Grand Falls-Windsor celebrated its 93rd annual Labour Day festivities Monday, Sept. 2.
There was a parade, of course. And it marked what is probably the longest continuous recognition of the holiday in Atlantic Canada. But again, there were very few people there. Some would say, "The weather didn't help. It was pretty crappy, with all the rain." But what was the excuse last year? Labour Day in 2012 was held when it was warm and sunny. Again, the numbers weren't great.
Labour Day is a significant holiday, especially in this part of the province. After all, the former Town of Grand Falls (later joined by its neighbour, the former Town of Windsor) is known as the cradle of the labour movement in Newfoundland.
So what if the paper mill no longer exists? Employees more than 90 years ago, who laboured at the facility back then, worked very hard at backbreaking work, learning how to operate the new paper machines and transporting materials (work that resulted sometimes in tragic deaths).
These long-ago workers wanted some time to celebrate and be acknowledged for their labour.
Later on, workers - including loggers - recognized the pitiful conditions under which some of them laboured, and they stood up for their rights. Sometimes there were clashes, which even resulted in violence and loss of life (such as the Badger riot, later turned into a bestseller). But they eventually got their rights.
The workers, as well as community groups, continued with the annual Labour Day parades in Grand Falls-Windsor, a big affair back then.
Gordon Pinsent, local boy and major Canadian actor, even wrote a play, 'Corner Green', set amidst a Labour Day parade in the former Town of Grand Falls after the First World War. Again, Labour Day was a big thing back then. While the paper mill doesn't exist any more, the spirit of Labour Day still exists. But like a dwindling fire, it needs to be stirred sometimes.
It's sad people head out to their 'cabins' (more like summer homes) during the Labour Day weekend, and only return well after the parade ends. Do they realize those cabins, in many cases, were built by hard-working contractors?
Labour is responsible for all the comforts they enjoy, and the event is a special time to celebrate the fruits of hardworking employees. We also need to set example for younger people, too, who are entering the workforce and sometimes aren't aware of their rights as workers.
People in some other countries - such as poorly treated garment workers in Bangladesh and the folks in China who make your smartphones - don't have the same rights we do.
The least we can do is celebrate Labour Day in the honour of those who aren't as lucky as we are.
Sue Hickey is a reporter with the
Grand Falls-Windsor Advertiser