The Western Socialist
Vol. 31 - No. 242
No. 6, 1964
pages 4-7

The Toronto Newspaper Strike

Automation, spreading throughout large-scale industry at an ever-increasing rate, has become a major cause of intensifying the class struggle on the economic front. Despite "advanced" thinking to the contrary by alleged socialists such as the New Democratic Party in Canada, the Labour Party in Britain, "Marxian" intellectuals and liberals, that the class struggle is outdated, modern capitalism no less than the capitalism of yesterday is beset by the class struggle. This is manifested by the continuing rash of strikes and lockouts of these times and nowhere can a more interesting case history of the economic phase of the class struggle be found than in Toronto, Canada, where a printers' strike against the three big newspapers, begun some four months ago, still rages.

The Toronto Star is now in the process of installing an IBM 360 Data Processing System, the Telegram and Globe and Mail have already installed the IBM 1620 machine. Wonderful (to its owners) as it is in labor-saving propensity, the IBM 1620 with its 20,000 "memory positions" is but an infant as compared to the IBM 360 with its 5 billion "memory positions." Not only can the IBM 360 print the newspapers but it also can operate the editorial, advertising, accounting and business departments, merely by adding custom-built attachments and preparing the proper programming. But "progress" which to the publishers means the slashing of labor costs and the improvement of profits, collided with the conditions of work which had been bettered through the years through the efforts of the International Typographical Union. So the employers, finding these improvements to be exasperating "hindrances," "antique practices" and "onerous rules" forced the Union to strike.

Although the situation is actually best designated as a lockout, and was termed lockout by the Union, the owners successfully applied to the courts for an injunction against the use of the term by the pickets. The newspapers, which continue to operate with scabs and with nonstriking members of allied printing crafts who suffer from the capitalist-inspired need of honoring contracts regardless of changed conditions, do not relish the stigma attached to them by the term "lockout." So the Law obliged and the publishers, who are not as concerned as are many of their workers with the sacredness of contracts, are further permitted to violate provisions of their agreement with the Mailers' Union which forbids any but members to be employed in the mailing room and stipulates that no mailer shall be required to cross a picket line.

The Toronto court deferred the Mailers' request for an injunction to. compel the Globe and Mail to honor their, "sacred contract." The judge's comment was that a newspaper is a public service and not merely an individual factory.

Let it be noted that a great many members of other crafts refused to cross the picket line and were fired for insubordination; that 150 (out of about 700) members of the Newspaper Guild petitioned their head office for permission to honor the picket line but were advised to wait for the expiration of their "sacred" contract. In the circumstances, the word, "sacredness," had lost whatever meaning it had. Further, 3 other unions: the Teamsters, the Transit Workers and the City Employes refused, from the inception to cross the picket lines.


It has become apparent that the Publishers had no intention of bargaining in "good faith" with the Union from the beginning. Documentary evidence has been published in "The Printers' Story," the weekly paper of the strikers, which show that many months prior to the lockout of July 9th, preparations had been going on to continue publication of the three Toronto newspapers the moment . the printers, were forced to walk off the job.

By July 1, after 22 months of continued negotiations, the Publishers and the Union had agreed upon all issues except that of computers while intervention by Provincial Government officials brought agreement to continue negotiations on July 9. But just after noon on this date, about two hours prior to the arranged meeting, notices of new work rules were simultaneously posted in the three newspapers. These new rules violated the existing contract and the terms which the Publishers had agreed upon for the new contract and as each printer refused to carry out orders to obey the new rules he was promptly fired. The Union had no alternative but to walk off the job the Union printers were, in fact, effectively and forcefully locked out. An interesting sidelight: the Publishers spread false stories of the sabotaging of machines by Union workers, rather than admit to damage by incompetent scabs.

But in compliance with the directive of the Provincial Conciliator, Louis Fine, the Union continued to meet with the Publishers, despite the lockout. Continuing their curious tactics, the Publishers reopened two items which had been settled previously — a clear breach of negotiating procedures. In the morning of July 29, Conciliator Fine helped settle the computer dispute to the satisfaction of the Union and the Union was prepared to overlook the two unacceptable items. So now that the battle seemed on the verge of ending, on the afternoon of the same day the Publishers introduced 21 additional changes — all of which had been ironed out previously. On August 5, all further negotiation ceased and it became evident that further attempts to bargain were useless.


In accordance with time-honored custom the forces of "law and order" made clear which side of the barricades was their side. Injunctions were issued against mass picketing and parading around the plants and no more than three pickets would be permitted at each entrance. The Premier of the Province (Robarts) and the Mayor of Toronto (Givens) gave notices that they were opposed to violence and threatened police action against the strikers — such challenges being issued despite the absence of any violence by the strikers.

To further help the case of righteousness, false rumors were spread concerning the strike and the strikers. It was claimed, for example, that a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Telegram building, the truth being that a bag filled with water had been thrown out of a window in the building and immediately photographed for publicity purposes. It was also claimed, in the interests of Canadian chauvinism, that the printers actually wished to return to work but were ordered to stay out by the American headquarters in Colorado. Immigration authorities were asked to investigate the purposes of Union officials entering Canada from the United States (as though there was any secret that they came to assist the strikers) .

The highlight of the strike so far was the spirited Mass Rally in front of the Parliament Building in Queen's Park. About 5000 unionists demonstrated their solidarity with their fellow workers of the ITU, the theme of the gathering being: "Do Not Cross the Picket Lines" and "Close Down the Plants." The speakers emphasized the nature of automation and the need for class solidarity and the Press, of course, reported all this as: "Advocating increasing acts of violence and threats of continuing illegal actions." As for those members of the New Democratic Party and of other crafts involved in the crossing of picket lines, there was noticeable embarrassment.


Toronto demonstrates, above all, that workers and capitalists are not one happy family but have antagonistic interests. The owners must be concerned first and foremost with profits. They must continue to make profits and to seek ways of cutting labor costs or they must cease to function as owners, to be toppled from their position of privilege. The workers, on the other hand, must continually be concerned with the problem of maintaining and bettering wages and conditions. They must organize, in fact, into unions in order to effectively carry on this struggle. When the chips are down, the main weapon left to the workers is the strike. (See Socialist Standard April 1964.)

Without the unions they would be considerably worse off than they now are. Not that modern capitalism could operate efficiently without unions but despite this factor the working class can carry on its struggle to sell its labor-power more effectively where it is organized.

But unions are limited to how far they can go in the economic phase of the class struggle. Under the most favorable conditions, all that the ITU could gain, in the long run, is a merger of the craft unions into a union of the entire printing industry and because the production of a newspaper is becoming quite overlapping rather than being exclusively within the jurisdiction of printers and allied crafts, even this gain is seriously hampered. The demands of the ITU can go no farther than agreements to moderate the rate of the introduction of automated equipment; protective measures against layoffs; increasing amounts of severance pay when workers are displaced by machines; the instituting of central hiring halls; reducing the hours of work and increasing hourly rates; increasing pensions and health and welfare benefits, etc.


Important as activity of this sort is today it still does not get to the crux of the question. The highest expression of the class struggle is the political organization to gain the state machinery for the single object of transferring the means of living from the capitalist class to where it belongs, in the hands of society as a whole, i. e., to change the basic organization of society to one of production for use. In the words of Marx: "Instead of the conservative slogan 'A fair days wage for a fair day's Work' the Workers ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary slogan: 'Abolition of the wages system.' " Only then will automation become a blessing making available an abundance of things to satisfy man's needs.

The times are now ripe for socialism — a world of plenty made possible here and now by the the technological strides of the 20th Century. The real problem facing society is ignorance and confusion (and nothing else). Just as soon, and no sooner, as the vast majority of the workers understand that socialism is practical and necessary they will take the political act of voting for socialism. That is the socialist revolution.