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Check out these photos from Torontos Labour Day parade. Tens of thousands of workers marched from Queens Park to the Canadian National Exhibition, including an impressive contingent of CUPE locals.

Jayne Warmer, an administrative assistant at Earl Grey School in Toronto, said she came out to the parade because of her friend and fellow CUPE 4400 member, Nancy Arnot, an educational assistant. Shes very pushy, said Warmer.

Warmer meant it literally. Arnot pushed Warmers wheelchair through the entire two-hour parade, but she didnt mind. Without unions, we wouldnt have the kinds of rights that we have, she said. But if you want your union to represent you, you gotta be prepared to put something into it.

For 24-year-old Kit Dobson, this years Labour Day parade was his first. As a University of Toronto education assistant, it also signaled the start of a new work year. The CUPE 3902 worker was blown away by the size of the parade. Its definitely bigger than any Labour Day parades in Alberta, where Im from, he said.

Among the other locals in attendance was CUPE 905, library and municipal workers. Kim Perry, the president, said the upcoming election in Ontario made the parade even more important than usual. The labour movement has to remind the government that were watching them, she said. They have to start addressing issues like education, pensions and hydro.

Too often, people take unions for granted until they lose their rights, added Perrys vice-president, Reccia Mandelcorn. But many of the things we take for granted are there every day because of unions.

The Ontario election loomed large over the parade. The New Democratic Party was out in full force, including its leader, Howard Hampton. Many marchers wore stickers with the slogan Not this time, Ernie, and a couple of clever workers even held out a Tory dirty laundry line. The clothesline had shirts, shorts and underwear listing reasons to defeat the Ernie Eves government, including Health and safety standards compromised and Children hungry, rich get tax cuts.

At the end of the parade route, everyone couldnt help but have a smile on their face. After all, the march ended at a carnival. Were going to find our families and then enjoy a day the exhibition, said Jayne Warmer, as her friend wheeled her into the CNE.

Asked what roller coaster they would try first, Nancy Arnot laughed. We dont do rides! she shouted. The massive parade, complete with marching bands, rock bands, and singing clowns, was already the best ride of the day.

Thanks to David Smiley for all the photos. You can see more on his website.