The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Food donated for the poor directed to Free Press strikers

We don't know what's more shameful -- the fact that striking Winnipeg Free Press employees took food out of the mouths of poor people, or the fact that they're so arrogrant they boasted about it.

Barely five days after walking off their extremely well-paid jobs, the strikers snickered about their coup on their strike website,

Food bank volunteer donates pork to picketers
Oct 17, 2008
A man who delivers donations for the Winnipeg Harvest food bank dropped off a half-ton truck full of frozen minced pork at Free Press striking workers Friday .

The man drove up to the picket line around 11 a.m. with the surprising and generous donation: in total, 1,500 pounds of ground pork in one-pound packages.

“Winnipeg Harvest had a surplus and they asked me if I could get rid of it,” said the food bank volunteer. “I heard it might be a long haul here so I came here,” the man said.

The volunteer who didn’t want his name used.

The province’s biggest food bank appealed for donations last week when supplies ran low.

The appeal drew hundreds of donations, including the frozen meat.

One thousand workers with the Communication,Energy and Paper Workers Union walked off the job five days ago on Thanksgiving Day to protest management demands for cuts to wages and benefits.

Talks are continuing but both sides are reported to be far apart.

“On behalf of all the members at the Winnipeg Free Press, we’re grateful,” said one picketer who expressed thanks for all the workers.

Five days after stopping work the strikers scooped more than a thousand pounds of food away from the needy. They excuse it by saying the food was surplus. That's funny, that's not what Winnipeg Harvest was saying one week earlier.

Cupboard nearly bare at Winnipeg Harvest
Last Updated: Friday, October 10, 2008 10:26 AM CT
CBC News
Winnipeg Harvest has only a week's worth of food on its shelves, a result of the growing economic uncertainty, officials say.

"We've probably got enough food in the food bank for about seven days, so we can get us to next week," said executive coordinator David Northcott.

"We've not been this thin for a quite a while," he added. "I'm not certain we've ever been this light on food."

The food bank, the largest in the province, has taken steps to reduce the amount of food given in emergency hampers from a five-day supply to four, Northcott said.

Lo and behold, suddenly they have so much food they have to give it to the employees of the Winnipeg Free Press.

There aren't words to express our disgust.

Reporters and columnists are paid between $70,000 and $90,000 a year, and here they are claiming charity.

The Winnipeg Free Press strikers saw nothing wrong with cutting ahead of these Winnipeg Harvest clients (from the Harvest website):

· 118 food banks,
· 30 day cares, mostly inner city,
· 9 community kitchens, where low-income people cook together and take home prepared food,
· 102 community organizations for children and youth as well as school meal programs that depend on Winnipeg Harvest to provide up to 100% of their snack or meal needs, and
· 10 soup kitchens serving soup and meals to those who are hungry on the street or have no other resources for their food needs

Let's be absolutely clear. The Winnipeg Free Press employees aren't needy. They voluntarily left their jobs and their fat paycheques. They made a choice. And they have to live with that choice.

The people who depend on Winnipeg Harvest don't have the choice of going to work for $70,000 a year.

It was barely a few weeks ago that these same employees (step up, Gordon Sinclair Jr., Geoff Kirbyson, Bartley Kives) were lecturing Mayor Sam Katz about ethics.

Well, what are the ethics of rich, pompous journalists taking food away from the poor because, well, just because they want to and they can. Where's Artie Schaefer and the other university egg-heads who love pontificating about ethics in the press.

Hey, Art, let's hear how it's just and proper for the well-off to take food out of the mouths of poor kids. We'll all ears.

Is there a single mainstream reporter out there who will ask Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott about his sudden surplus of food? Will any reporter go to any of the agencies that get food form Winnipeg Harvest and ask they why they suddenly don't need any donations? Wouldn't that be a lovely good news story?

Of course, there's the hard-news angle for reporters who want something with more bite.

Let's start with where the half-ton of pork came from. Are the Winnipeg Free Press strikers being subsidized by the taxpayer?

Back in April, 2008, Winnipeg Harvest was celebrating a government program that would see them receive tons of pork courtesy of Joe Public.

"CANADA - Around CAN$500,000 of federal funds will be used to process ground pork from animals slaughtered through the new federal cull breeding swine program. The meat will be used by the province's food banks and distributed Winnipeg Harvest.

According to Manitoba's Country Guide, provincial funds could make available over 150,000 kg of pork products to the food banks and should support processing of approximately 5,000 surplus sows available through the federal cull program, Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Wednesday.

"The significance of this donation will have impact for many low-income people in Manitoba," Winnipeg Harvest executive co-ordinator David Northcott said in the province's release.

Northcott said Winnipeg's soup kitchens currently provide about 2,400 hot meals per day and the organization distributes over 5,000 food hampers per week.

Northcott was ecstatic at the news, as reported in this story distributed by the Manitoba Pork Council.

"Winnipeg Harvest Applauds Manitoba Food Bank Initiative
CANADA - Winnipeg Harvest is applauding the efforts of the various partners in a program designed to direct pork to Manitoba food banks, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Earlier this week the Manitoba government announced the province will provide 500 thousand dollars to help cover the cost of processing hogs culled under the Federal Cull Breeding Swine Program so that meat can be directed to the province's food banks.

Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott says the hope is to make use of as much of that meat as possible.

David Northcott-Winnipeg Harvest
We've got several partners we're working with to deliver these goods.

The first one is the Manitoba Association of Food Banks and that's the distribution arm that's been moving food throughout Manitoba for many years now.

Indeed the association is just over a year old but we've been working together with a number of food banks for many years so there's a template and a fair share model already for food so, once the pork is processed, we'll be able to just simply add the pork on those distribution models for food banks in Manitoba.


As long as this federal program runs we want to make sure we direct as much of it to Food banks as possible."

Who was the Winnipeg Harvest volunteer who allegedly made the decision on his own to feed the strikers ahead of the truly needy.

Did that person have any personal connection with the FP employees? Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds has written that her daughter works at Winnipeg Harvest. Does her daughter know this helpful volunteer?

The relationship between the helpful volunteer and the FP strikers raises another important issue -- conflict of interest.

Only by knowing how closely the volunteer is tied in with the newspaper employees can we know whether the reporters are guilty of a collective conflict of interest. They know, from their own words thrown at Sam Katz, that perception is more important than fact. Reporters often cover Winnipeg Harvest as a news story.

Are they getting kickbacks from their subject?
Isn't that conflict of interest?
Is it even legal to give away raw meat in bulk to anyone but a recognized charity?

It doesn't stop there.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour has declared common cause with the Free Press strikers. MFL president Darlene Dziewit has written her membership:

We will be calling on affiliates of the MFL periodically throughout the strike to assist CEP Local 191 in their efforts. This may include a call for picketers at strategic locations including the Free Press Building on Mountain Avenue or other targeted locations.

But, better than that, money may soon be exchanging hands.

If any unions would like to advertise at
please make arrangements through

In Solidarity,
Darlene Dziewit, President
Manitoba Federation of Labour

If the Manitoba Federation of Labour starts handing money to the union representing reporters of the Winnipeg Free Press, is that a conflict of interest on the part of any reporters who will be assigned to the Manitoba Securities Commission's planned hearings on the MFL-sponsored Crocus Fund?

Should columnists who write about Crocus, or MFL bargaining, or the MFL-backed NDP government be forced to announce in advance the benefits they've received from the MFL as union members?

After all, pork is pork.

And pigs are pigs.

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