Silas: Labour Day is a rallying cry for health care workers everywhere
Labour Day celebrates the hard-won battles for workers’ rights in Canada and serves as a reminder of the power of workers organizing together. What started over a century ago as a fight for a shorter workday has grown into a movement of workers fighting to make life better for ourselves and our families.
Together, workers have fought for safer and healthier working conditions, winning many of the rights we have now.
In Toronto, workers walked off the job in 1872, demanding a shorter workday. Some strikers lost their jobs or were arrested, but they earned support from other workers, and over 10,000 workers rallied at Queen’s Park, eventually resulting in Prime Minister John A. Macdonald legalizing and protecting unions.
In the 1930s, when unemployed men had to work in government camps for paltry wages, they protested with a cross-country journey from Vancouver to Ottawa and took their concerns directly to the federal government. The epic strike resulted in the federal government abolishing the camps and introducing unemployment insurance.
Following the preventable death of workers at the Westray mine in Nova Scotia, unionized workers successfully campaigned to change the Criminal Code so that employers who fail to take steps to protect the lives of their employees can be held criminally liable.
These are the shoulders we stand on as we continue the fight to make life better for all workers. Our history shows that together workers have the power to create change. With action and solidarity workers can influence public opinion and shape policy.
We honour workers’ progress by continuing to stand up for workers’ rights today.
For over two years now, we have fought to protect nurses, the working class and the general public from a virus creating an unprecedented health hazard. In the early days, we demanded airborne protections for health care workers to protect against a virus we knew little about.
I know this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what nurses and health care workers need.
The pandemic has intensified the already dire staffing shortage and brought nurses’ untenable working conditions into the public light.
Now more than ever the nursing shortage demands government intervention. As nurses burn out, and many leave the public sector or profession entirely, Canada’s public health system is endangered. The safety of nurses and their patients is endangered.
This is the fight we rally around now.
Respecting and supporting nurses is the key to start repairing our health care system. Health care workers are on the front lines of this crisis, and like the workers who have come before us, health care workers have the solutions.
Join me in telling the federal government that they must step in and meet with premiers on concrete actions to improve working conditions and effectively tackle the crisis facing our public health care system.
With health care workers and nurses’ unions at the decision-making table, we can build safer, healthier working environments. We can reduce nurses’ workloads and ensure safe nurse-to-patient ratios. We can provide nurses with mental health support, expand training programs and target recruitment to diversify the workforce.
I know, for many nurses, Labour Day is another weekend like too many others: long hours, without enough staff, overwhelmed with more patients than you feel safe caring for.
Please know there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Just like the workers who have come before us, we can influence public opinion and change policies. Together, we can improve our health care system and make a better life for ourselves and our families.
In unwavering solidarity,