Pay of $30 a week for six days of work, arbitrary firings, salary cuts, and ridiculous schedules. That's what brought the Guild to the newsrooms of Toronto in the Dirty Thirties. And since then, SONG has been working hard to get a better deal first for newspaper and now for all media employees.
It seems odd now, but in the 1930's, working Canadians looked south of the border when they wanted strong, dynamic and progressive union representation. For news industry employees, the obvious choice was the American Newspaper Guild, founded in 1933 by a man who was then one of the most well-known columnists in North America, Heywood Broun.
While skilled craft workers such as printers and press operators had long been organized at most major papers, the union idea was new to reporters, editors, advertising sales staff, and circulation and clerical workers.
But a small group of Toronto newsroom workers, many of them women, who were only a small minority of editorial staffers in those days, brought the American Newspaper Guild to Canada in September 1936 with the daunting task of organizing the newsrooms of the four Toronto dailies then publishing.
The new local was called the Toronto Newspaper Guild, Local 87 of the ANG, and its first decade was largely a story of failure. With legal protections weak, publishers were able to get away with subtle and not-so-subtle pressure tactics in order to prevent unions from taking root.
Even at the Toronto Daily Star, known as a friend of labour (and founded by striking printers in the 1890s) an attempt in the early 40s to negotiate a contract collapsed after the company demoted known union supporters and engaged in the kind of blatant intimidation that is outlawed today.
The ANG revoked the charter of the Toronto local in 1943.