Ah, the Labour Day weekend...the unofficial end to the summer. This is a weekend that many parents are getting kids ready to go back to school, university students are shipping off to campuses and so many others set to refocus their energy on work, family and community. I fully support the value of Labour Day, of the collective coming together and celebrating accomplishments of the labour movement of days past. It is important to recognize that without the strong labour movement of the late 19th century and a significant part of the 20th century, that there are many benefits even non-unionized workers would not be privy to.
Where we are today
In 2014, while I still believe in the benefit and need of the labour movement against the ever increasing push to reduce all workers rights. I question how today trade unions actually fit into that fight. I am a member of UFCW – Canada, and well there are some fringe benefits it is not why I chose the employer I work for. During my tenure as a union member, the local has left a lot to be desired, I find the local union structure to be akin to the bureaucracy that I so often challenge in my other pursuits. My experience has been an organization that does not respond well to constructive criticism, has inadequate communication skills and just wants my money. Of course there are benefits that I get in my collective agreement, which someone who worked in a non-unionized environment probably doesn’t get. Regardless, in my opinion, for a movement to remain effective it needs to evolve and be opening to hearing all voices. I am not confident, from my perspective that the labour movement is doing that in our country.
Let's move forward: together
So, what do we do? Workers rights are on continual attack by corporations and sometimes vis-a-vis our governments. Well, we do what started back in 1883: we organize and come together collectively against policy we do not want. One of the most eye opening things I learned when I ran for office in 2012 was how much amazing good happens, but equally how much disconnection there is. There are truths that all of us should remember and try to embody in our daily lives:
1. There is power in people, every single one of us. Together, our voice is strong and we should raise it.
2. Government, Unions work for us- not the other way around.
3. Democracy is a participatory sport.
My Labour Day message is a call to arms! Haligonians, Nova Scotians, and Canadians: rise up and be heard. The foundation that our country, even our province was built on is collectives and the notion of “government for the people, by the people”. Nova Scotia was the first jurisdiction in British North America to have responsible government in fact. On Labour Day 2014, I ask each and every one of us to actively participate in our democracy. I know we all have busy lives, but government wants to and needs to hear from us: when we agree and disagree with their policies and directions. True power and change lies in the grass roots of each and every community. The changes we seek lies in the collective of our communities, and we must work hard to ensure those voices are heard. We can create the communities we wish for, or sit idly by and accept what happens.
Rise up,Rise up.