The end of the Chronicle Herald strike brings relief, but at a steep cost

Headquarters of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald newspaper on Joseph Howe Drive, Halifax. Photo: Ben MacLeod/Wikimedia Commons

My Herald colleagues voted yesterday to accept a deal after a year and a half on strike. For many -- most, I dare say -- this is little cause for celebration. Yes, it brings a much-needed resolution to this toxic situation.

But the toll it has taken is deep.

Unless you've been on strike for a lengthy period, you probably can't fathom what that feels like. I was on strike with my Herald co-workers for about 14 and a half months, although I was on maternity leave for 12 of those months, and have since taken a job at the CBC. But I certainly got a good taste of what it's like. The anger just gnaws at you. Anger towards management who forced you out. Anger towards scabs (I'm not using that other term, which is way too nice for them). Anger toward those who could have helped, but didn't.

The anxiety is constant. What will become of me? What will happen to my career? How will I pay my bills?

It even can affect your self-esteem. You start to wonder, "Am I any good at what I do?"

There were so many dark times during those 566 days on strike. (566! Think about that for a minute.)

But thank goodness for those who showed support. You helped us get through it. Those quick honks of the horn as you passed by the picket line helped. Those surprise coffee deliveries on cold winter days helped. And those cheques donated by other unions helped, too.

The strike was at times divisive, even among union members. But it also forged bonds among co-workers who weren't very close before the strike started. These friendships will go on, even after our little Herald/Local Xpress family breaks up.

The Local Xpress, the online strike publication we started shortly after the strike began, was another bright spot. It was, as veteran sports reporter Monty Mosher has said, "a lifeboat in stormy seas." It allowed the reporters, photographers and editors an opportunity to keep doing the work they love. That publication will cease with the ratification of a deal. RIP Local Xpress. You were a good little news source.

Some people are leaving the Herald "voluntarily." I use quotation marks because yes, they're opting to collect severance and go, but these are people who never would have left the job they loved if this hadn't all happened.

Others are simply losing their jobs. What a way to go, after years -- and for many, decades -- of hard work.

The coming days will be difficult for everyone, whether they walk through the doors of the building on Joseph Howe Drive again or not. Those who return to the Chronicle Herald will have to work alongside management who kicked them to the curb a year and a half ago, and maybe also with the scabs who thought nothing of their role in all this. (You will forever be known as scabs, by the way).

Those who walk away will grapple with an uncertain future and possibly an end to the career that was part of their identity for so long. These journalists and staff are talented. They're kind. They're dedicated and they're strong. They'll get through this. But they still have challenges ahead. Now begins the time for healing. I wish all of my friends and former co-workers every bit of strength, luck and resolve.

I can't wait to see what they get up to next.

Frances Willick is a digital reporter in Halifax. Before that, she worked at The Chronicle Herald for about six years. This article was first posted on Facebook and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo: Ben MacLeod/Wikimedia Commons

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