Aug 31, 2020

We can’t be together this Labour Day—but we’re still in this together

Labour Day has always been one of my favourite days of the year. As the heat of summer begins to fade and the chill of fall approaches, Labour Day offers one more opportunity to get together with friends and family. And of course, it gives working people an opportunity to come together to reflect on—and celebrate—the progress that unions have made for all working people. It might sound corny, but community Labour Day events bring the full spectrum of the union movement together in one place like no other annual event, and they give us time to appreciate our shared values.

I’m going to miss that side of Labour Day this year, as are we all. COVID-19 obviously means we can’t have big events this year, but I’m hopeful it won’t stop us from remembering the real meaning of Labour Day.

The meaning of Labour Day speaks as much to our collective response to COVID-19 as it does to the traditions of the labour movement. Our movement is based on the simple principle of solidarity—if we act to benefit others, we also benefit ourselves. Following public health guidelines isn’t just to protect ourselves, it’s to protect people we don’t even know. If that’s not solidarity, I don’t know what is.

Overall, the pandemic has heightened the importance of public services and the workers who provide them. From the tremendous leadership and guidance from Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry and her team, to the dedicated, life-saving workers in our healthcare system, and to the transit workers who kept the system moving, good public services have helped fight the virus. The pandemic also shone a bright light on private sector workers whose work often went unheralded and poorly compensated; grocery store employees, delivery drivers, and service sector workers, to name just a few.

On behalf of our provincial executive board I want to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 members of CUPE BC for everything they’ve done to help our province get through this pandemic. And I want to thank them in advance for all the work they will be doing to help our province recover and rebuild. We say this a lot in CUPE, but never has it been more relevant than today: strong public services build strong communities.

On Labour Day let’s spend some time remembering the unifying spirit that became so much a part of our lives in the spring. The success of B.C.’s economic recovery is going to depend on workers, just as our successful fight against the pandemic has depended on workers. Whether public or private sector, unionized or not, it’s workers who will dig us out of this pandemic.

This isn’t going to be like any other Labour Day. These times aren’t like any other. This long weekend, to paraphrase Dr. Henry, be kind, be calm and be safe—and thank a worker.

~ Paul Faoro, CUPE BC President

CUPE BC is the largest union in British Columbia, representing more than 100,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.

COPE 491