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Media union denied lease at Toronto office building

A Toronto landlord has denied a lease to the Canadian Media Guild because of anti-union pressure from sports broadcaster The Score, which is another tenant in the building.

“You have to wonder why the The Score is afraid of us,” says CMG president Lise Lareau.

Westmont Hospitality Group (also known as King Street Enterprises), which houses the Holiday Inn on King as well as The Score and other commercial tenants at 370 King Street West, told the Canadian Media Guild in early May that the deal was dead.

The lease was signed, sealed and almost delivered for CMG when the landlord noticed the Guild is a union and tried to get us to promise not to ever organize employees at The Score.

Lareau and Guild vice-president Scott Edmonds met with the landlord to explain that no union would ever sign away the rights of any worker to join a union of their choice, but they also made it clear that organizing the Score wasn’t the reason they wanted to move into the building. They even offered to find ways to reassure the broadcaster that union staff wouldn’t be hanging around outside their doors waiting to pounce.

But the landlord and The Score seem to have decided they couldn’t risk exposing employees to the dangers of union membership and informed the union that CMG was not wanted in the building.

Lareau plans to make sure employees at the broadcaster are aware that their managers used a commercial real estate transaction to exclude a union from the building, and says she will decide whether to launch a lawsuit to compensate for the three months spent on the lease negotiations before the union issue was raised.

“This decision raises serious concerns for all unions and workers. This landlord has decided it’s okay to infringe on the constitutional rights of free association and guarantees in the Canada Labour Code of the right for people to organize, all in order to appease another tenant,” says Lareau.

“This is another example of a business eroding the rights of workers and unions — without consequence,” says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The landlord is now claiming that it simply has another tenant willing to take more space. However, it was made clear on April 5 that the only thing standing in the way of a final lease was the fact CMG was a union, says Lareau.

“They were still expressing their eagerness to see us as tenants in the building in mid-April and the deal would have been done before any other tenant entered the picture, if only we would have promised to stop acting like a union,” said Edmonds.

“I have never seen an issue like this raised in a real estate transaction,” says Edward Glavan, of LNR Corporation, the Guild’s broker. “The whole thing was a complete misuse of the real estate process we know.”

CMG was seeking to lease a 5,000-square foot area on the fifth floor. The landlord presented the waiver seeking assurances the Guild would not organize The Score within hours of the deal becoming unconditional. The Score is now on the 4th floor of the building and is about to move to the main floor.

The Guild is continuing to search for fully accessible office space.

For more information, please contact Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, at 416-591-5333, or Scott Edmonds, vice president of the CMG, at 416-420-6136.

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