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The wind whipped flags, banners and hats alike as spirits soared outside the provincial legislature yesterday in St Johns as workers staged the biggest rally in recent Newfoundland and Labrador history. Veteran labour activists say they cant remember a larger gathering in the provincial capital. The event, sponsored by CUPE and NAPE (Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees), drew an estimated 3500 people under the changeable sky of bright sunshine and wind-churned clouds.

Yesterdays rally was a major show of force, demonstrating that momentum is firm three long weeks into the strike, proof that determination on the picket line is not wavering.

CUPE and NAPE flags snapped in the wind as labour leaders slammed Premier Danny Williams policies and bargaining positions. Other unions and labour bodies participating included CAW, the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses Union, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (CAW) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. Also speaking was CLC President Ken Georgetti.

CUPE National President Paul Moist and Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux spoke to CUPEs commitment to the striking workers and vowed that our union would last one day longer than Premier Williams.

The message is clear: CUPE will stand behind public sector workers in this province for as long as it takes, said Moist. The impressive mobilization today shows that the solidarity weve built remains strong and determined.

Généreux took to the stage wearing a Stetson-style hat with a black and white cow-pattern. Williams said that workers could strike till the cows come home. Well, here they are!

Cows became a theme of many rally participants, some wearing cow t-shirts and hats, with some even carrying toy stuffed cows. A metre-high inflatable cow also made an appearance, and Généreux was greeted with a chorus of moos from the crowd when he took the microphone.

The stickiest issue remains the provincial governments determination to force huge concessions in the current round of bargaining, principally by reducing sick leave entitlements to new public sector employees. But this is unacceptable in a province where public workers do not have LTD coverage.

The rally received scant media coverage, despite its historic significance. A minor scuffle on a picket line, lasting all of two minutes, received more coverage yesterday and this morning. All in all, picket lines have been as peaceful as they have been effective, and yesterdays rally has demonstrated that CUPE and NAPE are not backing down.