On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers mobilized to fight for an eight-hour work day. The events that took place that week – at Haymarket Square in Chicago and beyond – have come to symbolize the tenacious and revolutionary spirit of the labour movement.
For more than 100 years, May Day has been a time for workers around the globe to take stock of how far we’ve come, and the distance we have yet to go.
In the international spirit of May Day, we must remember that the fight for a safe and fair workplace extends beyond our borders. This May Day, CUPE will be working to prevent the ratification of a free trade agreement with Colombia, a country that has violently suppressed the rights of trade unionists. Trade unionists and civil society activists risk death simply for advocating basic labour rights; since 1986, over 2,500 have been killed by the state and its paramilitaries in Colombia. In 2008 alone, over 49 trade unionists were assassinated. Now more than ever, it is essential that the Canadian labour movement stand in solidarity with workers around the globe who are fighting to achieve even the most fundamental labour rights.
The global economic crisis has only emphasized the need for a strong labour movement. Workers across Canada are fighting to protect their jobs and pensions, and to improve access to employment insurance. CUPE and the labour movement will not stand idly by and watch employers and governments attack workers and public services. The solution is not to break unions; the solution is to provide stimulus through public services, create jobs in all sectors, and to keep money in our communities rather than in corporate pockets.
CUPE members from coast to coast to coast can be proud of the accomplishments of our brothers and sisters in our union. We have had countless positive contract negotiations, and our membership has worked hard to make our union better and stronger.
While May Day is a time to celebrate all that we have achieved in the past, let it also be a time to rejuvenate, refocus, and reaffirm our conviction to move forward.