Posts made in September, 2011

“Galway Bay”

Posted by on Sep 24, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

Here’s a taste of what you missed if you didn’t make it to one of my musical book launches for “Leaving Dublin” earlier this month. I’m telling the audience about a concert tour of Canada that Shay Duffin and I did with Dublin’s Abbey Tavern Singers in the fall of...

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Solidarity forever

Posted by on Sep 18, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

I have held memberships in several unions over the course of my working life – writers’ unions, musicians’ unions, broadcasters’ unions – yet I never considered myself a trade unionist until I joined forces with my journalistic colleagues to bring a union into the hitherto non-unionized newsroom of the Calgary Herald. That organizing initiative began 13 years ago and – though it ultimately ended in defeat – I look back upon it now as one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career. I had worked at the Herald for 24 years as a staff writer, and the union drive gave me a sense of empowerment I had never felt before as an employee. I cover the story in some detail in a chapter of my memoirs, Leaving Dublin: Writing My Way from Ireland to Canada, just published by the estimable RMB | Rocky Mountain Books. The labour action I describe was kindled in a cauldron of repressed anger and frustration, gleamed for an instant as a flame of hope and shared purpose, and finally was extinguished for reasons beyond the control of those of us who dearly wanted to keep it burning. It happened during a time, in the late 1990s, when daily newspapers were no longer what they had been for 100 years: a guaranteed source of profit, a licence to print money as we used to say. Now they were printing in red ink, losing advertisers to television, and losing readers – especially younger readers – to the blandishments of the newly arrived World Wide Web. The Herald came through these industry perils relatively unscathed. Because it is located in one of the more affluent cities in Canada, the newspaper continued to generate profits of between $30 and $40 million annually while its sister papers in the Southam (now, Postmedia) chain were posting total annual losses of more than $150 million. However, the Southam bosses could not sit idly by while several of their holdings suffered financially. So they siphoned profits from the Herald and ordered the paper to cut costs. It was not long before we felt the direct impact of these cuts in the Herald newsroom. First we had a round of voluntary layoffs. Then we were told that expense accounts and travel budgets were being shaved. Finally – after more layoffs and some changes in corporate ownership and senior Herald management – we were told that our primary purpose was no longer to produce award-winning journalism, but to keep advertisers, government leaders and corporate clients happy. We were now to view ourselves as “content providers.” Before, we had thought of ourselves as the newspaper equivalent of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Now, we were playing in a kazoo band. When we tried to express our concerns to management, we were told they had no interest in listening to us as a group. Dignity went out the window, along with respect. That was the point at which we asked the union – the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) of Canada – for help. The CEP reps warned us that a first contract would not be easy to obtain. It would take at least 18 months of tough bargaining, and we would have to fight hard for every clause that was not about management rights. But at the end of the day we would have what most major newsrooms in Canada already had: an equitable agreement with a legally mandated grievance procedure and guaranteed rights and protections for the employees. We never achieved our goal. Weak provincial labour laws – no compulsory first-contract arbitration, no...

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CBC Radio’s Daybreak Alberta

Posted by on Sep 15, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

CBC Radio’s Russell Bowers did a great interview about “Leaving Dublin,” Sat. Sept. 10 on his program, “Daybreak Alberta,” broadcast across the province. Click on the arrow and...

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Remembering September 2001

Posted by on Sep 10, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 2 comments

On this day in 2001, Sept. 10, I was at Logan International Airport in Boston waiting to board an American Airlines flight that would get me to Calgary after a plane change in Chicago. The turnaround time in Chicago was just 38 minutes, which left me feeling a bit nervous. Would I make my connecting flight? O’Hare International Airport was notorious for delays because of congestion and high winds. The American Airlines agent assured me everything would be O.K. “It’s a legal turnaround,” she said. I wasn’t convinced. “Put me on standby for an earlier flight,” I said. I left Logan two hours earlier than my originally scheduled departure time of 4:23 p.m. That meant I was going to be hanging around O’Hare for a while, but I didn’t mind. I would be there in plenty of time to make the last flight out of Chicago to Calgary. Just as I had feared, the 4:23 p.m. flight out of Boston was delayed getting into O’Hare. It still hadn’t arrived by the time I boarded the 6:44 p.m. flight bound for Calgary. I thanked my lucky stars because I could have been stuck in Chicago that night. The following morning, safely at home in Calgary, I turned on CNN after hearing a report on CBC Radio that a plane (originally reported as a light aircraft) had flown into the World Trade Center. A few hours later, all civilian air traffic in the United States and Canada was grounded until Sept. 13. A week after that, thousands of stranded travellers were still trying to get out of the States to their homes in other parts of the world. CNN anchor Aaron Brown’s first day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001. I can only echo what he said shortly after the second plane hit the twin towers: “There are no...

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Irish Cultural Society - Literary Series

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

Hot on the heels of a successful launch, we’re ready for the encore presentation:

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