Brad Honywill retires from local rep role

Brad Honywill cuts into a Toronto-Sun themed cake at his retirement party on April 17. @MediaUnifor/Twitter 

Brad Honywill is embarking on the next chapter after saying goodbye at a party after Unifor Local 87-M's Annual General Meeting on April 17.

Honywill represented staff at places such as The Globe and Mail, Maclean's, Now Magazine, the Metroland papers, Radio Voces Latinas and many of the smaller Postmedia papers around Southern Ontario for the last 13 years, but his roots with the local and journalism go much deeper.

Born in Grimsby and growing up in Hamilton as the son of a steelworker and mom who raised six kids, Honywill developed an early passion for the news.

“We got both the Globe and the Hamilton Spectator delivered to my parents’ home and I had to read both, front to back,” Honywill recalls.” I loved the pursuit of knowledge inherent in reading newspapers and the important role journalism played in a democracy. So it was natural that, from my pre-teens, I knew I wanted to be a journalist.”

After graduating from the University of Guelph, Honywill cut his teeth in newspapers working at Hamilton Community News as a writer/editor and then serving in various reporting roles at the Orillia Packet, Windsor Star and Hamilton Spectator before moving to the Toronto Sun in 1997, where he would eventually lead a union organizing drive at the conservative tabloid.

Honywill says that growing up in a working-class neighbourhood, he grasped the importance of unions early on.

“I grew up in an immigrant area of east-end Hamilton, populated by hard-working people who had mostly come to Canada with nothing, but, with union jobs, had built themselves a decent life,” he says. “So I saw equality of opportunity as something that was not only important on an individual basis but also on a societal basis. Unions were the only mechanism to achieve tangible progress toward equality of opportunity.”

The Sun union drive was a very successful one with a strong majority of staff casting ballots in favour of the union. Honywill went on to chair the first bargaining committee, negotiating a contract that saw average staff pay increases of 20 per cent.

By 2006, the union bug had hit him in a major way and he ran as president of the local, where he served for the next five years before moving into the staff rep role at 87-M.

In this time, he also managed to serve on both the CEP and Toronto and York District Labour Council executives, work in a communications capacity for two campaigns for Olivia Chow and take a lead role in more than 20 union organizing campaigns.

In retirement, Honywill plans to stay busy. In addition to spending more time off-grid at his log-cabin on an island near Gravenhurst, he’ll be getting back to the page.

“First task is to do what every writer hopes they can do one day: write a book, he says. “In this case it’ll be about my family’s colourful history in the American Revolution and the subsequent War of 1812. There might be a podcast in there too. Still working on the concept.”