Striking Chronicle Herald photographer recovering from picket line stroke

Eric Wynne, a photographer on strike from the Chronicle Herald, says he's improving after suffering a stroke on the picket line three months ago.

'To give up is not an option,' says Eric Wynne

Three months ago, Eric Wynne was using a walker after suffering a stroke. Now he's walking the Halifax waterfront taking photos. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Eric Wynne waits for a ten-year-old boy to step off a platform and fly along a zip line on the Halifax waterfront.

His camera snaps and snaps, but only three months ago he was in hospital after suffering a stroke on the picket line.

"This is what we like to call the year from hell," he said in an interview Wednesday.

Wynne, 49, is a striking multimedia editor and photographer at the Chronicle Herald, the oldest independently owned newspaper in Canada.

'You just keep going'

Wynne and his colleagues are on strike for the seventh month, holding out over a contract experts have said would effectively kill the union.

All the while, his wife is being treated for colorectal cancer, and his mother is recovering from a major heart attack and stroke.

"We've just been soldiering on because we don't have time to stop, pause or really think about the implications of my wife's diagnosis and mine," Wynne said.

"You just keep going because you can't let it get to you."

Eric Wynne, currently a photographer for Local Xpress, shoots photos of a zip line on the Halifax Waterfront Wednesday. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

'Could have been planning a funeral'

His stroke, diagnosed as Wallenberg Syndrome, is the best kind possible, if you were to get one, Wynne said. He's even back on the job, so to speak, taking photos for the striker publication Local Xpress.

"My wife and I both have this same feeling that it could have been worse. Her cancer could have been worse," Wynne said.

"I could have been planning a funeral instead of going on camping trips with her. With mine, I could have been an invalid, but I'm not."

Striking photographer Eric Wynne is back on the job after suffering a stroke on the picket line three months ago. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Colleagues 'really supportive'

A crowdfunding campaign started to support Wynne has raised $13,345 of a $15,000 goal.

He goes to physiotherapy, so the money will help with co-pays and future treatments, he said, as he's maxed out coverage available on his wife's health plan. Striking workers still have health coverage, provided under the union, he said.

Those treatments are helping with the lingering dizziness and muscular imbalance.

"My stamina is really not there, but it's coming along," he said. "My colleagues have been really supportive and really helpful through the entire thing."

Chronicle Herald employees in the Halifax Typographical Union have been striking since January. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Low pay 'really tough'

His own early-career financial instability is driving, in part, his dedication to the strike, despite his recent misfortune.

Wynne started at the paper almost 18 years ago for less than $22,000 annually, he said. With two young children, the couple visited the food bank.

"It was really tough. You wouldn't deny the kids any food, but there was definitely no recreation, no extras. It was actually pretty basic living," Wynne said.

Staff unionized about a year later, and his family went from "scrounging, scraping for money" to a living wage, he said.

'Being a good soldier'

A new contract proposed by Herald management, obtained in January by CBC, shows an hourly pay cut, and Wynne said he's heard that replacements hired by the company during the strike are being paid that starting wage.

"It's really depressing because it demeans the work. We've put blood sweat and tears into the company and now we're treated as disposable, but I'm stubborn," Wynne said.

"I'm being a good soldier and just keep going, because to give up is not an option."

The newspaper management has said the company must make cuts to work more cheaply because the industry is in transition.

CBC's union, the Canadian Media Guild, and the Herald workers' Halifax Typographical Union are members of the same parent union, CWA Canada.

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.