry:              One of the things that we found interesting was that at the beginning the Calgary Sun covered the strike kind of fairly and listened and would give our side of the story, but we heard that pretty quickly an instruction came down from the publishers and the owners of the Calgary Sun to stop covering the strike and stop getting the news out there, and we noticed a drop off in media interest all over the city. They just – it seemed to be all the employers were on the same side to make this less newsworthy than it really was.

Kate:                Wow. So on November 13, the Labour Board found in GCIU’s favor that its members were not on an illegal strike. So with the beginning of the second week on strike, unions in Calgary began to encourage readers to cancel their Herald subscriptions and businesses to avoid advertising in the paper’s pages. And since the strikers really were unable because of this picketing injunction to stop the Herald from continuing to publish, this meant that they had to try and cut the paper’s main revenue streams of subscriptions and advertising to force management to negotiate. And as long as the Herald revenue didn’t dip too much, management could afford to starve out the unions.

But the strikers were really trying to make sure that their revenue took as much of a hit as possible, and “The Last Word” regularly reported on subscribers, advertisers, and others who stood in solidarity with them, as well as identifying scabs and shaming the Herald‘s drop in quality and factual accuracy.

Terry:              One of the things we did was to do a survey of our readership in Calgary, exactly the same format that the newspaper’s owners used to do every year, and that’s how they determine readership and that’s how they set their advertising rates. So our survey was as legitimate as theirs; it was a bigger sample size, and it showed that readership was down 25%. So then we would call up all the advertisers every day – you know, phone banks – and tell them that we know you’re probably reluctant to cancel your advertising, because you have a business to run, but as the Herald told you, their readership is down 25%, and therefore you should be demanding a 25% cut in your advertising rates. So that was successful in getting calls going in there.

There was one interesting time when they’d done a 16-page full-color pre-run, just around the time of the new year, when they try and sell a lot of cars, so it was all car dealerships, and the technology had messed up and one of the advertisers’ ads got completely messed up. And I found out that this had happened. I called the advertiser – and I always gave my name when I was calling advertisers, because why would they listen to you if you’re not going to say who you are? So I told him – the advertiser – his ad was messed up and that he should demand that all – I think it was 200,000 copies of that pre-run – be trashed and they be reprinted. And he said, “Well, they’ve given me a free ad to make good for it later on.” And I said, “Well, a year ago when a rival car dealership had a similar problem, they didn’t tell him that. They destroyed everything and printed it again. Why are they treating you worse?” So he said, “Interesting.” He called up.

I got a call later on from one of the pressmen who’d been at the meeting, who said, “This advertiser called up and he says Terry Inigo-Jones tells him that he should demand this, so I’m demanding this.” They had to scrap the whole thing –bring the pressmen in on triple overtime and reprint the whole thing. It was a lot of fun.

Kate:                I’m sure management was thrilled about this.

Terry:              Yeah, that was one of the times they called the police and said that I should be charged with ownership of stolen material worth less than $5000, because they said I had a copy of this pre-run that had been snuck out of the building to me, which is of course not true.

Group:             [laughs]

Kate:                My goodness. So the Herald hired the Ontario security firm LPI International, despite their lack of license to operate in Alberta, which seems like a pretty significant omission to me. So management, as Terry has pretty well alluded to, slash outright said, did try intimidation tactics – things like sending letters to strikers saying they could face disciplinary action for their activities on the picket line. However, this is nonsense, because during a legal strike, employees cannot be disciplined by their employer, but companies actually do this all the time to break union solidarity and to break solidarity on picket lines, and oftentimes what they’ll do is they’ll contact strikers’ family and friends so your friends and family will try and, like, persuade you of the foolishness of being on strike.

Terry:              One of the things they tried which was particularly galling was saying that strikers could not take up any other employment while they were on strike, because we would go out and get jobs, you know, working at Walmart or a grocery store or landscaping or whatever, and they went to the Labour Board and tried to claim that that would make us biased as journalists if we ever returned to work, because if we worked at McDonald’s and then had to do a story about McDonald’s, we would clearly not be able to report fairly on that, which was one of the most ridiculous things we’d ever heard, because journalists are human beings. We have children who go to school; it doesn’t mean we can’t cover education. We vote in elections; it doesn’t mean we can’t cover politics. I mean, we are trained to keep our own personal opinions out of the news we cover.

Karen:              On November 29, as strikers watched the Grey Cup on the picket line with the Stamps playing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Ontario-based security guards threatened to wear Ti-Cat colors to antagonize.

The Stamps had already shown some solidarity. The coach wouldn’t let other media sit on the chair normally occupied by the striking Herald sports reporter, and the team gave free tickets to the previous game.

Kate:                So on December 11, a rally organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour with over 500 striking employees and supporters gathered at 8 p.m. A heavy police presence was called in – 50 on foot and also some on horseback. The next day, then-alderman, now-NDP MLA Joe Ceci stated that he wanted answers for why taxpayers should foot the bill for excessive police presence, particularly riot police on horses.

Terry, can you talk a little a bit about the presence of, like, police on horses in Calgary on a picket line for newspaper workers?

Terry:              It seems a little over-the-top, doesn’t it?

Kate:                It does. Just a scooch.

Terry:              Yeah. So I remember going up to the police on horses and gently stroking the horses’ faces and just saying, “It’s a real shame that you have to bring such a beautiful animal to do this kind of work,” and the police officers were, at that point, not unfriendly, but they were ordered to come around the corner to where the main part of the picket line was in order to intimidate us. Basically, it was used as a pressure tool to make us negotiate our way out of there and find a way that, “We will do this and allow trucks to get through if you allow us to delay for a certain amount of time.” So it basically is intimidation.

The second time that they had the riot police out wasn’t horseback, but they came out with their shields and their truncheons and their full gear, and they’re doing the stamping their feet, banging their shields, and marching towards us, and that was in full view of the TV cameras from all over the country were showing this kind of activity. And what stopped them was we started a chant of, “Keep the peace.” You’re a peace officer; your job is to keep the peace. And they were the ones who were about to inflict violence on us. So when we started chanting, “Keep the peace, keep the peace, keep the peace,” and TV cameras are watching, they had to back down then. But yeah, it’s the power of the state being used very unfairly only on one side.

Kate:                Yeah.

Terry:               When we went to the police and complained about things that were done to us, nothing ever happened.

Kate:                Right. And what was happening to you on picket lines?

Terry:              When the cars would hit you, when they wouldn’t slow down the way they were supposed to, and we would complain – yeah, the police would come and then go away. Nothing was ever done.

I remember when we had signs distributed all over the city saying “I canceled my Herald” or “Boycott the Herald” and people were stealing them off the lawns of our supporters, and we could see them inside the offices of the company, right? We could see them through an office window. These were stolen from people’s houses, and we asked the police to go and investigate, and the police said, “Oh, we talked to them, and the Herald claims that people have returned them to them thinking it was Herald property.” Absolute nonsense. It was stolen property. They tried to have me charge for receiving a copy of a pre-run 16-page flyer, but they wouldn’t investigate it.

Kate:                By December 13, Maclean’s gave the strike some national coverage, and they framed it as having really major implications for Canadian dailies, since Hollinger owned the majority of them. And Hollinger was absolutely committed to defeating the strike to make an example of the Herald strikers and also to dissuade union drives at other papers.

On the other side of the picket line, though, management actually fired several scabs for behaving too aggressively with strikers, and then they fired another six for complaining about the lack of overtime pay. And look, far be it from me to tell someone to work overtime for no money, but simply, if you want to get paid for your overtime, don’t scab. Just don’t be a fucking scab.

Rory:                Yeah. Like, the company’s hiring you to crush its previous workers’ strike. Do you think they care about you?

Karen:              [laughs]

Kate:                Some people have soup for brains.

Terry:              One of the things that people who are ambitious and young as journalists think is that this will be their shot at getting at a major newspaper, right? This is the Calgary Herald; it’s a major daily newspaper, and they may be working out in the boonies somewhere and they think this’ll be their shot.

And what people need to know is that there is no shortcut to success in any career, particularly in journalism, and when you are a scab, at some point that dispute’s going to be over, you’re still going to be a scab, and the employer is pretty much going to let you go as quickly as they can. And I don’t think any of those people who were brought in as replacement workers or scabs during that dispute stayed long after the dispute was over. It doesn’t get you where you want to be.

Kate:                You’re also driving down your future working conditions, because you’re eroding working conditions across the industry. So even if you do manage – even if this is your big break and you do manage to get a job in the industry, you’ve created worse working conditions for yourself by breaking a strike.

By January of 2000, the company had rebuffed the union’s request to return to negotiating, and the strike was pretty much dragging on with no end in sight. But there was pressure from numerous external groups for a return to negotiations. So on January 10, Calgary city council voted 13-1 encouraging resolution, and by February 24, the Labour Board was requesting that the two sides get back to the bargaining tables.

However, the PC labor minister, Clinton Dunford, declined to get involved in the dispute, and in fact, the PCs had entered into a deal with the Herald‘s scab Ledge reporter Don Martin to feed the paper scoops with the condition that he not contact the opposition for comment. Talk about declining, like, journalistic standards, and a fucking awful government.

Only 10 of 54 PC MLAs would meet with strikers in the end, and Klein discouraged his caucus from talking to them at all. All 18 opposition MLAs did meet with the strikers.

Karen:              However, things weren’t looking good for the unions, as the Herald continued to publish, and more importantly, management was committing to crushing the union, despite all lost revenue. A union survey found Herald readership had dropped off 25% since the start of the strike. To counteract this, by March the Herald was offering free or discounted subscriptions.

Kate:                Terry, can you talk a little bit about what it was like on the picket line as the strike drags on? Like, absolutely spirits might be high, people are feeling good, you’re getting a lot of support in month one, maybe even month two. But as, you know, you hit the ninth, 10th, 11th week of the strike, what is it like on the line?

Terry:              When we could no longer picket effectively, that did a number on morale. When we came up with the alternative plan to print “The Last Word” and distribute it ourselves, that helped the campaign. To go after advertisers helped. Having the occasional big rally with supporters who came along helped. But after the ban on the picket line, pretty much that picket line ceased to exist in any real fashion. We did have a really good New Year’s Eve. There were a handful of us, which was kind of fun, watching the – you know, the clock tick over to the year 2000.

But it became hard to, I think, focus people’s attention, because you didn’t have that one workplace where everybody would gather all the time. But I think it was more to do with, by the time you get into month five, six, and seven, when people’s morale started to get really bad, and they were finding it hard to find a positive end to it.

Kate:                Mm-hmm. So even as the strike dragged on, you were receiving a lot of support from many, like, community groups, civil associations, and other unions. Alberta unions quickly refused to advertise in or even really talk to the Herald. Many, such as AUPE, also requested that their members cancel subscriptions. By January 20, the United Churches of Calgary pulled all their ads from the Herald, and on February 9, unionized BC workers refused to handle national advertising from companies doing business with the Calgary Herald. Many workers would actually wear shirts to work that said “Boycott the National Post,” and at unionized Hollinger papers, many writers engaged in a byline strike.

Can you tell us what a byline strike is?

Terry:              So as a reporter, you would write a story and it has your name on it. Many unionized newsrooms, if you don’t like editing that’s been done to your story, you have the right to withdraw your byline, withhold your byline, saying, “You can run the story, but I don’t want my name on it anymore.” That’s one of the things that reporters at the Herald had asked for, and when we started negotiating, we were denied. It’s a symbolic way for reporters at other newspapers to show their support. And it’s a big deal, because, you know, journalists have egos. They like to see their name in print. And to say “I’m going to give that up in support” is – that was appreciated.

Kate:                Numerous unions across the country also raised money from their members to help your strike fund, and many politicians and political figures in Alberta stopped giving interviews to the Herald. And really, if you do read “The Last Word” and go through a lot of the research, many of the strikers did remain, you know, quite resolute, and even as Conrad Black was pretty much using his whole media empire to blast you.

Terry:              It was particularly nice when a group of church leaders in Calgary all came together and held a joint press conference and said: It’s time to settle this. It’s time for both sides to get together and to talk. And to have unbiased community spiritual leaders be prepared to make a public statement and say that we weren’t being unreasonable on the union side, we wanted to talk, and it was time for the employer to come back to the table – that was, of course, dismissed out of hand by Conrad Black, but it meant a lot to us.

Kate:                So one of the things Conrad Black said about the strike was, “This whole thing is absurd. These people are poor, pathetic cannon fodder for a bunch of egregiously motivated labor leaders. They have absolutely no grievance.”

Terry:              Yeah, he also called us “gangrenous limbs,” which was something that we came to wear that label with some pride, because none of us have rotted away. We’re still here.

Kate:                Really, uh – quite some turns of phrase, this man.

Terry:              He has a large vocabulary. Unfortunately, he has a very small mind to go with it.

Rory:                So Conrad Black’s strong language kind of culminated in a confrontation on March 3 when CEP Local 115-A president Andy Marshall confronted Black outside a CIBC board meeting in Calgary. Marshall presented the evidence of that 25% circulation drop, which Black dismissed as “a bought survey made up by a bunch of crooked union leaders who couldn’t add up a column of figures if their lives depended on it.” Marshall asked how this would help resolve the strike, to which Black retorted, “This strike is going to be resolved either by coming to an end after two years by decertification, or by you people coming back to work.” When Marshall said the strike was about protection from indiscriminate firings, Black denied this, but said, “We’re amputating gangrenous limbs. If by grace of conversion they want to function as employees instead of staging an NDP coup d’état in the newsroom, they’ll be welcome.”

Terry:              I just want to say, if anybody knows anything about crooked figures, it would be Conrad Black. I mean, he is a convicted felon, after all.

Rory:                Or fraud.

Kate:                [laughs]

Rory:                So yeah. This – this was –

Terry:              He also has very bad breath, Andy Marshall reported after that conversation in the hotel. Very bad.

Kate:                [laughs]

Rory:                This was despite the company offering a take-it-or-leave-it contract in early February, with a clause that would allow management to fire workers without reason or appeal.

Kate:                And, Terry, the paper fired you while you were striking, for defacing company property by placing a small sticker on a newspaper box.

Terry:              I know. It’s terrible. It was funny – they were tailing me with security and video cameras. Unlicensed security guards following me around. And then calling the police and trying to get me charged for running through a red light, which didn’t happen, and when I explained to the police that they actually followed me through, so if I’d gone through a red light, they should issue the security guards a ticket too …

But it was one of those occasions where they were following me around for some time. They had a videotape of me putting a sticker on a street mailbox – Calgary Herald box – and finally, the Labour Board ruled, many, many months after the strike was over, that it was an unfair dismissal. But that’s part of the bias, is that my case took five months, and when the employer wanted something from the Labour Board, they could have a hearing at midnight and the ruling at 1 a.m. But my career was ended, and it took five months for them to figure out that it was wrong.

Kate:                Yeah, we’ve said this before on the podcast, but it bears repeating: labor law is a scam that is designed to benefit your employer and to prohibit you from taking effective and impactful action on your worksite.

Karen:              By the middle of March, the Labour Board was more insistent that both sides agree to mediation and appoint a mediator. On March 18, the CEP agreed to start mediation.

Kate:                So what is really notable about the strike is that as it lengthened, it really transformed from this local labor dispute to Black, you know, regularly publicly intervening in this to attack the strikers, and he was not shy about what he thought about unions, and he was not shy about his goal to destroy their power, particularly in his company, and to that end, he was perfectly willing to get into public spats with anyone who criticized his approach to labor unions.

Rory:                Yeah, so for example, on April 4, Black, who is a Catholic convert, denounced Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, who criticizes appropriation of Scripture to justify breaking the strike. So Bishop Henry is an arch-social conservative who, until his retirement in 2017, used to spar regularly with governments over same-sex marriage, GSAs, abortion, HBV vaccines, etc.

But apparently, he did hold some relatively pro-labor views, and he criticized the Klein government for its cuts to health and education. Henry said that Catholic teaching supported the right of workers to organize and that the key demand of seniority protections was reasonable to prevent management abuse. Black, however, blasted the bishop for running off at his episcopal mouth, and that “in the Leninist terminology which would be familiar to strike leaders, he has made himself a perfect ‘useful idiot’ to them.”

Kate:                I just really want to pause there – that Conrad Black accused, like, fucking Bishop Frederick Henry of being Lenin. Like, what planet are these people living on?

Rory:                Yup. And Black was also quick to note that this is a bishop who, as he arrived to take up his position in Calgary and literally was removing his luggage from the baggage carousel at the airport, began a rant against the health policies of the Klein government. So I actually looked this up, and it is true that while he was picking up his luggage at the airport when he arrived in Calgary, he did criticize Klein to the media – not actually about health policy, but specifically over the Klein government’s use of VLTs, and increasing use of VLTs – video lottery terminal gambling – in order to, like, fund social programs. And he said this was basically very exploitive and evil, which, you know, I kind of agree.

Kate:                You know, maybe one of the only good things, like, this dang bishop ever said in his life, and he’s getting dragged through the mud by Conrad Black for saying it.

Rory:                Yeah. So Bishop Henry also did refuse to give interviews to the Herald until contract negotiations resumed, and on April 18 offered to personally mediate, which the company rejected out of hand.

Kate:                So on April 7, a Labour Board hearing into Terry’s illegal firing revealed some interesting news. Fired deputy news editor Terry Inigo-Jones readily admitted it Thursday he put stickers on two newspaper boxes, but denied he was trying to deface the machines or prevent people from buying the scab rag. That is a quote, by the way.

Terry:              I remember the Labour Board hearing centered on whether or not the sticker could be removed without damaging the window of the Herald box, and they had to have an expert come in with something called “green goo” that shows you can take stickers off without causing any damage. They accused me of vandalism by putting the sticker on the box and said it was causing, you know, thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to these boxes, and it was all lies.

Kate:                And I think the most egregious part of this is that you were fired February 1 without an investigation by the company. Herald‘s editor-in-chief, Peter Menzies, was questioned about the fact that an editorial staffer who was accused of sexual harassment received only a disciplinary letter on his file while you were fired for putting a sticker on a box, and Menzies said the stickering was a more serious offense.

Terry:              Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how you can respond to that. I mean, how do you go home and tell your wife and daughter that, you know, putting a sticker on is a more serious offense than sexual harassment? I don’t understand.

It was also interesting that they published an article accusing me of this and linking in that article to other things that had happened. Some spikes were being thrown in some places, and it wasn’t by us. They had no connection to the Herald strike whatsoever. But they linked my name to all kinds of other activities which I was not connected with and which they had no evidence for, and so I was suing my employer for libel at the same time that they were firing me. It was a very strange situation. And they ran the same article two days running, and what newspaper runs the same story twice?

Kate:                Well, one run by scabs.

Terry:              Yeah.

Kate:                But the thing is, Terry, the people of Calgary deserve to know that you were out there stickering boxes.

Karen:              On April 11, strikers picket City Hall, where Herald scabs have an office to cover city council.

Kate:                So some unionized city workers actually refused to cross the line that the Herald strikers set up, and on April 14 the picket was called off, as city workers who weren’t crossing the line were being docked a day’s pay.

On April 17, the Labour Board reversed an earlier decision that forbid picketers from delaying vehicles at the Herald property, and allowed strikers to engage in 10-second delays. That’ll get ’em, folks.

The next day, Carleton University lost the David Lewis Trust Fund because it recruited Herald strikebreakers on its Ottawa campus.

By April 26, 105 GCIU members go on strike after voting 96% in favor. This is the second bargaining unit that hasn’t been on strike since November.

And in Vancouver, during the national day of action against Conrad Black on May 1 – gosh, we should really bring those back –

Karen:              That sounds great.

Kate:                – supporters stood all night in the rain outside Transcontinental Printing to delay trucks from leaving the plant with loads of National Post. That’s beautiful.

On May 3, the Herald is delivered three hours late due to a locked-out pressroom and the CEP/GCIU strike. The Herald did not abide by the 72-hour lockout notice because labor law is for you, not for your boss.

On the 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. picket line, 120 strikers and supporters in front of loading docks faced down more than 25 baton-toting police who were sent to help get the paper out, and the lack of experienced production staff delayed the next day’s paper by hours, thanks to mechanical problems.

I just want to take a quick note here how incredible it is that, like, if you were a business owner and you have problems with an industrial dispute that is happening between you and the workers at your company, you would just call the police and they will just show up with, like, sticks to beat people with to help you. It’s just, like, such an incredibly illustrative example of the function that the state, and the police in particular, play during any type of industrial dispute.

Terry:               That night when the police were out there in force of batons, we had been picketing and the police had allowed us to picket and delay things for a little while, and then they changed their mind and they decided that we weren’t going to be allowed to delay the trucks anymore, but they didn’t tell us – the picket line. So all of a sudden, police moved in and blocked us from walking up and down in front of the loading docks. I didn’t know. No one had told me, so I thought I was still allowed to continue picketing.

So I continued to walk, and I ducked underneath a policeman’s arm and continued to walk in front of the trucks, and not too many seconds later I found myself being – my face being ground into the pavement by three or four police officers who jumped on top of me. One of them pushed my face into the road, held up a fist above me, and said, “Just give me an excuse to fucking pop you one,” and so I asked for his badge number, because that’s the only thing I could think to do, and he refused to give me his badge number.

And when I was being taken off to the back of the police van, which is my favorite picture of all time, I called the inspector over and I said, “This officer refused to give me my – his badge number. He’s not wearing his identification, which is, again, the law, and that meant that the inspector said, “We’re letting you go, and we’re not going to charge him for not wearing his – and giving you his badge number.” But it was shocking to have the rules changed without us being told, and then to be attacked by a person who’s supposed to serve and protect me, but he’s, in fact, beaten me and threatening me.

Karen:              After six months of the strike, publisher Dan Gaynor shows up to a Labour Board hearing with six private security guards in tow on May 6.

Rory:                Continuing the theme of comic theater that the strikers used throughout the strike, mourners on May 9 marked the death of the Herald. So 75 union members and supporters perform noon-hour mock funeral procession and memorial service at Olympic Plaza. A bagpiper and six pallbearers carrying a black coffin march around Olympic Plaza.

Kate:                And then another thing that happened on May 9 is that strikers beamed a circle and a slash – so that’s going to look like the “no” emoji that you’re familiar with – onto the Herald and National Post signs that were overlooking Deerfoot Trail on the same day.

By the end of May, the Herald is losing money because of delays, lost subscriptions, advertising boycotts, plus the costs that are directly associated with the strike. At the May 25 Hollinger AGM, Black hints at a resolution to the strike, and Hollinger profits had dived 88% in the second quarter, which is really quite remarkable.

The striking GCIU members reach a deal with the Herald on June 12. The four-year collective agreement provides a 10.5% wage hike over the term, along with an immediate $1000 signing bonus and a further $500 bonus to be paid April 1, 2001. CEP members hoped that this would bolster their chance of a successful resolution, and 10 days later, unfortunately, GCIU actually filed a complaint with the Labour Board over bad-faith bargaining, saying that management had reneged on some aspects of what was verbally agreed upon.

Terry:              Wow, you can’t trust them.

Karen:              [laughs]

Kate:                I can’t believe it. However, the company really did continue to pressure CEP strikers throughout the rest of June. These goons removed the picket line, and they replaced it with orange and white plastic barriers. The barriers are situated on city property, which the company did not have permission to do. Once again, laws are for you, not for your boss. Herald‘s Peter Menzies sent letters to two striking union members, ordering them to resign. It is illegal, by the way, under Alberta law, for a company to communicate directly with its striking workers during a labor dispute, so just another fun law broken for the Calgary Herald on this one.

On June 30, the union voted on a company offer which offered strikers a return to work with no punishment or buyouts for those who didn’t want to come back. The requirement is that they would have to disband the union. The offer is accepted 69% to 31%, and the majority of the strikers take the buyout.

The strike is pretty well defeated after eight months, and the union is broken.

Terry:              One of the really sad things about this was the effect that that had on the younger people who’d been on strike. I was 40 when this happened, and I had had enough. I wasn’t going to go back into that workplace. They’d already fired me once, so I wasn’t going to go back, and I would find something else to do. But for young people who are idealistic and pursuing a career in journalism, where this was their first big newspaper, it was so hard on them to know that this was over and that we had lost. It felt like their careers had been taken away from them.

Kate:                The Herald itself is transformed. It’s running a leaner operation. It has much more stringent labor discipline on everything from productivity to decorum, and the rightward editorial shift is cemented into the paper that we know and love to hate today.

Terry:              There’s one thing I’d like to say, is in the back-to-work agreement that allowed people to go back, not many of the people who [were still out on 00:54:58] strike, and there was about a hundred of us, and hardly any – a handful – went back, and most of them didn’t last long. They were given a certain amount of time to go back and try it, and if they didn’t like it, then they could still get their package and leave. Only half a dozen or so stayed beyond that.

But in the agreement to end the strike, there were two people who were forbidden from going back to work afterwards. One of them was my friend [Sasha Nash 00:55:24], who’d actually sent in a resignation letter – they wouldn’t let him come back – and the other one was me, because they tried to fire me, but they said I was never going to be allowed to go back to work at the Herald. And I was fine with that.

Kate:                That’s pretty cool, though – getting, like, namechecked in a back-to-work agreement. It’s just like, okay, we will let everyone back; yes, we will give you buyout packages; but not if Terry Inigo-Jones steps foot in this damn building. You should be very proud.

Terry:              I was. I did get to go back into the newsroom later when I was director of communications for the Federation of Labour, and that was nice.

Kate:                So I want to talk a little bit about the strikers’ newspaper, “The Last Word,” because I love it very, very, very much. Written to present the strikers’ perspective, it was a source of news on strike events, but it was also a great source of gossip and rumors and praise and insults, and it’s a fantastic source of really detailed info with the level of granular detail that you just do not get when you research industrial disputes, because, like with most working-class history, it is just not covered in the detail that many other more kind of classically important forms of history are covered, so this was, like, a real, real treat for us.

It also has just an incredibly, like, acidic style that focuses on building solidarity through trumpeting union victories and tearing down the company, which they refer to as “the horrid.” They also – and this is a personal favorite for us here at the Alberta Advantage – they refer to Danielle Smith as “Trashcan Dani,” and we’re bringing that back, by the way. You heard it here first on the Alberta Advantage. That’s the new fun, hip thing we’re calling Danielle Smith now.

Terry:              Do you know where she got the nickname?

Kate:                Please tell us.

Terry:              I believe it was when she was on Calgary Board of Education and she’d been at a meeting and they’d been passing notes backwards and forwards between some of her and her allies, and then didn’t want people to see it, so was apparently taking those notes and then throwing them in a trashcan, and this got out into the media somehow, so she earned the nickname “Trashcan Dani.”

Kate:                Excellent. Also, Dan Gaynor they call “Dan ‘Denial’ Gaynor,” and then “Joanie Crockatt,” who apparently liked to have her husband chauffeur her to work while she’d lie down in the back seat so she wouldn’t have to see people call her a scab, presumably.

I also think that kind of journalists producing their own paper in the context of a strike is really interesting and kind of made me pine for more worker-owned media and more media that workers had a real stake in it, a real control over, and were able to be kind of funny and opinionated and talk about what was going on and how this impacted their communities and their lives, and I enjoyed when I got to read of it very, very much. And it also has parallels to historical strikes – things like the Winnipeg general strike that we’ve talked about on the podcast before that also produced newspapers to counter the weight of the capitalist-owned press’ campaigns against workers flexing their own power. So we love “The Last Word.”

Terry:              We loved making it, and like I said, when you have people like Brian Brennan and Tom Keyser, who were two of the best and most talented columnists I’ve ever worked with, writing for our little “Last Word” strike publication – wow.

Kate:                So one thing I would love to chat about is, ultimately, the strike failed. The union ended up decertifying. There was no collective agreement ever certified. This was a strike over a first contract, and they never got the first contract. Why did the strike fail?

Terry:              I would say that the major reason was a lack of first contract arbitration in Alberta labor laws. Everywhere there’s a first contract dispute, the two sides are going to be starting a long way apart, and laws everywhere else recognize that, and when they can’t come to a resolution, one is imposed only by an arbitrator. That works. We didn’t have that in Alberta, so the company would just have to wait us out. They could do a decertify vote. That would include all of the scabs. So it was – it’s an almost impossible battle to win under those circumstances.

Kate:                Yeah, and for those who aren’t familiar with first contract arbitration, usually what an arbitrator will do is they’ll take a look at industry standard and similar collective bargaining agreements that exist in that industry, and then you will often end up with something very similar to that that will be your first contract that you will have to bargain from in the future.

Terry:              We, in the end, were at the point of saying, “We’ll take five years of zeroes,” because it wasn’t about money. We even took seniority off the table just to get a first contract so that we could build on it from there, but they were so determined not to let the union in that they rejected even that, so …

Rory:                Yeah. From going through all the material, reading all this stuff, my kind of sense of why the strike failed was because the company was simply not interested in having a union in the workplace and was very, very committed to crushing it, and was basically willing to lose a lot of money to stop this from happening, and that’s – that’s really it. I mean, that’s something that’s very, very hard to defeat if, as Terry said, without first contract arbitration, and if the company’s committed to destroying the union, they’ll wait. And they did.

Terry:              A strike is usually a financial battle: you’re battling to stop the company from losing money, and the company wants to continue making money, so that’s where the pressure comes. If the employer doesn’t care about money, then – and it hasn’t got a legal force to make a deal, if it’s prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in order to defeat this, then you’re – you’re dealing with an ideological mindset where logic and reason and rationality have no place.

Kate:                You’re basically fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Rory:                Yeah. And as we quoted – as we got some of those quotes from Conrad Black – like, Conrad Black was just getting madder and madder and madder as that strike went on, and really, really wanted to defeat it, like – and was willing to, like – because in many other cases, like, companies don’t necessarily spend – like, so aggressively attack the union publicly, but Black was willing to do that and take, you know, any sort of, like, public – any sort of public, like, rebuke for that, even if it made him unpopular.

Kate:                So I would love to wrap up this episode by talking about some of the awful people who scabbed or otherwise hindered the Calgary Herald strikers and who are unfortunately still with us today, and to – I hope you can all join us in the wonderful labor tradition of a rousing chorus of “shame” as we name and shame scabs here on the Alberta Advantage.

To start off with, the CEO of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, owner of the Flames and Stampeders, among other teams, Ken King – go fuck yourself, scab.

Group:             Shame, shame, shame.

Kate:                Former leader of the Wildrose, who nearly became premier in 2012, later crossed the floor to the Prentice PCs with catastrophic results, and now is a right-wing radio talk show host, Danielle Smith, scab.

Group:             Shame, shame.

Kate:                Thank you. Former Stelmach-era bagman, failed UCP candidate in 2019, and current head with a $195,000 salary of the Canadian Energy Centre – better known as the war room – Tom Olson, scab.

Group:             Shame, shame.

Karen:              Oh, I’d like to add here that his first piece, a little editorial review introduction to the Canadian Energy Centre website, needed an immediate correction because he referred to it as a Crown corporation, which was not true – it was a provincial government corporation. So just continuing the fine tradition of, like, immediate corrections needed on work that I’m sure they thought was fine, but it’s not very good.

Terry:              As we used to say on the picket line, a scab is the lowest form of life on earth. If you’re going to hire a scab, there are going to be some screwups.

Kate:                The Harper-era MP for Calgary Centre, Joan Crockatt, scab.

Group:             Shame, shame.

Kate:                The Herald political columnist with lukewarm centrist takes that I’m sure you’ve seen his articles shared on Twitter and you just hate to see it, Don Braid, the scab himself.

Group:             Shame, shame.

Kate:                And the worst of them all, Conrad Black, a press baron who became a literal baron as Baron Black of Crossharbour in the British House of Lords. Chrétien actually advised the Queen of England not to appoint him. Black renounced his Canadian citizenship as a way to get appointed without controversy.

He was later convicted of fraud in the United States of America, where he served 29 months in prison and was pardoned by Donald Trump in May 2019. This man is a villain from a comic book where the hero is a plucky girl who can turn into a squirrel. Like, he’s comically evil.

Karen:              Squirrel Girl? That’s a real character.

Kate:                Thank you.

Karen:              Yeah.

Kate:                In any case, a big fuck-you to Conrad Black from all of us here on Team Advantage – and also from Terry.

Terry:              I wanted to say one last thing. And though we lost the strike, one of the strikers, Grant McKenzie, who’s an incredibly talented artist and writer, said you don’t ever really lose when you stood up and fought for the things you believed in. We did that. So we didn’t get a union and we didn’t get to go back to work. We didn’t save the Calgary Herald, because it has become what it has become. But I don’t think that we lost, because we fought for something we believed in.

Kate:                That concludes our Alberta Advantage episode on the Calgary Herald strike of 1999 to 2000. Terry, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your experience from the picket lines and your thoughts with us. It was really wonderful having you.

Terry:              Thank you for having me.

Kate:                From all of us here at Team Advantage, take care out there, and have a good one.

Group:             Bye.

[outro music]

Kate:                The Alberta Advantage is part of a loose affiliation of left-wing podcasts hosted by the bilingual journalism collective Ricochet, who you can find at

Our podcast is primarily supported through Patreon by listeners like you. We use the money for equipment and other semi-serious pursuits, and as a thank you, we send out fun packages with grain elevator-themed stickers and weird tote bags a couple times a year. You can support us at

Thanks so much for listening, and take care out there. [end]

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