In an unprecedented move, a union representing hundreds of Ontario journalists and media workers is urging its members not to vote for Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives on Thursday.
Unifor Local 87-M, historically known as the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, released a video Monday warning a PC government would pose a threat to the livelihood and workplace security of its 2,600 members.
In the clip, Toronto Sun union chair and veteran journalist Jim Slotek explains that while its members work in a field committed to objectivity, there is a "point where objectivity and reality collide."
While he doesn't endorse the Ontario Liberals or NDP, Slotek urges members to consider the "practical reasons" for not supporting the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, "an oxymoron under its current leader Tim Hudak."
Slotek is critical of the PC leader's plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs — "most of them unionized" — in four years and says Hudak has a clear "hatred" of organized labour. He also references the right-to-work policy that Hudak abandoned before the election as proof the PC leader aims to weaken labour laws in the province.
At one point, Slotek highlights a part of a PC caucus white paper released in 2012 — Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets — saying the Ontario Labour Relations Board and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board are "overdue" for reform.
"Yes, we must be flexible about workplace safety to stay competitive," Stolek says sarcastically. "Count your fingers now while you still have them."
Slotek ends the video urging members to vote for the party of their choice, but to also consider which one is least likely to "act in your interests as a wage earner."
In a press release, Unifor Local 87-M president Paul Morse said it was a big deal for the union to break its traditional silence during elections.
"As a media local representing a large number of journalists, we have strict policies against endorsing candidates or contributing financially to election campaigns," Morse said in the release.
"But the threat of Hudak and his circle of Tea Party groupies is too great for us to remain silent. We're not telling our members who to vote for. We're asking them to vote for someone other than Hudak and his party."
The union represents employees at some of the biggest news outlets in the province, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Ottawa Citizen and Maclean's Magazine.
Several journalists took to Twitter Monday to share their thoughts on the union's announcement.
For what it's worth: us Guild members covering the election had zero say in our union picking sides.— Adrian Morrow (@AdrianMorrow) June 9, 2014
Well, this is pretty bloody hideous. Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild comes out against the Tories. http://t.co/ObDJ5sp5HN— Chris Selley (@cselley) June 9, 2014
So that’s millions of dollars of forced union dues spent trying to tilt ON elexn; OPP union leaders running attack ads against Tories while…— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) June 9, 2014
…meeting in private w/Liberal party they’re supposed to be investigating; the media union validating every Media Party caricature. Fabulous…— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) June 9, 2014
This is really dumb. http://t.co/UWoRHfADjQ— Stephen Maher (@stphnmaher) June 9, 2014
For the record, the Unifor local calling on members to vote against Tim Hudak doesn’t represent me, or other Citizen journalists.— David Reevely (@davidreevely) June 9, 2014
My union tells me not to vote Conservative. My conscience tells me not to vote Liberal. I can't vote and won't vote NDP. Which leaves what?— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 9, 2014
No issue with unions taking political positions but Unifor has exposed its members to unfounded allegations of bias. http://t.co/CPhi1Corlz— Glen McGregor (@glen_mcgregor) June 9, 2014
FWIW, I don't know a single journalist working at a Unifor shop (myself included) who had input on this: http://t.co/AdBbgrsMln— Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) June 9, 2014
Absolutely appalled by journalist union (i.e. mine) taking a (any) political stand. We should be bigger than this. http://t.co/obCQxNQw5k …— Boyd Erman (@BoydErman) June 9, 2014
To add to @josh_wingrove's point: I haven't spoken with a single journo today who doesn't feel uncomfortable about the Unifor message— robyndoolittle (@robyndoolittle) June 9, 2014
Journalists' union picks sides in ON election http://t.co/xLuK8xvMp6, but we're told to believe there's no such thing as liberal media bias.— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) June 9, 2014
Last week, the Ontario Provincial Police Association released commercials attacking Hudak's plan to target public sector pay and benefits if elected. The ads marked the first time in the union's 60-year history that it has launched a political advocacy campaign during an election.
OPPA president Jim Christie said the ads were not an endorsement of the Liberals or the NDP. Yet, The National Post reported Christie met with a senior Liberal before the ads were released and told OPPA executives on a conference call that a Liberal majority would be "the best case scenario" for the union.
Hudak suggested last week that the Liberals may have cut a deal with the OPPA in exchange for its support.
"These government unions are spending millions and millions of dollars on ads to re-elect the Liberals," Hudak said. "What they're trying to do with all that money is they're trying to elect a legislature of the compliant, politicians who will bend to wage and benefit increases and try to intimidate their opponents. Not me."
Christie called Hudak's allegation "baseless and irresponsible."
What do you think about the media union weighing in on the election campaign? Tell us in the comments.
With previous files, a file from The Canadian Press