The First Contract

But the need and desire for a union didn't die. In 1948, the Toronto Newspaper Guild was resurrected and was able to demonstrate majority support in the Star newsroom.

That meant it could be certified by the Ontario Labour Relations Board under newly enacted labour laws, with the result that the company was obliged to bargain with the union.

The new union's first president was Beland Honderich, later to become publisher and part-owner of the Star. Honderich set the tone for this new union when he wrote in the first issue of the local union's newsletter: "We are now trade unionists, members of that great body of men and women who have been striving for years to improve the living standards of Canadian workers. A union, if it is to be successful, must be representative, it must be democratic."

Those goals continue to motivate this union.

After several months of bargaining, the Guild's first contract in Toronto and indeed the first ANG contract in Canada was signed in April, 1949, containing the milestone pay rate of $80 a week for reporters/photographers with five years of experience.

The Star proclaimed itself on its news pages as the "first newspaper in Canada to establish the five-day, 40-hour week for editorial now becomes the first and only Toronto daily newspaper to pay its editorial workers time-and-a-half in cash for overtime."

The Guild was on its way. By 1953, the newsroom of the Toronto Telegram (a paper which eventually folded in 1971) was under Guild contract, and the Globe and Mail followed two years later. At the same time, other departments at the Star followed the newsroom into the union, so that the Guild soon represented advertising sales staff, circulation employees, delivery drivers and accounting clerks totalling almost 1300 members.

Other early Guild papers in Ontario were the Toronto edition of the Daily Racing Form, and the Brantford Expositor, whose mid-1950s unionization marked the local's first foray outside Toronto.

Employees made major gains in wages, benefits and working conditions in those early years, and were generally able to do it without having to resort to strike action.

The first strike in the young local's history took place at the Racing Form in July of 1951. It lasted all of 30 minutes. All 13 members went on strike when the employer refused to implement wage increases that had need negotiated. They returned to work with guarantees that all members would get their increases and they did.

Next: The First Strike