Like many holidays, Labour Day’s origins are rooted in ancient celebrations. Communities of people have always gathered together at summer’s end, to celebrate a successful harvest, or simply to have one last outdoor festival before preparing for the winter months ahead.
Because many such gatherings became workplace-oriented through the years, Labour Day was a natural evolution. Today, thousands of working people and their families parade in a celebration of the vital contribution they make to society.
For thousands of UFCW Canada members and their families (more than 500 of them participating in this year’s Toronto parade alone), the Labour Day holiday at the beginning of this past week was, across Canada, a day of parades, festivals, picnics, soapbox derbies, ball tournaments, contests, and, in general, just a celebration of the all-too short days of summer.
Labour Day is nonetheless an important public manifestation of working people, gathered together in common purpose. From all types of workplaces, the message that we are together so much stronger than apart is reinforced and displayed for everyone to see – for the public, for politicians, for corporate bosses, and even for ourselves.
As a show of strength and solidarity, Labour Day serves the same purpose at the traditional “end of summer” in North America as the May 1st worker celebrations do in other parts of the world. Our role as workers is a vital one, and our needs and dreams will not be ignored.
UFCW Canada members form colour guard at front of a 500-strong representation on Toronto’s University Avenue; members and family supporters catch a ride on trailer supplied by employer Maple Lodge Farms; UFCW Canada members lead the way for a smaller but still well-attended march through downtown Brantford ON; UFCW Canada youth activists and others seen on Toronto’s Queen Street West as they pass “Speaker’s Corner”.
UFCW Canada Local 401 is trying to get Ronzoni Foods Canada to reverse its decision to permanently close its New World Pasta (formerly Borden Catelli) plant in Lethbridge AB. Ronzoni announced the closure, which will affect 65-75 members, on August 29. Meanwhile, Local 401 is also working to obtain maximum severance benefits for affected members, and is setting up worker counselling and retraining for members as contingencies for the expected October 29 closure.
More: Doug O’Halloran, UFCW Canada Local 401
A 68-week strike by 75 members of UFCW Canada Local 486 ended with the ratification of a new agreement on July 28. Workers at the Super C store in Aylmer QC have gained annual wage increases of 2%, plus improvements in vacations and CCWIPP. Sunday work remains voluntary, and pays a premium of $1.60 per hour.
More: Pierre-François Boivin, UFCW Canada Local 486
Members of two large UFCW Canada local unions in British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly to merge their locals into a new, single local union. Members of Local 2000, representing mainly meat-cutting and agricultural workers across BC, and of Local 777, which represents both clerical and other workers in supermarkets province-wide, have voted to form the new UFCW Canada Local 247, expected to be completed early in the new year.
More: Shane Dawson, UFCW Canada, Calgary
UFCW Canada’s communications were recognized with prizes in all three categories of the 2000 Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) awards. Youth organizing materials titled “My union is a really big reason my job doesn’t totally bite” received first place in the category of printed advertisements; another youth-education production, “Unions don’t bite”, won the top video award; and the widely-distributed “Blowing the whistle on a neighbourhood bully: What makes Wal-Mart such a bad neighbour?” booklet won the prestigious CALM Muckraker award. CALM’s annual conference, held this year in Guelph ON, celebrated the organization’s 25th anniversary.
More: Mike Freeman, UFCW Canada national office; www.calm.ca
UFCW Canada Local 175 members at Cancoil Thermal in Kingston ON will receive wage increases of 55-cents per hour in each of their agreement’s three years, or $1.65 total. Incorrect information was provided in Directions 1.09 (August 24, 2001).
Source: Cliff Scotton, Canadian Labour (CLC magazine), September 1961