Back home the American owner of the Donkin mine is facing a mine closure, a potentially very costly dispute with shareholders, lawsuits, and a general move away from coal. No wonder its shares tumbled by 80 percent in 2015.

The safety record of US coal mines operated by the new owner of the Donkin mine is worrisome. That’s why unionization is crucial. “When there is no union there and a worker speaks up, I would hope that the company would listen, but they answer to their shareholders. They have to make money, and sometimes they sidestep these issues.”

Sydney has always been a union town, says Chronicle Herald reporter Tom Ayers, who together with his colleagues receives huge amounts of support from local residents while on the picket line.

Still, never mind the love, the coffees and the cookies, Ayers and his colleagues would much rather be doing their job, writing stories, taking pictures, and talking to people in the community about things that matter.