January to November 2016
Internal Coordination and Organization
Conducted hiring for a support worker for 10-hours per week. We received dozens of a applications for the position of CFU coordinator. We conducted three interviews and ultimately hired Jessica Wood, a CFU member, a photographer and consultant based in British Columbia. Jessica started work in September.
A revised version of the 2016 budget was passed by the executive at the in-person meeting in April 2016. The changes were based mostly on higher than projected revenues through an increase in memberships.
The CFU executive has met monthly in 2016. To facilitate discussions and decisions between these meetings, a Slack channel was set up. CFU executive members engage together on Slack several times per week.
In April, the CFU executive attended the Media Council meeting. During the time scheduled for sector councils, the CFU executive held a two-day in-person meeting, attended by all members of the executive. The meeting gave executive members a valuable opportunity to meet, debate and plan for the year ahead. There were also presentations made by Howard Law, the Unifor staff person who is responsible for the Media Council; former Media Council president Randy Kitt; John Aman from the organizing department, and Scott Dougherty from Jerry Dias’ office.
The CFU executive joined the Canadian Association of Labour Media, a cooperative of more than 200 unions across Canada. Through CALM, CFU has access to materials for the website, training modules, and other union communicators who are often making decisions about hiring freelancers. The membership fee is $110.
Membership services, advocacy, and support
This past year, the CFU executive made it a priority to help members who sought advice and help to get the income they were owed from contractors who, for a variety of reasons, refused to pay.
In one case, two freelancers had trouble getting paid in a timely manner with one particular online news website. After a light nudge, both workers were paid.
In another, a member was owed thousands of dollars for building a website. The organization told her they believed the contract had not been fulfilled and that they would not pay for the rest of the work. However, the contract was clearly met and, working together with the member, we managed to get her contract paid out in full.
We have also been helping a member working in Florida get the pay that he’s owed so he can return to Canada.
The CFU has remained active on Twitter to reach out to freelancers who have expressed issues with getting paid and is currently working on several other cases.
The CFU assisted a member looking for advice on copyright law when a publisher and long-time client threatened him with losing his rights.
The CFU worked with two journalist members to gain press access to a public facility in Calary.
Promotion of CFU members
The CFU executive coordinated the distribution of printed copies of our directory of CFU members available to work (they are always well received). The booklets were handed out at the Ontario Federation of Labour congress, annual conference of the Canadian Association of Labour Media, and the Unifor convention and we have circulated them to other progressive organizations and unions who work with unionized freelancers.
This past year, the CFU negotiated the addition of two new forms of insurance that are available to all members who opt-in:
commercial liability insurance
home and auto Insurance
A new CFU membership card was produced and sent out to all CFU members from Unifor National. There were several addresses that, for a variety of reasons, didn’t work and we are finding solutions to the problems.
The CFU executive, organizers and active volunteers have maintained a new job posting board over the course of 2016 that has featured one-off calls for specific work and more permanent, full-time communications employment.
Website and Communications
The CFU executive began the implementation of a new website that allows members to renew their memberships easily and access other union services. There have been some bugs that executive members have worked through, including a problem with how the system was interpreting address data.
Related to the issue of website bugs is the need for the CFU website to be redesigned. Due to a limit on executive members’ time, an RFP that was produced in Fall 2015 was never circulated. Instead, executive members, organizers, staff and volunteers have worked to improve the various features of the site that we have. A new design RFP has been completed and has been posted. The deadline to submit a proposal is mid-November and the RFP can be found on the CFU website.
Co-works and socials
Thanks in large part to the work of the CFU organizers, in-person events (education forums, social events, meetups at cowork spaces) were held in major cities across the country: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. Most events attracted over a dozen participants.
The CFU represented the interests of freelancers in the Ontario Changing Workplace Review. An impressive reaction was produced by Prairies Director Jamie Parkinson and shared through the CFU’s website and social media feeds. The CFU also issued a media statement to call attention to freelancer demands.
The CFU executive acted quickly on behalf of freelancers to ensure access to the Alberta legislature, government committees, and announcements. The Alberta NDP government went to Canadian Press to come up with policy and the CFU provided information and advice which was incorporated into the final policy document.
In January, letters were written to the Federal Minister of Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk and carbon copied to the NDP and the Minister of Finance. The CFU received responses from Mihychuk in the Spring of 2016 and a receipt of acknowledgement from the Minister of Finance in June, 2016.
The CFU issued a statement in response to the arrest of journalist Justin Brake for covering the protests against the construction of the Muskrat Falls hydro plant in Newfoundland and Labrador.
2016 was a big year for freelancing to break through mainstream consciousness and the CFU received dozens of requests for interviews. CFU representatives gave interviews on many freelance media issues to a variety of media outlets. Highlights included: The Globe and Mail, The National Observer, The Current, CBC Radio’s national news service, CCPA Monitor, Our Times, and online news services.
National, Provincial, Local and Sectoral Participation
Unifor National Convention
In mid-August 2016, Unifor held its second-ever congress. The founding congress in 2013 in Toronto featured the CFU as Unifor’s first community chapter. CFU executive members were present then to promote the union, which had previously been a CEP local.
In 2016, the CFU had the right to send two delegates to the Unifor convention. Ethan Clarke and Trevor Beckerson represented CFU. Many other CFU members were present in their capacities as videographers, photographers and other communications freelancers.
Federations of Labour
CFU was represented at the Ontario, BC, and Nova Scotia federations of labour.
CFU is represented at the following labour councils: Toronto and York Region, Halifax and Dartmouth Region, South Shore Region (Nova Scotia) and Thunder Bay.
Unifor Media Council
The CFU participated in Unifor’s Media Council for the first time. This meeting was in Montreal in April 2016 and brought together communications workers from across Canada. CFU president Leslie Dyson brought greetings of solidarity to the members. All members of the CFU executive participated in the conference. One highlight was witnessing how important the work that CFU representatives in Atlantic Canada did to defend good jobs on the picket line of the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
One of the benefits of CFU’s participation in the Media Council was the addition of a freelancer perspective and the CFU in Unifor policy. Unifor’s Media Policy was updated to include policy about freelancers and the role that freelance media work plays in a changing media landscape.
Fight for $15 and fairness
The CFU executive voted unanimously to support the campaign for a $15 minimum wage and fairness for all workers. The campaign has different iterations in each province and so executive members agreed to find out how to participate in various events and activities in their regions.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression campaign
The CFU executive voted unanimously to sign the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion calling for a UN Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists.
The CFU executive worked closely with MP Niki Ashton to promote her cross-country consultation tour about precarious work. CFU members were present at consultations in St. John’s, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver. The consultations happened over the course of the summer months and culminated in a large forum in Ottawa on Oct. 26 on precarious work. CFU members were well represented at her forum both as speakers, active volunteers and photographers.
CFU members participated in the Halifax Pride Parade for the first time. Members marched behind a CFU banner and Halifax organizer Rebecca Rose posted information on the CFU website about the connections that exist between queer liberation and precarious, freelance work.
Labour Day in Toronto
A small delegation of CFU members marched in the Toronto and York Region Labour Council Labour Day Parade.
Halifax Chronicle Herald strike
The strike at this newspaper that began in January continues and CFU Atlantic members have supported the workers in many ways: walking the picket line, attending special events, and sending out a news release about why freelancers should refuse to work for the Herald.
Urban Workers Project
CFU executive members met several times with Andrew Cash and Stephanie Nakitsas from the Urban Workers Project. As CFU had drawn heavily on Cash’s work as an MP to form the basis of our political priorities in 2016, it was important to find ways to work together to advocate for reforms such as income averaging and changes to EI.
Plans for next term
- RFP for new website theme
- RFP for translation services out this fall
- expand ways to involve members in growing our numbers and supporting members
- continue advocacy work for freelance media workers and individual members
- work with Unifor organizers to grow our numbers