It was Lana Payne’s career in journalism that sparked her love of unions.
When the Unifor National President was 21, she worked for her hometown paper, the St. John’s Evening Telegram in Newfoundland and Labrador, calling it a “baptism by fire,” enduring night shifts and eventually discovering her passion in covering labour issues. She found her beat.
Payne retold her reporter roots at the Sept. 29, 2022 Journalists for Human Rights “Night for Rights” gala at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. She left the Telegram in 1990 to work for investigative paper, The Sunday Express, but only a year later, the outlet closed because it wasn’t making enough money.
“In the past couple of decades, hundreds of newspapers have followed suit, closing their doors,” Payne described to the room. “Every time that happens, our democracy is diminished and when democracy is diminished, so are human rights, because fewer stories get told.”
Payne left journalism to work for FFAW, the largest private sector union in Newfoundland and Labrador, representing fishery workers in more than 300 communities. She covered the crisis up close when fisheries were under moratoria and more than 20,000 workers lost their jobs.
“As a journalist, I learned many skills that have served me to this day. Perhaps one of the most important has been the understanding of the power of stories,” she said.