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Working people in communities right across Canada will soon be in the midst of the last long weekend of summer—2006. It’s Labour Day, an especially celebratory time when you think of the many benefits those who came before us achieved.

Can you imagine your community without its hospital, school, public recreation facilities or libraries? Unions fought for the social programs we have today. These are fights workers will continue to wage.

But they are also victories well worth celebrating. And what better time than Labour Day to wave a banner, join a parade, strike up the band, share a picnic and a sing out proudly.

Considering that paid overtime, maternity leave, health and extended benefits, workplace safety, disability insurance and pay equity are fairly recent achievements, the banners, picnics and Labour Day celebrations are a proud way for working people to show their pride.

Unions work hard at making our workplaces better, safer, places to earn a living. And unionized workers are mindful that while the days of child labour, sweat-shops, and death trap factories are mostly over, many, awful working conditions continue to exist, even here in Canada.

So while we’re celebrating Labour Day we can also remind ourselves to be vigilant and stand strong to protect the hard-won, but always vulnerable, improvements made to working-conditions by working class heroes.

Every year on April 28, for example, union members and others in Canada and across the world gather to remember workers who have died on the job. We gather to remind ourselves, as much as anyone else, that an average of three workers are killed every day in Canada. The Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE, originated what is now internationally recognized as the Day of Mourning, and we’re proud of that.

CUPE members are a diverse group—delivering some public services to people in every community in Canada. We work outside in the elements, paving roads and cleaning streets. We work inside too, in hospitals, planning and engineering offices, libraries, schools, universities and more. By helping to create and ensure safe working conditions, we make it easier for people to get to their jobs, to be treated with care and dignity, and hopefully to make society a more functional, literate and better place for all.

So, this Labour Day, wherever you are—relaxing, catching a few rays, dancing in the streets or celebrating at your community’s Labour Day picnic, take a moment to reflect upon your own life and workplace. Consider offering up a toast to those who came before us and fought so hard so that we could all enjoy our weekends, our hours of work and our days off. And then, get ready for future struggles and for victories to celebrate in the days to come.

National President

National Secretary-Treasurer