Each year in September, workers, union activists, and our community allies join together on Labour Day to celebrate the hard-fought gains of working people and to advocate for improvements to the lives of all Canadians.
This proud and storied tradition dates back more than a century, and through it all workers and their families have faced and overcome many challenges – from the Great Depression, to the First and Second World Wars, to the Great Recession, and more.
But this year, working people around the world have encountered a challenge that is unlike anything we have seen before. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken our sense of security and has rocked the global economy by making millions of people ill, taking the lives of thousands, and putting an unprecedented number of people out of work. For many, the coronavirus has also reshaped the workplace by requiring new health and safety measures aimed at keeping workers and the public safe.
Here in Canada, UFCW members across the country and in all industries have shown tremendous courage and resilience by quickly adapting to the new realities of COVID-19, and by working hard on the front lines every day to ensure that Canadians get the food, health care, security, and vital services they need to stay healthy and safe.
From coast to coast, UFCW Canada members and their Local Unions have also succeeded in highlighting the value of work in UFCW core industries – whether it be the food retail, manufacturing, health care, security, hospitality, or office and professional sectors – and shining a light on the amazing efforts of frontline workers.
However, as the pandemic continues to unfold, and with the school year now underway, we know that more needs to be done to protect and improve the health and safety gains that working people have achieved – including UFCW Canada members in the food retail and meat processing sectors. And we also know that, both today and going forward, it will be essential to provide economic security to Canadians and their families to help them get through this difficult time.
Right now, throughout the country, parents are worried about their children getting sick at school and are concerned about childcare as they head back to work. Far too many Canadians are still out of a job. Women have borne the brunt of the economic fallout from COVID-19 and need to be supported as they work to get back in the labour force. And workers on the front lines want to know that they can perform their jobs safely and will not fall through the cracks if they need to take time off work.
That is why, this Labour Day, UFCW Canada is asking members, family members, and allies to show their support for frontline workers. We are calling on all levels of government to protect the health and safety of these workers, and to recognize the crucial contribution that workers on the front lines are making. Our union is also urging governments to ensure that the economic recovery from COVID-19 provides financial security to all Canadians. And in the coming days and weeks, UFCW Canada will be launching new campaigns aimed at securing affordable childcare and economic dignity for all.
Over the last century and a half, Canadians have weathered numerous crises that have tested our strength as workers, as community members, and as a nation. The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging us like never before, and will continue to require coordinated efforts and supports from governments, businesses, unions, and citizens alike. However, by working together and pushing for a Canada where no one is left behind, we will overcome this crisis and emerge stronger as a result.
I wish you and your family a Happy Labour Day.
Paul R. Meinema