Smithers Interior News Editorial

A Labour Day for the ages

The coronavirus pandemic underscores gaps in support for workers

Labour Day 2020 will be perhaps the most unique Canada has celebrated in modern times.

Labour Day, which falls on the first Monday of September—this year it will be Sept. 7—honours workers and labour union movements in North America and other Commonwealth countries.

The statutory holiday began officially in Canada in 1894, but originated in 1872 after the Toronto printers’ strike that saw labour unions decriminalized and the national Trade Union Act passed. It was referred to as the “original fight for fairness” according to the Canadian Labour Congress.

In 2020, Labour Day may well stand for the industries, jobs and employees who survived the coronavirus pandemic. In July, seven million Canadians still didn’t have a job to go back to, and another two million, according to the Canada Labour Congress, were being subsidized by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

The pandemic brought into focus the jobs that counted when the country shut down suddenly. And surprise: a lot of them were trades, as well as health care, food, beverage and retail grocery jobs. The federal essential service list comprised more than 200 jobs, and many of them were trades.

Where once the labour movement fought for a nine-hour workday, fair wages and safer workplaces, the fight for the rest of 2020 and looking forward to 2021 may well be that of survival. The CLC feels strongly that there are lessons to be learned to build a stronger, more resilient economy in Canada. Part of those reforms includes social reform, to ensure no one falls through the cracks the way they did in March and April.

Another part of that should be recognizing the importance of the jobs that were deemed essential during a global crisis.

So enjoy the unofficial final weekend of summer, but take some time to celebrate the accomplishments of all the workers that made it through the last five challenging months. Going forward, let’s remember to support the businesses who supported us when we needed them the most.

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