Labour Day 2012

Monday marks a special day across Canada. Many think of it as the last weekend of summer, the last day before the start of the Fall semester in our post-secondary institutions or the start of school for kids in K-12. But Monday is far more important than that. It's Labour Day, a time to pause and reflect on the important changes that unions and unionization have made to our communities, our province and our country.

Look around your community and the impact of unions is everywhere. The eight hour day and "the weekend" are the result of unions fighting hard to make those the standards that would apply to everyone. Unions have also pressed for better and high standards of health and safety in every workplace, standards that have the force of law and apply to every worker. Unions have also been advocates for public services and public infrastructure; unions have championed the creation of strong 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 for unions. Working together with other unions, 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. Certainly, here in BC we have seen repeated attacks by the current provincial government on basic worker rights. We had legislative attacks on our signed collective agreements in 2002. We had labour laws introduced that make unionization near-impossible for many. Despite those 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 the unorganized. Through FPSE's organizing strategy, for example, we have succeeded in organizing hundreds of private college faculty over the last five years.

So this Labour Day take a moment to think about just how unions have changed conditions in your community. And when you do take time as well to join with other union members at Labour Day events throughout the province where workers from every walk of life along with their families and friends come together to acknowledge that we are just that much better off, that much stronger when we work together as one.

Happy Labour Day!

About FPSE

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.