Rescuing Work

Atkinson’s Executive Director Colette Murphy  presented a special gift to Toronto Star Work and Wealth Reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh at “The Good Fight: Atkinson Turns 75” in Toronto on November 3rd, 2017.

If you know the history of the Toronto Star, you’ll know Joseph Atkinson expected his reporters to “Get the news first, sew it up, pursue every detail, and play it big.”

The fight for decent work benefits from the Star’s passion for investigating, reporting and effecting change in countless ways. One way stands out tonight. News gatherers are fighting for the future of journalism these days. That’s why newsmakers like Deena Ladd and the Fight for $15 owe a lot to reporters who refuse to let their readers be kept in the dark about legislative reforms while new media platforms are under construction.

That’s why we want to single out our long-time partner, the Toronto Star, for being the best kind of friend in a fight. A friend who stands by your side but who also makes sure everybody else knows why you’re in it.

We joined forces in 2014 to tackle the problem of Canada’s labour news coverage deficit. Our best option was to co-create a new beat focused on issues related to work and wealth inequality in Ontario. The Star hired a young BBC reporter from Canada to come home and to make this new beat her own. And that’s exactly what Sara Mojtehedzadeh has done over the past three years.

She landed in her job just before the start of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review and has been the only reporter dogging this file ever since. She’s received lots of recognition for her reporting on workplace safety at the General Electric Plant in Peterborough. But it’s her most recent year-long investigation into the realities of temp work that we want to focus on tonight.

130 years ago, Joseph Atkinson’s wife Elmina Elliott went undercover to expose the abuse of domestic workers in wealthy Toronto homes. She also reported on the experience of seeking charity from local churches by posing as a woman living in poverty. We think the Atkinsons would want Sara’s courage and skill as an investigative reporter to be honoured on this stage tonight.

So, we’d like to invite her to come up to receive a special gift — an engraved shovel!

No, this gift does not come with a cheque. But it does come from a place of deep respect for the professionalism of the Star’s investigative team. Few citizen journalists or small media platforms can imagine absorbing the risk or underwriting the cost of serious, ground-breaking investigative reporting.

Star columnist Heather Mallick gave us the inspiration for this gift. She wrote a column asking readers if they are up to the job of rescuing work. She said work issues touch all of our daily lives and called out Sara for having the best beat in journalism today.

Mallick went on to say: “I see Mojtehedzadeh’s work as ‘double digging’, a gardening term for loosening two layers of soil and adding organic matter. It’s hard work digging this deep, repeatedly, and then reassembling it. Most gardeners avoid it. It’s only done when garden beds are in a state of emergency. Modern work is like this now. It needs aeration and examination.”

Thank you for doing this hard work, Sara. We think of you now as our “double digger for decent work.”

You got it first. You sewed it up. You pursued every detail. You made us proud.