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Unifor union urges media members not to vote for Hudak

A union representing journalists is urging its 2,600 members not to vote for PC Leader Tim Hudak this week, which drew criticism from some journalists and government leaders.

Unifor Local 87-M, which represents media workers at 35 workplaces, including the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun, said in a release Monday that it has broken its traditional silence during elections by asking members not to vote for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party when voters go to the polls on Thursday.

“This is a big deal for us,” Unifor Local 87-M president Paul Morse said in the release. “As a media local representing a large number of journalists, we have strict policies against endorsing candidates or contributing financially to election campaigns.”

“But the threat of Hudak and his circle of Tea Party groupies is too great for us to remain silent. We’re not telling our members who to vote for. We’re asking them to vote for someone other than Hudak and his party.”

Hudak wants to reform labour laws and “really that means gutting labour laws,” Morse told CityNews. Morse brought up Hudak’s right to work agenda, an anti-labour policy the PC leader had planned to campaign on but backed off after internal party rifts.

“This is a guy who’s beliefs are very, very right wing. And he’s willing to go after basic rights that members have including member journalists,” Morse said.

The unprecedented move, which was accompanied by a YouTube video explaining the union’s decision, drew immediate criticism on Twitter.

Conservative MP Jason Kenney, who is the federal employment minister, tweeted, “Journalists’ union picks sides in ON election, but we’re told to believe there’s no such thing as liberal media bias.”

And his Conservative MP colleague Tony Clement tweeted, “Journalists’ union enters Ontario election fray. In other news, commentators insist they’re not biased. #lol #onpoli.”

Some journalists were dismayed and angry.

“I’m so mad about this Unifor thing I’m shaking. Beyond stupid,” Peter Scowen tweeted.

The Globe’s Boyd Erman posted, “Absolutely appalled by journalist union (i.e. mine) taking a (any) political stand. We should be bigger than this.”

The Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor tweeted, “Unifor should have recognized how this will be used to impeach the professional reputation of its members.”

Morse said the union bylaws didn’t require a referendum of the issue and that the decision was made by Unifor’s executive committee and representative council which is made up of representatives from each workplace.