By Bea Bruske, as published in The Province
If you appreciate having weekends, a forty-hour work week, pensions, compensation for workplace injuries, maternity leave or even collective bargaining at all, thank a union organizer.
The reality is, without the contributions of the labour movement, Canadian workers wouldn’t have these or so many other protections. But these gains were not accomplished without a struggle. Workers had to fight tooth-and-nail for every victory and every bit of progress in the long march to workers’ rights.
Today, inflation grows at a breakneck pace while wages fall further behind the fast-rising cost of living. Workers and their families struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, or pay for all kinds of other essentials, like transportation and even medication.
But not everyone is hurting. While their employees are just trying to get by, grocery, oil and gas, and other companies rake in record profits. These companies’ inflation-driving profiteering has even given birth to a new word: “greedflation.”
Billionaire CEOs take home record profits while the wages they pay lag far behind inflation. The President of Loblaws – while lobbying hard against a $15 an hour minimum wage – raked in around $5,100 per hour last year. Meanwhile, Loblaws saw its profits jump by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2022.
In another display of greedflation, Canada’s four largest oil companies saw revenues skyrocket nearly three-fold over 2021, an eye-watering $12 billion in net earnings, just in the last quarter.
The rich have never been richer. And we know they aren’t going to give up their mega-profits without a fight. Bay Street CEOs, the corporate elite and their political friends will try and convince you you’re powerless against them. But they are wrong. Their voice isn’t the loudest, their position isn’t the strongest and they don’t have the most influence.
Part of Canada’s history, rarely taught in schools, is how unionized workers – not the corporate elite – were the ones who carved out a path to the middle class for millions of Canadians. And today it’s once again up to us, the workers of Canada, to come together and tell those in power that they’re working for us, for a change.
So, as we celebrate Labour Day, let us remember the collective power of workers – from all walks of life and in communities across Canada – to make positive change happen. We honour the workers who built this country and thank the ones who keep it running, day in and day out. We play tribute to the critical role unions have played in securing fair wages and better working conditions for all.
I invite all Canadians to march shoulder to shoulder with us this Labour Day. Help us in our work to make life more affordable for everyone and our fight for good jobs, ones that offer a living wage, with benefits and pensions. Join our growing movement of workers realizing that they deserve better, and are ready to stand up to employers who try to exploit them.
While giant corporations try to maximize their mega-profits at the expense of giving workers what they deserve, Canada’s unions will work tirelessly, today and every day, to make sure all workers have the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive.
Bea Bruske is president of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow her on Twitter @PresidentCLC
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