Final thoughts on Labour Day

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Labour Day—never offered by governments  but demanded by working people.

As the brilliant slave rebel and black statesman Frederick Douglass reminded us

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

So Labour Day in Canada was demanded by workers in 1889. This was part of the Royal Commission on the Relations  of Labour and Capital—a holiday would be set aside to honour labour. This of course was ignored by the plutocrats but workers kept marching and five years later a statutory holiday was finally granted. And the march still goes on.

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For many Labour Day marks the end of summer. It has become wholly depoliticized attempting to make us forget that we are all workers. And we either stand together or hang separately.

We need to remember that hard fought victories were won against horrible working conditions and  child labour and for the promotion of living wages and  the 8 hour day.

Many in the teaching profession are uncomfortable about  being members of a union. Many the sons and  daughters of post war immigrants felt a need for an upgraded psychic evaluation of their work. They saw themselves as “professionals” and preferred to be an “association.” They were about upward mobility. yet the Catholic story promoted “downward mobility” and “solidarity” with all workers.

From 1973 onward, capital has mounted a furious assault on labour consistently attempting to break unions and accelerate the race to the bottom.

The financial collapse of 2008 brought on by the stunning greed of the super rich and the banksters finally woke many people up to the necessity of the countervailing voice of labour.

Among the last group to wake up are Catholic bishops. Their scandalous absence in Labour Day celebrations has not gone unnoticed.

The retired Archbishop of Niagara. John Bothwell prided himself on wearing a pectoral cross made by the Steelworkers. It was one small way of identifying with the aspirations of working people.

We could use come of that Catholic episcopal solidarity these days.

Labour Day 13

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    wmgrace Says:

    Some union organizations, just like some institutional churches, have allowed themselves to be bought-out by the establishment, for material comfort. My experience, in recent history, is that most white-collar union members will vouch for their union only to the extent that the union improves their benefits, working conditions, job security and wages. Once the membership have secured all that they can possibly get through their collective bargaining process, they essentially ditch the union until the next round of negotiations start up. There really is no identification with a greater good or a common good, but rather more like “my own good”. This is a recipe for selfishness and greed – but not for a strong and true union organization which aims to promote the common good and support communities across the country.

    As the last two TS posts clearly state, unionism is and always will be, about solidarity and justice for all. Hopefully unionism can also find its heart.


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