Investigative Journalism: The Media Can (and Should) Do More of It

Recently I wrote a post about new information on the anti-union financial disclosure bill being debated in Canada’s Parliament. This new information was collected by two University of Regina researchers, and was mostly collected from publicly available documents. I also recently watched this segment of the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver TV show – a segment that brilliantly dismantles the Miss America Pageant’s claim to be “the world’s largest provider of scholarships to women in the world” [sic]. The information for this segment was also collected from publicly available documents.

Now admittedly the Miss America Pageant’s misrepresenting its scholarship awards doesn’t have the same potential large-scale societal impact as federal legislation, but the reporting of both sets of information has something in common. They’re both good investigative journalism – and neither was done by journalists. (One commentator calls Oliver’s work “investigative comedy”.) So why are comedians and university professors doing the kind of investigative work that media organizations should be doing, but generally aren’t?

From my own experience, I can suggest a couple of reasons why investigative journalism is not (more…)

The IKEA Lockout Is Over

The nearly 18-month-long lockout of unionized workers at IKEA’s store in Richmond, British Columbia, has ended.

Mediator Vince Ready joined the negotiations between IKEA and the Teamsters Union just after helping the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC government resolve their bitter dispute. According to several media reports, (more…)

Bill C-377: New Information on “The Bill That Nobody Wants”

Two researchers have uncovered some new and very troubling information about Bill C-377, the proposed Canadian law that would impose exceptionally rigorous financial reporting requirements on unions. “The bill that nobody wants”, as it was called in the researchers’ lecture last week, is now the center of an even more appalling story of misinformation and deception – a story that should concern not only anyone who cares about Canadian unions and workers, but also anyone who cares about the integrity of Canada’s democratic legislative process.

The first version of this bill was introduced in the House of Commons in 2011 as Bill C-317, and the Speaker of the House dismissed it as being out of order. The bill was then re-introduced in the House as Bill C-377 – a private member’s bill sponsored by Member of Parliament Russ Hiebert. It was approved in the House of Commons and sent to the Senate. The Senate refused to vote on it, and returned a heavily amended version of the bill to the House in mid-2013. The House returned the original, unamended bill to the Senate, where it is currently being debated again. It’s extremely unusual for private members’ bills to make it this far in the federal legislative process, or to be on Parliament’s agenda for so long. So what’s really going on here? (more…)

Precarious Work and the Failure of “Human Resource Management”

The Globe and Mail newspaper recently ran a very thoughtful article examining the growth of precarious work in Canada – people holding multiple part-time or temporary jobs with irregular scheduling. Not surprisingly, this form of employment is very attractive for employers, because they can quickly adjust the size of their workforce as needed. But it’s incredibly difficult for the employees, who usually take these jobs out of necessity, not by choice. Many of them have difficulty getting enough paid hours of work to make a living, and they also have to struggle to manage varying work schedules that can change with very little notice.

In the article, economist Jim Stanford is quoted as saying, “If you’re treating people like a disposable input, you’re not going to elicit a lot of loyalty and creativity.” This comment brought to my mind another workplace problem that, in my opinion, is part of the reason for increasingly poor treatment of workers: the failure of “human resource management” to combat the use of exploitative forms of work. When I say “failure”, I don’t mean (more…)

Population Ecology and “Handmade With Love in France”

One of my favourite events every year, the Vancouver International Film Festival, is in its final week. This year’s festival was a good one for me – I saw seven movies, and every one of them had something to recommend it.  But the one that I enjoyed the most was a French documentary entitled Handmade with Love in France. It is a heartfelt tribute to some very talented artisans, and – although I am pretty sure the filmmaker didn’t explicitly intend this – it also illustrates the organizational theory of population ecology.

Population ecology in organizational theory is based on the biological theory of evolution; it tries to explain why (more…)

30 Years of Dysfunction, and Probably More

On September 16, after nearly a week of intense negotiations, British Columbia’s premier, Christy Clark, announced that a new collective agreement had been reached with the BC Teachers’ Federation. The BCTF recommended that its members vote to accept the tentative agreement. While there was some very outspoken opposition to the agreement, 86% of voters supported it, and schools reopened the week of Sept. 22.

In her September 16 statement, Clark, with Education Minister Peter Fassbender at her side, promoted the deal as “historic” and as (more…)

The Fraser Institute’s (Not So) Rigorous Data Collection Methods

I’ve written a couple of posts about the questionable research and data collection methodologies of the notoriously right-wing Fraser Institute. But today I have to take my hat off to the researchers over at Press Progress, who discovered that the Institute was (more…)

More About the Coalition of BC Businesses and the BC Teachers’ Federation Court Case

This week, the Coalition of BC Businesses was formally granted intervenor status in the BC government’s appeal of the Supreme Court ruling in the government’s bargaining disputes with the BC Teachers’ Federation. (A copy of the Coalition’s “factum” explaining its legal arguments is here, and the Court of Appeal’s written decision to grant intervenor status to the Coalition is here.)

Most of the Coalition’s members are associations whose members are groups in specific industries or with shared interests. The Coalition’s list of member organizations disappeared from its webpage a few days after its press release announcing the application for intervenor status. However, you can find a list of the Coalition’s members here.  As I noted in my previous analysis of the Coalition’s press release, since the announcement one of the Coalition’s member organizations has expressed its disagreement with the application.

After the release of the decision to approve the Coalition as an intervenor, I was contacted (more…)

Seeing Kate Bush

On the morning of March 21, I looked at my email and saw a message from katebush.com with the title “Pre-Sale Code”. That’s weird, I thought, an obsessed fangirl like myself would know if Kate Bush had a new record coming out, and I haven’t heard anything. What could possibly be going on sale? So I opened the message – and I screamed.

Kate Bush was going to play live.

To understand why this was such momentous news, you need to know that (more…)

All About Work’s Summer Vacation

While it’s still summertime, I’m taking a break from the blog to enjoy the sunshine, hang around in my yard, and kick back for a while.

Butterfly on a butterfly bush: a swallowtail visits a buddleia in the backyard. (credit: own photo)

Butterfly on a butterfly bush: a swallowtail visits a buddleia in the backyard. (credit: own photo)

All About Work will be active again around the second week of September, which means that I won’t be making my usual post about Labour Day. Based on what’s happened in past years, I’m sure that Labour Day will generate more than enough news to reflect on when I return. But in the meantime,  I hope All About Work‘s readers will remember that work and organizations are newsworthy and important not just on Labour Day, but all year long. See you in September!