Monday, September 05, 2016

Labour Day – Canada

The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada's first significant demonstration for worker's rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. At this time, trade unions were still illegal and striking was seen as a criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade. In spite of this, the Toronto Trades Assembly was already a significant organization and encouraged workers to form trade unions, mediated in disputes between employers and employees and signaled the mistreatment of workers.

There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that the trade unions had to play in the emerging Canadian society. A few months later, a similar parade was organized in Ottawa and passed the house of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John Macdonald. Later in the day, he appeared before the gathering and promised to repeal all Canadian laws against trade unions. This happened in the same year and eventually led to the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883. Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring but it was moved to September after 1894.

The unions are the sleeping giants
We all suffer from the pay cuts, the worsening of work-place conditions and the endless rollbacks in social welfare. It seems that many of us have accepted the end of secure employment, guaranteed benefits and a lifetime of servitude to debt. We no longer look forward to a hopeful future but face uncertainty and endless struggles to sustain ourselves and our families.

Many in the Canadian labour movement endured savage repression as the price for defying capitalism and agitating for a better future, a socialist future. Some paid with their lives. We tend to take today’s gains and entitlements for granted and forget the sacrifices made to achieve them. We would be lying to ourselves if we did not recognize that today’s organized working class is in retreat, but, however, it is not a rout and a counter-offensive is always in prospect. It has been done before, and it can be done again.

Autoworkers voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to authorize strike action for the upcoming contract fight at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA). Workers at FCA’s Canadian facilities in Windsor, Brampton and Etobicoke voted 99 percent in favour of strike action should the Unifor union fail to reach an agreement with the companies by September 19. At Ford plants in Windsor and Oakville workers voted 98.9 percent for possible strike action whilst in Oshawa and St. Catharines, GM workers gave a 97.1 percent mandate. Unifor officials have earmarked September 6 to choose a “target” company for a pattern contract at the other two automakers. Voter turnout at many of the union locals was extremely high, reflecting a determined mood of among autoworkers.

If, however, instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!’ you seek to inscribe on your banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system!’ contact:
Socialist Party of Canada
PO Box 31024, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada,V8N 6J3.


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