What Have Unions Done For Us? A Series of Articles In Celebration of May Day 2012


April 15, 2012 — wklc | Edit


As part of the preparing for May Day: International Workers’ Day, the WKLC will be presenting articles on the theme of ‘What Have Unions Done For Us’.  Stay tuned and you might be surprised and delighted.



May Day—The Struggle for a Just Society Includes Labour Rights

From the CUPW Kootenay Quarterly        Volume 1, Issue 2      Spring 2012

May 1 is the historical workers’ day to celebrate advances in working condi-tions and wages while re-membering those who sacrificed in order to make those advances.


Young people seldom learn about the history of workers and so it isn’t surprising that we don’t know that every gain we have made was as a result of strike or other militant actions to force bosses and gov-ernments to include our rights and dignity in their bottom line.

Each generation of workers who fought off greedy at-tacks by employers was making history. It wasn’t that long ago when trade unions were illegal. Our meetings had to be hidden and we referred to each oth-er as brother and sister in order to protect each oth-er’s identities. Workers were thrown into jail, beat-en and killed by hired goons and police in order to pro-tect bosses from being forced to pay fairly, to gain a reasonable work day, to be paid for the work we do and gain health and safety protections.

One of those Labour heroes worked in Trail. His name was Ginger Goodwin and he was murdered in 1918 because of his leader-ship in the struggle for peace and workers rights. He was a coal miner. He was one of many who stood up for justice.
The goal of the labour move-ment then and today is to en-sure all working people have fair wages and benefits and social protections so we can provide a decent life for our families and live in dignity at work and in our retirement. That is not unreasonable.

That is why CUPW has policies that go beyond the work place. Our policies direct us to fight poverty, to stand up for equali-ty, to act for peace and not support war because it is work-ing people who die on both sides of a conflict and compa-nies get rich from the sale of arms.

Every gain the labour movement has made over the past 50 years is under attack by provincial and federal governments. Our right to negotiate is being leg-islated away. Our right to organize and educate members is now being threatened by a new bill being quietly introduced by one of Harper’s back benchers (Bill C377). Postal workers, airline workers, teachers, li-brarians, city workers, health care workers, mineworkers……. the list is growing in this country of workers who are being bullied by companies and governments and having our democratic rights stripped from us.

At what point do we say—enough is enough?

The Labour movement and our allies in all progressive areas of society need to join together in the face of growing attacks by government, big business and corporate media.

Let’s start on May Day 2012. We can reverse the trend of mean spirited anti-worker /anti- social policies by supporting each other before it is too late. Will it take the sacrifice of another Ginger Goodwin to make us act? We have the power—let’s use it!


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