Staff at the National Observer became CWA Canada’s newest members Wednesday with the announcement that an application for union certification had been approved.
The Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213) filed for certification with the Canada Industrial Relations Board in December after a strong majority of workers signed union cards.
The daily news website, owned by Observer Media Group, is headquartered in Vancouver and has offices in Toronto and Ottawa. It was founded in 2015 by Linda Solomon Wood, who grew it from a community blog called Vancouver Observer into an award-winning national online publication that conducts investigative reporting and covers energy, climate change, politics and social issues.
A feature article on Wood and the National Observer published in January 2018 by NiemanLab.org said there were 10 full-time employees, “as well as five part-time contractors and a host of freelance journalists.”
In explaining their motivation for organizing, staff said in a statement that they “recognize the hard work, the struggle, and the resolve that it has taken to build the Observer into a recognized national news brand. We recognize the effort its founder and its leaders, past and present, have put in to marshal it to the place where it is today. We are grateful for these efforts and for where they have gotten us.
“We care deeply about our newsroom, the stability of our company, and we want the work we do to move forward in a way that is healthy and sustainable, as we can expand our staff and broaden our journalistic capacity …
“It is in this spirit that we believe a union will be beneficial to our company, to help the National Observer to continue to evolve into a better, stronger, more cohesive, more united workplace.”
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon welcomed the workers into the media union, saying the move will be good for them, for the company, and for journalism.
“As a journalist, I deeply respect what the National Observer has accomplished, and I want to see that fine work continue. We think the best way to make that happen is by giving workers a stronger voice and the power to negotiate wages and working conditions.”
CWA Canada organizer Katherine Lapointe said Observer staff “love the work that they do and want to work with management to strengthen the company.”
There has been a wave of unionization in the North American news industry in recent years. Staff at digital media outlets VICE Canada and BuzzFeed Canada have also joined CWA Canada.