Every year at this time, labour leaders are asked for their thoughts on the importance of Labour Day, and each year we talk about the history of the labour movement, the gains we have made for working people, unionized or not, and the importance of solidarity as we stand up to anti-worker and anti-union governments.
For sixteen years, more than a generation of working people have had to fight to protect their rights from a right-wing BC Liberal government that cared more about its wealthy and well-connected donors than about the rest of us. Finally, with Premier John Horgan and the first BC NDP government since 2001, working people really do have something to celebrate this Labour Day.
We know the Legislature will be called into session sometime in September, marking the first time working people don’t have to worry about which group of workers will have their contracts torn up, or whose jobs will be privatized. This coming legislative session, our new government will begin the hard work of restoring the notion that government can be a force for good, and not just to implement the wish lists of the rich.
This Labour Day, working people can celebrate a return to balance in our economy, where all people benefit from a growing economy, not just those with a vested interest. We can celebrate an end to the influence of big money in our elections, the beginning of a $10 per day child care system, significant improvements to our K-12 education system after years of confrontation and neglect, and a concerted effort to finally take meaningful action on the epidemic of opioid overdoses.
Labour Day is a celebration of the power of working people coming together to demand what’s right. Decent wages, solid benefits and retirement with dignity. Social and economic justice and responsible stewardship of our resources and our environment. No benefits that workers enjoy was ever “given” to us—not the weekend, not sick leave, not overtime, not even the 8-hour day—working people united and fought for them.
Finally we once again have a government that understands that history and that shares our values. And that’s truly something to celebrate.
Happy Labour Day to everyone, from all 87,000 CUPE members across British Columbia.
Paul Faoro is president of CUPE BC, British Columbia’s largest union, representing 87,000 workers delivering important public services in communities across the province.COPE 491