Labour Day 2016
For students and educators, Monday marks the end of summer and the start of a new school year. It’s time to celebrate Labour Day, to reflect on the work our unions do for us: the struggles for better wages and working conditions, the historic gains securing the social and economic well-being of our workers and our province. Unionized workers have built our communities and infrastructure, they teach in our schools, they care for us in our hospitals, they transport our goods from place to place, they sustain our economy and shape our society.
Look around your community and the impact of unions is everywhere. Unions have fought for minimum employment standards – minimum wages, limits on hours of work, overtime pay – and for better health and safety protections in every workplace, standards that have the force of law and apply to every worker. Unions have also been strong advocates for public services and public infrastructure; unions have championed the creation of social programs designed to provide universal access to high quality services for every citizen.
The fact that these changes were the result of struggle and advocacy by the labour movement reflects another important part of Labour Day: solidarity. Unions have always faced adversity, have always struggled to create the collective resolve to make things better. Unions have faced stiff opposition, sometimes from employers, sometimes from hostile governments, but in every case it has been the notion of working in concert with others to build change for the better that has won the day. Unions working together with allies in the community: that's the essence of solidarity and it's central to how unions make a real difference.
Our solidarity is always being tested. In BC, the past 15 years have seen unprecedented legislative and court attacks on unions and basic worker rights. Faculty and staff unions in BC’s colleges and universities are no exception, as we’ve faced year after year of funding cuts, program rationalization, and soaring tuition fees that hurt our students.
Despite these attacks, unions have fought back. Through court actions public sector unions have overturned contract-ripping legislation. Through direct organizing efforts we have continued to reach out and organize new workers into unions. We negotiate improvements into our collective agreements, which in turn help to improve labour standards not only for ourselves, but for everyone. And in election years, we come together with progressive allies, community organizations, environmental and social justice groups, students and activists, and we campaign for governments that want the same things we do: A poverty reduction plan. Reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal peoples. Liveable minimum wage. Robust, affordable, accessible public education.
This Labour Day, take a moment to think about how unions have strengthened your community. Then take a moment to think about what more we need to achieve. We’re just eight months away from an election. We have an opportunity to tell our politicians what kind of province we want to live in, what our priorities are, and to vote for a government that reflects our values. This Labour Day, let’s celebrate the proud history of unions. Then let’s get to work on ensuring our proud future.
In the Lower Mainland, join us at the Labour Day picnic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby on September 5.
Find other Labour Day events across BC here.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.