Basic rights, equity, dignity, representation– this is what unions are all about, right? Standing up for the humanity of members should be at the core of everything we do. From those first risky steps in organizing new workplaces, to negotiating ever better contract language, employees’ needs and the quality of our work are the union’s top priorities.
But just who are we?
Getting back to the basics, the union is the membership. And we– the members – are the union. But we CMG workers are also people from every social background in society. Or, at least, we should be.
In Canada’s media industry, people with disabilities, Aboriginal people, and people of colour remain sorely under-represented. And along with some women, we are often ghettoized in the workplace. Just walk through any newsroom, production set, creative department or studio. More often than not, you’ll find that we are very few in number, often left to learn, work and survive alone. We’re still disproportionately the fill-ins, last hired (first fired). Sometimes we are the long-standing minority voice expected to speak for an entire race or group. Often we add colour or flavour or language when required, but are compelled to fade out and “fit” in whenever assimilation is the precondition for keep our job or advancing.
Whichever way you see it, the job and career prospects are not yet equal, not even close. Our lack of access to informal peer networks of support or mentoring means the dominant culture continues to reproduce itself in hiring and retention. Too often, those who already have the social advantage are seen as the natural inheritors of quality media jobs. And despite twenty years of employment equity law, minority workers and many women keep banging their heads against that invisible, but very real, glass ceiling.
It’s true this social imbalance is reflected in the wider workforce. But when it comes to media jobs, it takes on a heightened significance. As media workers, we help set the frame for Canadian culture, politics and society. Whether we admit it or not, questions of perspective, access,