Today is Labour Day, the holiday when we celebrate all the gains of workers that we have won in Canada thanks to the hard work that our unions have done to make working in Canada safer and more fair for every worker.
We’re celebrating labour day together apart this year during these unprecedented times, and I will never forget my introduction to labour organizations at the Vancouver and District Labour Council Swangard Stadium Labour Day event in 2015 when my good friend and Canadian Union of Postal Workers organizer Marie Little introduced me to her Labour siblings.
At the time I was still so new to activism and simply knew too little about Labour’s contribution to Canada at the time. Some things, we just don’t learn in school and that’s a shame.
Not all of us have the fortune of being represented by a union, but we are all so much stronger as workers today because unions are here at our side as we work towards a more just society. Labour has ALWAYS shown up to help in the advocacy work I’ve been part of, and it is thanks to the workers working together to make Canada a better place to work that we have so much to celebrate on Labour Day.
In Canada, Labour Day has its roots in an 1872 printers’ strike in Toronto. Fighting for a nine-hour workday, the strikers’ victory was a major milestone in the changing relations between Canadian workers and their government.
In all the advocacy work I have done to make Canada a more fair place, labour has always been there lending a hand.
The BC Teachers’ Federation and CUPE BC have stood up for students in our schools consistently and relentlessly – time and time again. BC teachers were at my side standing up to Bill Whatcott in the BC Human Rights Tribunal, CUPE BC, the BC Federation of Labour, and BC teachers were in Abbotsford and Chilliwack in BC’s Fraser Valley standing by students and trustees in the face of homophobia and transphobia.
Unite Here! Local 40, the BC Federation of Labour, UFCW Canada, and numerous unions consistently show up at anti-racism, anti-homophobia/transphobia, and other events to stand up to supremacy at the side of equity-seeking communities and our allies. They help marginalized communities organize as they face inequality. The Labour movement takes the stand when it matters and help demand inclusion, for justice, and for diversity in Canada.
UNIFOR funded the Trans Alliance Society year after year when BC’s Trans community needed the help the most. Their help was the seed of future outreach into faith-based groups that changed hearts and minds in BC and got us the support for trans equality that we now enjoy accross Canada.
Under IATSE-891’s strong feminist leadership, the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Council took a key stand and voted not to fund organizations that deliberately exclude people on the grounds of being transgender. This eventually led to the City of Vancouver taking a stand and disqualifying funding applications from organizations that refuse to live up to its inclusion criteria.
BC’s nurses, hotel workers, firefighters, school and city indoor and outdoor workers, longshoremen, bus drivers, theatre workers, film and theatre workers, government workers, postal workers, steelworkers and all the people in trades…
They are organized, trained, and supported by their unions and have consistently shown up to help advocates to make life better for people. I’ve been invited to help share my own learnings with union members. I’ve invited by the HEU in Burnaby for Human Rights Day, spoken at the HEU and the BCTF summer schools in BC as well as the NUPG Summer Leadership Training School in Ontario. Helping pay back to our Labour allies and and training their leaders from around the world on inclusion and strategies to beat oppression helps us all, after all.
I am proud to be helping where I can to make things fairer and better for us all and am so grateful for everything the labour movement has done and to the work that has been done to get us where we are today.
Our Labour organizations train up future activists to continue the hard work that their elders have started. They stand up for individual workers in the face of unfairness. They make sure our children, their children have better lives.
This is part of why we celebrate Labour Day today.
I’d love to hear from you how labour helped you on the comments below.
I write about inclusion and political issues while working to narrow the gap between the laws we took great pains to create and their real-world implementation.