We asked you to tell us why you think that working people’s struggles are still worth honouring, and where you think they need to go in the next century. Here’s some of our favourites of the letters we received.
From Doug K. Jones, CUPE 79: The reason to celebrate, In Ontario: 1. to be able to legally form & join a union, 2. the Employment Standards Act, 3. to negotiate a collective agreement, and right to strike or arbitrate, 4. the elimination of the women’s wage rate, 5. able to have a pension plan, 6. Elliot Lake Miners strike for health and safety legislation for the workplace, 7. ability to audit and make recommendations in the workplace safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 8. the ability to have the right to participate, right to refuse unsafe work, right to know/WHMIS, 9. Human Rights Code, and 10. finally show respect and honour our forefathers/mothers who took a stand/got injured/died, at times legal and most times illegal to give us the rights and privileges that we at times take it for granted!
From Gil Prieur, CUPE 4705: As my children grow and start into the world of work I am reminded continuously of the need to keep fighting against unjust employers and those who would take advantage of those starting-out. We are in the middle of one of the biggest economical growth periods in our country’s history yet there are few jobs created that pay a living wage. Youth today are working for fly-by-night call centres or businesses that are making maximum profits and paying minimum wages. Many people accept this as “the new economy”. Well, Unions are here to tell people that there is no “new economy” but there is apathy as the population gets older and some forget the benefits they received from being Union members. On this Labour Day, let’s remind ourselves that Unions made this country strong and Unions will keep this country strong.
From Stephen Kitzul, CUPE 122: I walked the picket lines with my father way back in the 40’s and 50’s when the then UAW, now CAW were on various strikes to improve the benefits and working conditions for the employees of the Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario. Not only did they picket for themselves, but as well, the workers even went on strike in order to improve the pensions and benefit packages of those already retired as well as future retirees. This last convinced me of the necessity of Unions, and of the ongoing work Unions must do, not only for present workers, but for the past, and the future. Times have not really changed from the days of my youth. Still, we have to take job action just to maintain what we have. Still, we have to fight right-wing governments bent on destoying the basis of security and stability for the working person. Still we have to battle negative public bias. I certainly believe that the battle is not yet even near finished at all. We, I, have so much yet to do, so this Labour Day, I am standing united with my brothers and sisters of my Union, other unions, and working people from throughout the area as I march in our Labour Day Parade here in North Bay, and take an active part in the Family Fun Fun Day sponsored by the district Labour Council. Solidarity!
From Ron Vant schip, CUPE 798: As a chief Shop stweward I see how important it is to keep the employer honest. They spend more time and money nitpicking collective agreements than if they would just try to communicate. We could work so well together if they would just respect the Collective agreement and discuss the parts that are not working instead of waiting for a grievance to be filed; maybe we could avoid one if we worked together, our goals are similar. We all want to get a fair living wage and feel value in what we do as well as knowing you could go home to your family after each day. They always talk about being competative, the world economy; I believe they want us all working longer days and weeks for less pay and with out Health and Safety regulations.
From Lorien Montgomery-Ray, CUPE 79: Labour Day is a day to honour all those labourers that have made this country what it is today. If it were not for the skilled labourers we would not have our skyscrapers, CN Towers, Skydomes, hospitals, schools,community centres etc. We would not have the health care, education, beautiful parkland,clean streets, safe communities, emergency services, power and drinking water for our homes, homes for the aged, welfare, affordable housing for those less fortunate. Don’t forget those that all those that deliver the services and all those I have not mentioned that keep our communities going. Without the dedication and self sacrifice of those that have given of themselves this country would not be the great country it is today. We have labourers that go to work everyday providing for those that our society has forgotten, without a complaint of some of the poor working conditions. And when they have given all they have got and have been injured on the job, we put them aside like yesterdays news and go on. Labour day is a reminder for all of us Canadians to take a moment to look around us to see how fortunate we truly are for today and all our tomorrows due to the labourers of this country. Thank-you.
And finally, our contest winner, from Cindy Jessop, CUPE 3967: September 4, 2006 will be an inspirational day for celebrating brothers and sisters of the past who were the first to ignite their active participation where a common issue of concern became a unity of purpose for all. I remain in awe of the Saskatchewan Miners’ Strike of 1931. This demonstration of perseverance and self promotion of inner strength with the vision of belonging to a Union has inspired a revelation of what solidarity means to me. Solidarity is more than strength, solidarity is the reality of working together. The struggles that plagued workers of yesterday continue today as barriers remain in differences of political ideas and unfair management practices. These challenges are a significant tribute to all workers for the simple fact that basic fundamental rights are not to be disregarded. We need to celebrate labour day, every day. We need to continually applaud past accomplishments, compliment present achievements, and appreciate the continuing pursuit for progressive labour legislation that will secure an equitable future for all brothers and sisters.