World Day of Social Justice

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed February 20 as World Day of Social Justice to promote the efforts of the international community to eliminate poverty, achieve full employment and decent work, gender equality and access to social well being and justice.

On February 20, the World Day of Social Justice is observed around the globe.  This year's theme is “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice”. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) maintains that decent work is key to achieving sustainable development and social justice.

Freelancers often feel the stress of capitalism in a unique manner. Freelance work is often preferred by people with disabilities, parents who need a flexible schedule, or people who experience discrimination in traditional workplaces. People in poverty often turn to freelance work as a way to make more money to supplement their underpaid jobs, or their obscenely low disability payments. The broad array of skills required in most freelancing environments are often undervalued, and without bargaining power or a co-working atmosphere, freelancers are prone to be taken advantage of. The Canadian Freelance Union is proud of our history in gathering rate information from our members to allow new freelancers a frame of reference of how to set their fees, as well as our many successful attempts at recouping monies owed to our members.

The CFU has a long history of promoting social justice and economic equality for our members.  We will continue to be an advocate for the rights and standards that underpin decent work for Freelancers and support marginalized communities by helping to raise the standards for all workers.


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Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation and respect for freedom of the Press

Coastal GasLink/TC Energy is pushing through a 670-kilometer fracked gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas from Dawson Creek, B.C. to the coastal town of Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s processing plant would be located. LNG Canada is the single largest private investment in Canadian history.

Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/ TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands. 

The Wet’suwet’en through the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case had their sovereignty recognized and affirmed by Canadian law. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to their territory.

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory. 

The United Nations Committee to End Racial Discrimination has called on the resource projects in British Columbia to be halted until the free, prior and informed consent of all affected Indigenous groups was granted.

The Canadian Freelance Union is deeply concerned about reports that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police obstructed and detained journalists trying to cover police operations at Indigenous protest camps in British Columbia.  It is important to remember that special considerations and protections must apply to journalists reporting on demonstrations, even when an injunction order is in place. 

We are also troubled by the creation of an exclusion zone preventing journalists and legal observers from witnessing events that are vital for the public to know. Journalists provide openness and transparency about the situation, and having journalists who are informed of the historical, cultural and colonial frameworks that govern Indigenous land is essential to reconciliation. To refuse journalists this access is to conceal important details about the ongoing colonialism of Indigenous land from Canadians and First Nations.

We implore upon the Canadian Government to uphold its commitment to Indigenous peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by meaningfully recognizing and respecting Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs authority to make decisions on projects that impact their people and way of life.

We stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples and oppose Canada’s militarization of Indigenous lands, the criminalization of peaceful protests and censoring of media covering this issue. 


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Solidarity with Unifor 594

A pension is the foundation of retirement. It’s what Canadians for generations have worked towards, yet in the last decade, pensions across the country have been eroded. Despite valiant fights by unions time and time again, employers have worked to cut back on pension plans. Conservative governments have told workers that they have to expect to work longer and receive less when they retire.

It is completely unacceptable that we are telling employees that, after working in a good, decent job for decades that their retirement should not be a stable one. That they don’t deserve comfort and care in their old age. Especially as Canadians are living longer and those that are retiring now may be required to care for their elderly parents or their grandchildren.

Workers are being squeezed from both sides. Young people are being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get a job only to be offered subpar wages and few benefits.

This is not the society that Canadians want to be a part of, and it’s certainly not a society that our parents and grandparents fought and died for.

The Canadian Freelance Union stands in solidarity with our comrades in Unifor Local 594 as they fight for their retirement and the retirement of those that come after them. We strongly denounce the arrests of union activists who are picketing at the lockout at the Co-op Refinery in Regina, Saskatchewan, and call on all labour activists across Canada to speak out in support of the employees.

If you do not want to see seniors at the food banks, speak out. If you don’t think that our elderly should be kicked to the streets, speak out. If you believe that health care in old age is vital, speak out. A victory for one is a victory for us all, and a loss for one is a loss for us all. Employers across the country are watching these union breaking tactics to see what they can get away with.

The Canadian Freelance Union calls on Co-op Refinery to get back to the bargaining table, and for our members to speak out in solidarity. If you are able, please join the picket line and help our brothers and sisters and comrades stay strong.

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Why RFPs are a bad idea and what to do instead

Is your non-profit or union advocating for social justice? Considering building a new website? You may be tempted to issue an RFP. Here’s why that is a bad idea and what to do instead.

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Response to concerns about Unifor's election campaign

September 25, 2019

Response to concerns about Unifor's election campaign

The Canadian Freelance Union executive expresses its concern about a letter signed by 40 journalists, some members of the Globe and Mail unit of Unifor Local 87M, subsequently signed by other Unifor members. The letter condemns Unifor National and specifically Jerry Dias for conducting a political campaign that targets Andrew Scheer, during the current federal election.

As fellow members of Unifor, though with far less job stability than the members of Unifor Local 87M, we are concerned that our brothers and sisters seemingly identify more with their employer than with the organization that fights their employer on their behalves.

They are concerned that the union’s political work threatens the public trust in their work. As media workers, we absolutely understand the need for media workers to do their job in a fair, honest and accurate manner. Just like when the Globe and Mail explicitly endorses the Conservative Party during an election, the work of their national leadership in no way should be understood as a reflection of journalists’ personal motivations or interests.

In fact, most Canadians would never think that it does. Canadians respect journalists because of quality reporting. They rarely even know that journalists hold membership in a union, let alone which union. Unifor has never claimed to speak on behalf of individual journalists whose jobs it is to impartially report the news.

The letter also argues that their credibility is jeopardized when they interview politicians who feel targeted by their union’s leadership. If this happens, this amounts to an outrageous attack on a free press.

No politician should refuse an interview with a journalist because of the work of their union, just like no politician should refuse an interview with a newspaper because the bosses endorsed a competing party. But rather than call out this phenomenon, these 40+ journalists condemned the political work of an organization whose literal job is to stand up for better working and living conditions for their members.

What’s worse, these journalists have made it impossible to now believe that they can cover Unifor or labour relations without these biases influencing their work.

Members of our own executive are routinely attacked by the far right for our affiliation with Unifor, and we imagine that some of the journalists on this list have seen similar attacks. In our case, every single time, they come from the far-right. Almost always, we can trace the attack back to groups like the Rebel Media. These are not average people who are worried about the impartiality of a free press. They want journalists to fall in line with the conservative political lines of the bosses. We regret that so many have taken the bait.

Unifor is a political organization. It’s through their political action that we have the clout to fight for better contracts. To condemn their political work during an election campaign isn’t a show of neutrality, it’s a show of deep partisanry that is unbecoming of any journalist.

The industry is in a moment of crisis and the solution to this crisis will not be through publicly denouncing the union while management lays off journalists, closes bureaus and slashes budgets. No amount of sucking up to management will save the industry. We need to be clear-eyed about what the pressures are that the industry is facing. The far-right attack on the press by interested parties like the Rebel Media, which the Globe management has recently welcomed with open arms, is a far bigger threat than perceived notions of credibility from motivated far-right activists.

When a member of the Canadian Freelance Union has trouble getting paid, one of our points of leverage is the high-profile that our union has. If someone refuses to pay one of our members, we can demonstrate that Unifor will have our back in pressuring the contractor to pay up. Even though we have concerns about certain aspects of the current national election campaign, we understand that the high profile of our union helps our members assert their rights. And even as our members assert their rights, we understand that when we are working as journalists, we conduct that work with the principles of journalism that are expected of us all.

In solidarity in work and survival,

Canadian Freelance Union executive

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International Workers' Day

Never in history have our rights been given to us. Our rights have been demanded. They have been fought for. People have died for them. In our country, far more people have died for the right to a union than to vote. The history of the labour struggle has never been one that has been won without struggle.

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Happy May Day from the Canadian Freelance Union!

May Day is celebrated as International Worker’s Day around the world. In many Canadian cities, May 1st is an opportunity to come together with other workers, union members and grassroots organizations to celebrate the history of the labour movement and to fight against continued attacks on workers’ rights.

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Why Unions Should Engage in Political Campaigns

As a Member Organizer with the Canadian Freelance Union, I was part of a Unifor member-to-member campaign during the three weeks leading up to the provincial election in Alberta on April 16. Our duties included communicating with Unifor members across the province in person, on the phone, and, in the final days prior to the election, via text messages We were asking members to take a pledge to vote in the election, as well as answer questions about issues affecting working people in Alberta.

One of the questions I got a number of times during the campaign was, “Why would a union be involved with politics?” That is a very good and legitimate question. Here are some reasons why:

  • At their heart, unions are organizations that are trying to affect the power balance in the workplace. We are trying to make the boss, or clients in our case, to be more even with us the workers. This power play often finds itself playing in the larger society during elections. We as workers need to ensure that those representing our districts are also representing our interests.
  • The labour movement has always been rooted in social justice. That's why it advocates for things like fair working conditions, hours and wages. The actions of the ruling political party can affect healthcare, education, housing, and other public programs. These issues affect union members and society at large.
  • Government makes policies. Policies affect people – this includes working people, like our union members. It falls within the purview of union representatives to form political positions based on a careful examination of what current and prospective political candidates and parties are communicating with regard to issues affecting workers. It also follows that union representatives would seek to communicate such positions to members. The ultimate choice of who to vote for, of course, still rests with the member.
  • The labour movement, like any social movement, requires the active participation of its members in order for it to be successful. It's a microcosm of society. And voting is a way to be an active citizen. Even if someone doesn't vote in their best interests, individually or collectively.
  • The party in power impacts the direction of labour and social movements. A progressive government should ideally result in the ability for the labour movement to work for positive changes, rather than always being on the defensive - as is often what happens when a regressive party is leading government.

While the Alberta election did not go the way we hoped, the member-to-member campaign made a difference. I believe it helped contribute to the record number of advanced poll voting (over 700,000), as well as voter turnout in general (over 70%). It allowed us to connect with many in our membership to discuss issues affecting workers in light of current events. Initiatives like this can help labour activists in mobilizing members around issues and lead to a more involved membership.

Paula E. Kirman is a Member Organizer with the Canadian Freelance Union.

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5 Tips for tax season

It’s tax season! While most of us appreciate that taxes are important for maintaining social goods like our health and education systems, filing taxes can be stressful for freelancers. Faced with piles of invoices and receipts and the prospect of owing money we haven’t accounted for, paying taxes can seem like a daunting organizational and financial challenge.

But getting organized to pay your taxes can also be empowering and help you take better control of your finances, both personal and professional. Armed with the right information, you can reduce the amount of taxes you owe and make strategic decisions about managing your finances. Tax season is a great time to implement longer term practices that will help you not only when filing your taxes, but that will also ensure the success of your business long term. To that end, here are the CFU’s top five tips for tax time.

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CFU in solidarity with the unpaid internship strike

The Canadian Freelance Union stands in solidarity with journalism students at Concordia in their struggle to end unpaid internships. Their decision to join students across Quebec and take a one-week strike is courageous and an important action to demonstrate that unpaid internships are unacceptable, and a relic of a past.

Journalism is a difficult industry. As industry bosses find increasingly clever ways to cut costs, under-pay journalists and attack job security, unpaid internships have risen in prominence as a solution to generating more profits. From the days where one could argue that a journalism internship part of the educational costs that one might pay to attend university, unpaid interns are used more and more to fill employment gaps that bad decisions have created. Unpaid internships look far more like unpaid work than educational opportunities.

To be able to work for free requires that students have a certain level of financial freedom. Unpaid internships squeeze out poor students, who are more likely to be racialized, Indigenous, women, disabled, trans* and/or queer. This forces a new class of homogeneous reporters into an industry already plagued by systemic inequalities. Poorer students who want to become journalists find themselves at a disadvantage as they lack the volunteer service that their wealthier peers could afford to take on, thereby boosting their resumes and potential hiring possibilities.

Indeed, there is a straight line between who is rewarded by the industry based on their personal wealth, and who is denied entry.

As freelancers, we are well aware of these barriers. We fight for better job conditions for freelance media workers in Quebec and across Canada. We encourage our members to refuse to volunteer when they should be paid. As such, we naturally are in solidarity with Concordia journalism students as they embark on their strike.

It is actions such as these that will change our industry for the better

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