By Jack Bourassa
A long weekend filled with picnics, good times and beautiful memories. That’s Labour Day for many of us, including myself. You might be too busy today, or you might just be taking a break— we all need some ‘me’ time. Whatever you’re doing today, let’s all take a moment and acknowledge the power of our voice and pledge to create a positive change.
Today we celebrate our labour movement. We celebrate Canada’s labour pioneers who fought for us to have the rights we enjoy today. We celebrate those who never lost hope. We celebrate those who struggled so that the next generations (us and our children!) would have better lives. We celebrate workers who’ve come before us, believed in the power of their voice and created real positive change, producing an everlasting ripple effect.
There is no better way to celebrate Labour Day than pledging to never give up our rights. Any threat towards the labour movement is a threat targeting all workers whether unionized or not. Unions and labour activists in the past and present have not only fought for unionized workers’ rights, but for all workers to have better conditions.
Without unions there would be no weekends. This might seem like the cliché you hear every time anyone speaks about the importance of unions, but this is a fact. It’s crucial to remind ourselves of why we celebrate Labour Day. Imagine working for twelve hours a day in an environment that has no consideration towards health and safety. It’s impossible to encapsulate a history of struggles and victories within few paragraphs. But to summarize, the celebration of Labour Day emerged from the “Nine-Hour Movement” in which Toronto’s print workers decided to take a strong action. The Toronto Typographical Union demanded a nine-hour workday from the city’s publishers. 1872 is long time ago but fast forward, the path towards achieving workers’ rights continues to be a choice to stay in solidarity with each other and never give up. From “Nine Hours” to all victories, those are rights achieved by the labour pioneers and our counterparts in the past. We need to hold on to them. We need to stay on that path.
As I look at the Canadian Labour Code, I feel fortunate and proud that we’ve gone that far. But I remind myself not to take those progressive changes and victories throughout history for granted and to continue to strive towards social and economic justice. We don’t live in a perfect world and the struggle continues. All workers have a strong social and political voice, let’s all unite and create changes that affect our communities positively. On this Labour Day, I invite you all to take a look at issues that affect you, your communities, fellow workers and citizens, and take an action. Here is one action that we could all pledge to take: vote. Federal (and Territorial) Election is around the corner. When voting, let’s remember those who struggled in the past. Let’s not disappoint them and use our power (yes, that’s our voice!) to create change.
Let’s always have hope for a better future. Those who contributed in making this world a better place, believed in a better future. They had hope. More than a century ago, a group of workers believed that they could make life better… and they did. Today we celebrate them, and we celebrate hope. Today, and every day, let’s remind ourselves of what Martin Luther King said: “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.”
This column appeared in Yellowknifer on September 2, 2019.