NOLC President Carole Gordon wrote the following article for The Daily Courier's Labour Day section:
The year is 1872. Unions are illegal in Canada.
Workers want a shorter work week -- 58 hours, please.
A printing press is shut down as labourers walk off the job.
2,000 workers -- and over 8,000 citizens -- march in the streets.
Strike leaders are arrested -- scab labour is brought in.
The prime minister legislates the Trade Union Act.
Unions are legal -- solidarity works.
The year is 1894. The Nine-Hour Movement has spread throughout the unions.
Annual events have been held to celebrate workers' rights across Canada.
The prime minister declares Labour Day a national holiday.
Labour Day is when working people celebrate our success in standing up for fairness in our workplaces -- and our country. Working together, we have made Canada a better place.
Solidarity is happening in the Okanagan. As president of the North Okanagan Labour Council, one of the most common questions I get asked is, "What is the North Okanagan Labour Council?"
The North Okanagan Labour Council is the umbrella group for labour unions in the North and Central Okanagan. Representing some 8,500 union members from over 40 local unions, we are a charter of the Canadian Labour Congress and affiliated with the BC Federation of Labour. We meet once per month with member delegates.
Our work includes supporting the efforts of local unions, providing and facilitating a network for labour within the Okanagan and British Columbia, and lobbying government on union and worker issues and legislation. The NOLC is working to build relationships in our communities, with municipal councils, union memberships and social justice organizations.
One long-standing partnership is between the Canadian Labour Congress and the United Way. Labour supports the work of United Ways in the Central and North Okanagan through workplace campaigns.
United Way programs support working-class and lower-income members of our communities in diverse ways. The NOLC participates in campaign events and union members are encouraged to fundraise and donate through payroll deduction.
Protein for People is another program supported by labour councils. This union-sponsored organization produces canned salmon at cost and the NOLC has purchased and distributed over $5,000 worth of salmon to food banks from Vernon to West Kelowna.
Our Protein for People Community BBQ this past May kicked off the Hunger Awareness Week for the Kelowna Food Bank and numerous unions came out to cook and show support for the community.
Strong communities are important to the Canadian Labour Congress and labour councils have been speaking up about issues of fairness.
So, as we celebrate Labour Day, let's look at the union advantage in our communities.
There are over 4.5 million unionized workers in Canada. They earn on average $5.11 more an hour than non-union workers. In B.C., it is $5.58 more per hour for a total of $110.8 million per week. For women workers, the union advantage is even bigger. Over 94 per cent of women in union workplaces earn over $13.33 an hour while 53 per cent of non-union women workers earn less than $13.33 an hour. That means more income during her working career, but also a higher pension when she retires.
All Canadian workers need a real raise but joining a union is a proven way to guarantee one.
Public- and private-sector workers are negotiating fair increases and polling indicates British Columbians believe front-line workers should not fall further behind or lose rights they and their predecessors fought to secure.
Employees of Teck Resources in Trail, represented by the United Steelworkers, negotiated a $10,000 signing bonus earlier this year. While Canadian corporations are storing billions of dollars in bank accounts, Trail businesses reported a significant increase in economic activity. When working people earn more, they tend to spend it in their own communities.
The Union Advantage belongs to everyone. Unionized workers are setting a pattern for wage growth for all working people. Communities with more union members enjoy relatively higher incomes overall and support a diversified and richer mix of businesses and services.
The North Okanagan Labour Council celebrates Labour Day by calling on all Canadians to join with us to build a better Canada. Unions remain as relevant as they were 140 years ago when our predecessors fought to reduce the work week to fewer than 60 hours.
Enjoy your Labour Day -- you earned it.