This holiday represents an important opportunity to reflect on the trade union movement’s rich history, and to renew our commitment to the many fights ahead. You may not realize this, but Labour Day and the tradition of Labour Day parades in Canada has its origins in the late 19th century. On April 14, 1872, 2,000 workers from the Toronto Typographical Union took to the streets to demand the workday be capped at nine hours. On their way to Queen’s Park, thousands of other workers joined in. The crowd was 10,000 strong —10% of Toronto’s population — by the time they reached their destination. It turned out to be the first annual Labour Day parade. This event has inspired labour leaders across Canada, including PEI, to honour the September Labour Day.
The labour movement grew stronger through the 20th century. Unions won shorter workweeks, the weekend, employment insurance, workplace safety laws, and maternity and parental benefits. While those policies lifted up union members, they also benefited other workers, too. Fighting for all — union member or not — remains a core principle of Canada’s labour movement. CUPE PEI has been fighting for its members at the bargaining table, but also in the political sphere. For example, this last year, we have fought for a better electoral model – Proportional Representation – and lobbied to reverse Harper-era attacks to Employment Insurance.
September 4th is a day to recommit ourselves to keep pushing for further rights to improve the lives of all PEI workers. It’s a day to mobilize and demonstrate the solidarity and power of working people.
In 2018, Islanders will head to the ballot boxes for municipal elections. Mobilizing the movement starts with encouraging friends, neighbours and co-workers to take active roles in the political process by supporting progressive candidates and by reminding politicians that working people united create a positive force that cannot be denied.
On behalf of the 3000 members of CUPE PEI, we wish every Islander a Happy Labor Day.
Interim President, CUPE PEI