For many, Labour Day is just the last long weekend of summer, enjoyed with little understanding of its origin or relevance. For activists within the labour movement, however, Labour Day is an important opportunity to educate the public about the many workplace protections and benefits they enjoy because of the good work of labour unions; like the 40 hour work week, maternity leave, worker’s compensation benefits, and workplace safety standards.
In my experience as the President of SEIU-West, I have enjoyed many face to face conversations with our members. Some have come to the workplace and inherited their union, while others have fought tirelessly to organize their union in their workplace. These conversations have taught me that our members are the experts. Whether they work in crisis support, health care, education support, community based organizations or addictions recovery, our members share – a constant desire to improve the services they provide in order to make their community better for everyone.
At SEIU-West, we share this perspective. We want to build partnerships to improve the many communities where our members work and live. We offer a network of opportunities to our members; pathways for them to learn, participate and engage. We know that enhancing the involvement of our members in our union enriches both workplace and community health. We do this work because we want the public to better understand the critical role unions play within our society. We have a shared interest in the protection of quality democracy. We believe in and will champion a fair society.
Politically, there has long been an agenda to weaken the role of unions. Driven by the self-interest of the rich and powerful, this ideology attempts to undermine unions’ work on behalf of our members; to under-value the efforts to address social justice issues and create balance in the power dynamic between workers and their bosses. Unions believe that by educating the public and dispelling the myths surrounding our organizations, we can build stronger and better alliances that benefit not just our members, but all working people.
As a consequence, we take a great deal of pride in the celebration of Labour Day and we share with our many members, an energetic interest in strengthening their participation and motivating their engagement whether it be at Labour Day events or the many other opportunities that will build a better and more equal society in our future.