Monday, September 01, 2008

Labour Day.

A truly astonishing fact came out today, in electronic conversations with three friends, regarding the Labour Day Parade in Toronto, of which I was a part this morning.

"Friend" #1:
  • holds a politically left-of-centre perspective
  • no idea that a parade was a tradition
  • had no idea what Labour Day was for
"Friend" #2:
  • holds a politically left-of-centre perspective
  • knew a parade existed, in theory ("Is it a British thing?")
  • no idea that Toronto had one
"Friend" #3:
  • don't know where he comes from politically, but recently graduated from an MBA program, so make your own conclusions
  • no idea that a parade was a tradition
  • had no idea what Labour Day was for ("I thought Labour Day was just a 'fuck off and do nothing' for everyone/everything")
So, all you pricks, put on your Learnin' Caps and prepare to get Learned.

Labour Day celebrates the stuff that organized labour (e.g. unions) has fought for over the years, on behalf of average, everyday working schmucks like you and me. These things include:
  • 40-hour work weeks
  • weekends
  • benefits
  • safety in the workplace
  • collective bargaining
  • the right to be treated fairly by your boss
The list goes on. Anyway, to commemorate this yearly event (it's May 1 in a lot of countries, but you and I in North America know it as the first Monday of September), there's a parade in which a whole bunch of unions all come out and show people who they are, I guess. You have your standard groups: the Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, CUPE/OPSEU, assorted teacher unions, and so on. You've got your contingents from the NDP and such; hell, I even shook Mayor Miller's hand this morning. But then you get some really obscure unions, and you realize there are a lot of jobs out there you had no idea could've existed, but are really important nonetheless.

Toronto even has a special place in Labour Day history. From Wikipedia:

The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to April 14, 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) called its 27 unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25. George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe hit back at his striking employees, pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with "conspiracy." Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on books in Canada and police arrested 24 leaders of the Typographical Union. Labour leaders decided to call another similar demonstration on September 3 to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawa, prompting a promise by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to repeal the "barbarous" anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act on June 14 the following year, and soon all unions were demanding a 54-hour work-week.

So, there you go, bitches — the Labour Day Parade, and why we have it.

You're welcome.


ecb said...

My American friend doesn't know about Labour Day either! I am not alone...

Renee said...

I took a Canadian Labour History course, so I guess I have an excuse for being intimately familiar with the history of Canadian Labour, but every time I meed somebody who hasn't heard the the Winnepeg General Strike a tiny part of me withers and dies. Sigh.