Labour Day Message from President David Black

August 29, 2014

This Labour Day weekend is a time to celebrate the contributions working people, through their unions, make to building strong communities and a better country.

Labour Day as a holiday was inspired by trade union’s efforts to improve workers’ rights. Its origins can be traced back to 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada’s first significant labour demonstration, with the goal of securing a nine-hour work day. The strikes proved that there was power in workers standing together; alone, people risked discipline or layoff for drawing attention to low wages, long hours, or health and safety issues.

Since then, by working together, we’ve negotiated safer workplaces; family-supporting benefits like parental leave, paid vacation time and pensions; and fair work hours, benefits and wages.

We believe better wages are something to be proud of, because they help us support our families and build vibrant communities with a strong middle class. Union members in B.C. earned an average of $5.60 more per hour last year – that’s $117.2 million into our local economies every week.

When unions stand up for fairness, everyone benefits. Unions fought for universal public health care in the 1950s, maternity leave in the 1970s, and same-sex marriage in the 1990s.

And we’re still fighting for fairness. You can see that in the labour movement’s campaign for a better Canada Pension Plan. Or how the teachers are fighting, not just for fair treatment for themselves as workers, but for an education system where all kids in B.C. have the resources, care and attention they need at school.

The work unions do today to make life better for workers, their families and communities, is positive and just as necessary as it has been any other time in the past. We face some challenges, but together I know we will do what the labour movement does best: fight for better lives for our members and a more equal society overall.

Happy Labour Day!