Media-savvy retirees eager to fight for social justice

The CWA Canada Retirees Council was officially launched following a  day of spirited debate and discussion in a hotel boardroom in Toronto on November 2, 2013. The media-savvy activists from across the country, with decades of experience and time on their hands, were keen to get moving right away.

Gerry Jones,  elected as the Council’s executive chair, said they will now “be able to do more to support our brothers and sisters in defending things that re important to them, such as public broadcasting, journalism, union rights, pensions and benefits.

Jones, a retired 35-year veteran of CBC newsrooms, said “with a growing number of retirees, we can be a powerful force for change in our communities when we work together.

As CWA Canada Director Martin O’Hanlon put it when he addressed the gathering, it’s all about “social and economic justice.” An ardent advocate of organizing retirees since it was first proposed by former Director Arnold Amber (who recruited Jones to do just that), O’Hanlon promised the union’s support in “working together for a better society.”

O’Hanlon sees the retirees as a key part of a three-pronged initiative – along with new membership programs for freelancers and student journalists – to bolster the fight for quality jobs and quality journalism.

With just about everyone around the table taking notes and photos using hand-held devices, smart phones, tablets and pads, it’s clear that these retirees have embraced the great potential of social media to help bring about change.

Here’s how just-retired Radio-Canada journalist and union activist Gerard Malo, of Windsor, summed up the meeting for his Facebook friends: “Our objectives are to advocate on behalf of retired members on social and economic issues, to petition legislators to improve the health and welfare of all retired persons. We look forward to doing this work in partnership with other union retirees’ organizations.”

For retired Newfoundland CBC producer and union activist Terry LeDrew, the day-long meeting “was like coming home. I loved the camaraderie. Loved the arguments. Loved the insights,” she said in an email. “The wealth of experience, ability, understanding, creativity and wisdom at that table has never been needed as much as it is right now in the world of communications.”

The President of the Canadian Media Guild, Carmel Smyth, who also addressed the meeting and pledged her support, invited retirees to help “build momentum for social justice.”

She identified several areas of concern where retirees can help, such as the so-called “Right to Work” movement, minimum-wage laws and the threat to journalistic independence posed by federal legislation that allows a government representative to sit in on bargaining between the CBC and its unions.

Former Ottawa Citizen Action Line columnist Tony  Cote summed up a workplace experience shared by many of the retirees at the table: “I have had a really great career. I was lucky enough to start near the end of what I think was the glory years, when money wasn’t a the end all and be all. Today, everything is dependent on the bottom line and the business seems to be caught in a major identity crisis.”

A father of three grown children, Cote believes unions “have to find a way to get young people involved. It seems that today’s youth believe that jobs are short term and at the employer’s whim.”

Cote, who has been on the frontlines of social activism with the CWA Canada Retirees Council for several years, along with Jones, has been involved with the Ottawa area council for the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC). The new council is affiliated with CURC.

Cote holds the “senior” position in the Ottawa Newspaper Guild’s executive, representing retirees.

Jones, who has been the retiree representative on the CWA Canada National Representative Council since Amber brought him on board, encouraged all Locals to include a position on their executive for a retiree. “Keep their experience at the union table,” he said, “and retirees will help bring union values to kitchen tables in their communities.”

Thanks to the support of the executive members of all CWA Canada Locals and the work done by the staff in the office in the past and especially with setting up the Toronto meeting, we are launched.

This article was first published in the CWA Canada newsletter. You can view it with pictures at

Media-savvy retirees eager to fight for socialjustice

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