For most people, today is just the last long weekend of summer, another paid holiday, another excuse to go camping, or have a barbecue, or sleep in. Tomorrow, it’s back to school, or work, or whatever daily life looks like for you.
And I admit, that’s what it used to mean for me, too.
This year, though, I am keenly aware of the original intent of Labour Day (Labor Day for those in the US). It is a day for celebrating the hard won rights we have as workers, and honoring those who fought, and those who died, to secure those rights for us.
We often take those rights for granted nowadays – an eight hour work day, a five day work week, meal breaks, safety precautions. But it was less than 150 years ago that unions were illegal in Canada, and the shorter work-week that people were fighting for was nine hour days.
I’ve been a member of several different unions in my working life. Most of the time, I could take it or leave it because I didn’t understand their importance. When things are going well, the Union is pretty quiet. Members will even start to grumble about why they are needed, or why a portion of their pay goes to the Union.
However, when things are not going well, that’s when the Union steps up. Unfortunately, I got to experience this first-hand recently, and I have never been more grateful for being part of a Union, and having the support of my Brothers and Sisters. The Union had my back, and the backs of my coworkers. They fought to make sure our contract was upheld and that we were treated fairly. My work is once again a place I enjoy.
Thankfully, I already understood the importance of unions. My current Union, IATSE, has a traveling presentation called “Why Unions Still Matter” that I was blessed to be able to see about a year and a half ago. It describes the history of labour unions in Canada, up to current events. Businesses and government policy are once again attempting to limit workers rights, though more subtly than before.
So today, I am grateful for those who have fought for me, now and in the past, to ensure fair treatment of workers.