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La syndicalisation des journalistes dans quelques quotidiens québécois

La syndicalisation des journalistes dans quelques quotidiens québécois

Esther Déom

Volume : 42-4 (1987)


This article examines the origins and motives of the unionization of journalists in five Quebec daily newspapers: La Presse, Le Soleil, Le Devoir, The Gazette and The Montreal Star. The unionization of francophone journalists began in 1944, shortly after the enactment of the «Loi des relations ouvrières». By this time, these newspapers already displayed most of the major characteristics that we would recognize today:

large-scale circulation, the importance of advertising in the overall composition of their income, etc. The newspapers were, however, still owned by just a few families. With the exception of Le Devoir, it was a period of prosperity for the dailies. The work of journalists involved a little of everything (weather reports, photo captions...). Their conditions of work (low wages, long hours) did not differ significantly from the situation faced by most other non-unionized workers.

The first journalists' union was created at La Presse in 1944. It was, in fact, a local of the Syndicat de l'Industrie du Journal (S.I.J.) which brought together several newspaper occupations. This union was affiliated to the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour (C.C.C.L.). Several months later, the S.I.J. founded a journalists' local at the daily Le Devoir which was certified on the 24th of January 1945. The Syndicat des Journalistes de Quebec was recognized by the Labour Relations Commission on the 28th of June 1950. In the meantime, in 1948, journalists in Montreal decided to form a new union and requested certification as the Syndicat des Journalistes de Montreal. This union established locals at La Presse and Le Devoir. Thus, by 1950, all of the journalists in the francophone dailies considered in this study were organized into unions and affiliated with the Federation de l'Imprimerie which, in turn, was part of the C.C.C.L.

It appears that it was the C.C.C.L. that took the initiative in unionizing thèse journalists. Their recruitment was part of a larger program set out by the Federation de l'Imprimerie. As regards the journalists at Le Soleil in Quebec City, it was the Syndicat des Journalistes de Montreal which initiated their organization. Montreal journalists, in effect, wished to protect themselves from the competition of nonunionized journalists elsewhere in the province.

The appearance of unions in the editorial offices of The Montreal Star and The Gazette came only in the 1970s, some thirty years after the unionization of the francophone dailies. This period was marked by a growing concentration of ownership in the industry, especially by large corporations. It was a more difficult period for all of the dailies and for their journalists. The Montreal Newspaper Guild was certified to represent the journalists working for The Montreal Star on the 8th of May 1972 and the journalists at The Gazette on the 22nd of December 1977. Both the relatively recent visible presence of the Guild in Canada and the prevailing labour relations climate in these newspaper explain why unionization came later among anglophone journalists. Among the major reasons leading to their eventual unionization should be noted the move towards greater concentration of ownership, the inflationary climate of the time, the arrival of visual display units in the composing rooms and the influence of the already unionized francophone journalists. That the anglophone journalists gravitated towards the Guild can be explained by its traditional preoccupation with professional matters.