This year’s Toronto’s Labour Day Parade saw thousands marching on Monday, resulting in several road closures. The 141st annual parade’s theme was ‘unite against austerity.’ In the words of Cartright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, “The politicians are happy to give billions in corporate tax cuts and say to ordinary people, ‘You have to tighten your belts’ while the rich are getting richer everyday.”
Union leaders made speeches at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday morning before the parade kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Teachers, paramedics, firefighters and energy workers were among those making appearances. Many were dressed in their union colours, waving flags and carrying placards.
InCanada, Labour Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September since the 1880s. The day symbolizes a social expression of anger. The celebrations this year were important mainly because of the recent protests byOntarioteachers’ groupsOntarioteachers who swarmed the front lawn of the legislature last week for a massive protest of a controversial bill that would freeze their wages and cut benefits to battle the province’s $15 billion deficit. The outraged instructors said they want to teach the provincial Liberals a lesson: they can’t trample on their rights in order to solveOntario’s financial problems. Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario gathered at Queen’s Park last week, some brandishing signs saying “Why Are Teachers Paying for McGuinty’s Mistake?”
Premier Dalton McGuinty of late has also taken aim at doctors’ fees, bankable sick days for police officers and firefighters and now has his eye on wage freezes for the broader public sector. Federally, the Harper government has continued its tough stand on the unions as well. As part of their austerity budgets, the federal government is in the midst of cutting 29,600 public sector union jobs between now and 2015.
Civic holidays like these are crucial for reminding us that the labour movement has played a historical role in society; it has taken poverty wage jobs in manufacturing and construction sector and turned them into decent jobs so that workers can raise their families well. The question is: Was it just another long weekend? Or do our unions need to be stronger…