Labour Day’s roots must not be forgotten: labour leader

Holiday stems from workers pushing for better conditions

For a day so steeped in history and meaning, Labour Day is at risk of becoming just another holiday, according to a local labour leader.

“I think all too often people think of Labour Day as simply the last day of summer and getting the kids ready to get back to school,” said Michael Eso, president of the Victoria Labour Council. “People should reflect on the history of how we got here today.”

Labour Day celebrations in Canada started in 1882 when unions were fighting for shorter work weeks of 54 hours. From Canada, it spread to the United States. Parades were the initial Labour Day celebrations, but the first Monday of September wasn’t made an official holiday in Canada until 1894.

Today, some British Columbians might feel labour rights have “served their time,” Eso said, “but you don’t have to look very far to see that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

He pointed to dangerous jobs, such as firefighting, paramedics or jail guards, as examples that might not appeal to most workers and labour rights help these employees stay safe on the job.

NDP labour critic Raj Chouhan said British Columbians should consider which direction the province is heading this Labour Day.

“When we celebrate Labour Day, I hope the Liberal government understands that (employees), for the last 11 years in B.C., their rights have been undermined by a change of policies.”

He cited as an example the whittling away of the Labour Ministry’s Employment Standards Branch, which now has 10 locations rather than the previous 18, and has had its staff nearly cut in half.

The birth and growth of B.C.’s labour movement is something people shouldn’t ignore. Rather, it should serve as a lesson, Eso said.

“We don’t want to be captured by our history, but we want to be able to learn from our history. Unions are as important today as they were in their formation, even though the circumstances may be different.”

Chouhan added labour rights are a vital part of any democracy.

“If we ignore the importance of labour’s contributions, that creates problems like we’ve seen in some other countries where labour is not respected,” he said.

Chouhan said Labour Day should remain a holiday for people who work hard all year, but it should also be more than just a day off work.

“We have to take a break and relax, that’s for sure, but at same time we must not forget the meaning of Labour Day,” he said.

Mark your calendar

The Victoria Labour Council is hosting a Labour Day picnic with games, clowns and food.

When? Monday, Sept. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where? Irving Park in James Bay, at Menzies and Michigan streets

Who: All ages. Kids eat free.

 

Just Posted

Father of murdered realtor pens open letter pleading for help from Saanich mayor

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008, her case remains open

Despite reports, no one found in Saanich donation bin

Police confirmed no one found stuck or in the area

West Shore RCMP looking for suspects after Langford site hit twice with graffiti

Police urge the public to report any vandalism they witness

Victoria adoption centre closes despite effort to save it; B.C. left with two agencies

Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling in Victoria was set to close in April

Proposed four-storey Victoria parkade offers zero spots for public use

A proposed parkade at 730-780 Summit Ave. will soon be up for discussion

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

B.C. woman sends fight to reduce preventable medical errors to Victoria

Teri McGrath and South Okanagan senior’s centre members presented 150 signature petition to local MLA

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Nearly half of B.C. drivers nervous in winter conditions: BCAA

‘Wait and see’ approach common practice for 32% of B.C. motorists

At least 3 hurt in California school shooting, gunman sought

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department looking for a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the location

Transgender inmate in Surrey denied transfer to women’s prison

Petitioner argued denial of transfer to women’s prison was unreasonable and unfair

Most Read