For Canada’s unions, Labour Day is our time to celebrate our work and the everyday victories we win to make life better for everyone. This year we have even more reason to celebrate as we gather on our 60th anniversary of the Kamloops and District Labour Council.
At the KDLC, making life better for working people is, to put it simply, a labour of love. Values like fairness, equality and working together are what drive us to make a difference and is why we work hard to tackle issues like poverty, precarious work and the shrinking number of good jobs.
For nearly a decade, we advocated for stronger public pensions as we believe after a lifetime of work, no one should have to struggle just to make ends meet. Finally, for the first time in 50 years, the federal government and most of Canada’s premiers have agreed that it is time to expand the Canada Pension Plan.
While today’s seniors still need help to avoid falling into poverty, it is young workers who will benefit most from this change. Already faced with a hostile jobs market and record levels of debt, today’s young workers needed a new way to save for retirement. Planning for the future isn’t possible when you can’t count on a steady income and predictable work hours, let alone finding a job in the first place.
Federal and provincial governments need to restore the conditions required to grow and sustain good jobs in a diverse economy. It’s fair and simple to request, but it’s yet another uphill struggle that Canada’s unions are ready to help push forward.
Increasing the minimum wage is an important starting point. The KDLC has been an active participant in the largest international grassroots movement of our time, the Fight for $15, holding rallies and petition signing in our community.
But it is not just young workers that would benefit from an increased minimum wage. Over 80% of minimum wage workers are over the age of 20 and two out of three of those are women. Even when working full time, the current rate leaves workers $6,000 below the poverty line.
History, including recent history in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Alberta, have proven that raising the minimum wage stimulates the economy as businesses thrive. This is because people are better able to spend money in their community rather than just struggle with basic necessities.
While we wait for our provincial government to enact a poverty reduction plan, our labour council is proud to contribute where possible with the largest donation in our history to the Food Bank of 1,680 cans of salmon and the largest group donation to the Coldest Night benefiting New Life Community Kamloops.
Canadian unions have also called on the federal government to formally and finally ban asbestos. In Canada, 2,000 people die each year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure. It is the leading cause of workplace-related death. Yet, imports of asbestos products, from construction materials to brake pads, are on the rise and buildings contaminated with asbestos remain unregistered, keeping the people who use them and work in them at risk.
A comprehensive ban will save lives and prevent the pain, suffering and heartache endured by too many today.
Good jobs, safe workplaces, fairness and equality are the basic ingredients of a better future. These are the things that union leaders like me believe in and work for every day. For us, it truly is a labour of love and it’s what motivates us to march in the streets and celebrate in the parks, playgrounds and community spaces across Canada this weekend.
Please join our celebration this Labour Day at McDonald Park, between 11 and 2, to enjoy great music, food, and prizes. There are lots of free activities for the kids including bouncy castles, face painting, soccer with the TRU Wolf Pack, science experiments with the teachers, dunk tank with the Steelworkers and so much more.
Happy Labour Day, Canada!