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Wherever you are, we’re together for Labour Day

Publish date: Monday, August 31, 2020 presidentsMessage

President Dave Bulmer

For most of us, Labour Day marks the unofficial end of summer and a resolve to soon having to bunker down post Thanksgiving for the months of nose to the grindstone and cold, dark monotony ahead. A most Canadian realization, if you will.

And while that looks very different this year, given we had last year’s end of the monotony— our traditional school year March Break—the light at the end of the tunnel, snatched from us at its unofficial start, I hope you’re still able to take some time this Labour Day to acknowledge the importance of the progress we’ve made in the workplace. Things like job security, the ability to work remotely and human rights protections have all been huge in getting us through these past six months.

The roots of Labour Day in Canada are grounded right here in Ontario.

In 1872, unions were illegal in Canada—but that didn’t stop workers in Hamilton from establishing the Nine Hour Movement in January of that year to push for a standardized workday. The movement quickly spread to other major cities in Canada in what labour historian Bryan D. Palmer calls “the beginnings of a unified protest movement.”

In March 1872, the Toronto Typographical Union (the country’s oldest union, now part of Unifor Local 591G, which also represents most of AMAPCEO’s own professional staff) daringly went on strike to demand a nine-hour workday.

Public support grew, and on April 14, 1872, they were joined by 10,000 other workers for a march to Queen’s Park to show solidarity.

The Ontario government of the day took notice, and workers across the country were buoyed by the power of collective action. Workers built national pressure and in June 1872, labour unions were decriminalized in Canada. Organized workers used their strength to advance the work standards that we have today.

The anniversary of the march became an annual celebration of workers’ rights—a new tradition that spread across the country until Labour Day was made a national holiday in 1894.

While the nature of work today is dramatically different than it was in the late 19th century, I believe the argument for unions has never been stronger, because the power of being together has never been stronger.

Together, as unionized professionals, we bargain collectively to promote stability and fairness in the workplace, encourage a good working environment, and give voice and agency to employees.

Together, we help keep employers accountable, ultimately strengthening the public services that benefit us all.

Together, we protect those who haven’t been given a fair go, by standing in their corner at work.

Together, we fight the growth of precarious work, the rise of inequality, and the diminishing returns of asking people to do more with less.

And while we have so much further to go, together, we fight for human rights, equity, and social, racial, economic, and environmental justice for all.

Even though we can’t be physically together this Labour Day, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further illustrated the need for unions today.

Across the country, we’re seeing the labour movement working to protect the health and safety of essential workers, our children as they return to school, and our loved ones as they age. Unions are a proud partner in the push to build back better, to make sure a recovery leaves no one behind.

At AMAPCEO, we’re continuing our proactive approach to problem-solving by working directly with employers to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our members. We’re advocating that any return to the workplace be cautious, gradual, and flexible, and that they acknowledge that some people will require health or family accommodation. We’re pushing for specific changes to how your workplace may look or function, for flexibility as it relates to commuting, for mental health support, and for detailed contingency plans.

Discussions are ongoing, but have been productive so far, and I will keep you posted on the outcomes.

I know that what we achieve together will be better than anything achieved by going it alone.

So, this Labour Day, wherever you are and however you are able, please join me in celebrating the accomplishments of workers and unions past and present and in strengthening our resolve to shape the future of work for everyone.

There is strength in community – and we are stronger together.

Dave Bulmer
President & CEO

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More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).