We hope you get the chance this Labour Day to enjoy the last long weekend of the summer with family and friends. Maybe go to a cottage or a lake, have a barbeque or attend a Labour Day picnic in your community. As you relax and celebrate, we also hope that you remember the origins of Labour Day in this country and why unions are still important in our workplaces and within society.
Unions brought us paid holidays, safe workplaces, medical care, unemployment insurance, and pension income for our retirement. They also literally brought us the weekend and the right to have a few days off every week. Unions also help us keep those things. Does anyone think that an anti-worker federal government wouldn’t take away some of our hard-fought for benefits if they thought they could get away with it? If there was no union there to help defend our rights?
Labour Day in Canada began in Canada on April 15, 1872. On that day in history the Toronto Trades Assembly organized the country’s first big demonstration by workers. At that time unions were illegal and the authorities tried to repress them. Despite that, the assembly had a membership of 27 unions, representing wood workers, builders, carriage makers and metal workers, plus an assortment of other trades ranging from bakers to cigar makers.
10,000 workers joined the demonstration that day in 1872 and the union movement in Canada was formally born. In September of that year seven unions in the nation’s capital organized a parade more than a mile long, headed by an artillery band and flanked by city fireman. They went to the home of Sir John A. MacDonald, the prime minister and brought him with them to City Hall where he promised to repeal the unfair laws holding workers and their unions back. By 1894 Labour Day had been declared a legal holiday by the Parliament of Canada and was moved to September to allow more workers and their families to participate in the festivities.
Today the torch has been passed to us, members of the Union of Health and Environment Workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. We have a difficult round of bargaining with Treasury Board and other employers ahead. It will be hard to make gains and even to just break even when it comes to inflation with an employer that seems determined to hold the line against us. But if we stay united and continue to support our bargaining teams, good things will happen, and we will not only get through this round but make improvements that we can all benefit from today and long into the future.
Enjoy your Labour Day and then get ready to fight. Your union will be with you all of the way. Together we are stronger and like the last line of the old union song, Solidarity Forever, the union makes us strong.
We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line any time at the email address below.
Help us build UHEW together!!