Labour Day 2020 is almost upon us and celebrating the power of workers is perhaps more important this year than any other. Honoring the contributions of the working class and standing in solidarity with one another may be among the most valuable outcomes of this difficult year. We usually celebrate together with a community barbeque and while we can’t do that this year, we can take some time to reflect.
This holiday allows us time to celebrate the accomplishments of thousands of labour activists who came before us, and to recognize the hardships and risk their union activism invited into their lives. We’ve benefited from their efforts, but many workers still fear getting involved and speaking out. Of course, that fear just emphasizes the need for activism.
With its origins in the fight for an eight-hour work day, Labour Day was born of the sometimes violent struggle between exploited workers and exploitative employers. To a working class without much in the way of protections or rights, the fight was critical, and the victory paved the way for the labour laws we rely on even now. In the face of a global pandemic, the unity of workers and the fight for workers’ rights is just as important today.
In 2020, let’s choose to fight for each other in ways we’ve almost forgotten, in ways that echo the work of the early union activists. Let’s choose to stand together and make sure the workers drafted to protect Yukon’s borders are provided with the tools they need to stay safe from covid-19. Let’s choose to speak up for the teachers facing uncertainty and risk in dynamic school environments. The respect you show to our essential workers and healthcare heroes is activism – that’s true solidarity with those on the front line.
Even in today’s Yukon, the health and safety protections that should be guaranteed can be hopelessly inadequate. Fair and equal access to decent work and respectful working conditions should also be guaranteed, but in 2020 many workers face racism, sexism and harassment on the job. As our political climate worsens and society feels more polarized than ever, we can choose to stand alone, or we can stand together.
As we celebrate Labour Day this year, we have new battles to fight and win. Workers around the world are facing the challenges of covid-19, of racism and unrest, of financial uncertainty and political upheaval. Unions have the power to create change, to improve lives and to be a force for a more just society.
My hope for Labour Day 2020 is that Yukon’s workers continue to show up for each other, and that workers realize their combined strength. I hope you recognize the untapped power that exists in your workplace – the power to create genuine change. At a time when there is so much in our world to divide and overwhelm us, let’s find our strength and solidarity as Yukon workers. We can do so much, together.
Happy Labour Day!
Steve Geick, President
Yukon Employees’ Union