The readers of trade unionist publication Rank and File have made their selection for who they believe to be Canada’s worst person in a position of power in 2017.
The publication has been running a “Scumbag of the Year” poll for the past four years as a way to bring attention to practices that they believe hurt Canadian workers. This year, the “honour” of receiving this title went to Loblaws CEO Galen Weston Jr.
Weston had criticized the Ontario Liberals’ plan to increase minimum wage, citing potential loss of revenue while the company was making record-breaking profits. Rank and File’s announcement about Weston was delivered as Loblaws was making national headlines for a 12 year-long price fixing scheme on bread.
“We want people to be aware that there’s some bad people out there … who are basically killing jobs, killing communities, and making life harder for working class people to access the country,” says Rank and File Editor David Bush. “And I also want people to be angry about it. I think that part of our goal is to stoke that anger.”
Rank and File is a Canadian labour news and analysis website which, for the past five years, has been covering issues that concern workers such as strikes, lockouts, employment insurance, pension issues, and employment-based racism. Bush says that the decline of labour news journalism in Canada and beyond has made Rank and File an important publication for Canadian workers.
As Bush points out, the growing trend of a small number of media companies owning the bulk of mainstream publications coupled with shrinking newsrooms across the country has led to fewer specialized reporting positions. That includes those dedicated to reporting labour news.
“The crisis in media means that a voice for workers is just not there, and when labour news is covered, it’s covered not as part of a sustained or developed beat, as journalism that can really understand the context of the issues and know the people and really understand what is happening. It is done by business reporters or other kinds of beat reporters,” says Bush. “It’s a major problem and that’s why we exist.”
The “Scumbag of the Year” competition is one of Rank and File’s most popular fixtures with readers. In 2015, when Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra was selected for the title by Rank and File readers, the resulting influx of readers to the publication’s website was enough to overload its servers and temporarily shut it down.
The process of selecting each year’s Scumbag is entirely reader-driven. Rank and File begins the process by making an open call for nominations on their website. Then, the most nominated names are made public on an online poll.
“Some of these people are part of corporations or part of entities that have really been at the forefront of screwing over a lot of people, whether that be from firings, robbing people’s pensions, forcing people out on lockouts, whether that’s pushing through terrible policies at the governmental level,” says Bush.
He explains that the idea behind the competition is to name and shame those behind what they see as some of the most harmful practices in Canadian business and government. Ultimately, they aim to hold these people accountable and spur change.
“It’s not just about the individuals, how bad some of these people are, but it is about using them as symbols of something that’s deeply wrong in our society,” says Bush.
Galen Weston Jr. edged out the likes of Ontario College Employer Council CEO Don Sinclair, Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert, Postmedia President and CEO Paul Godfrey, and others for this year’s title.
Weston/Loblaws did not respond to The Runner’s requests for comment before press time.