Labour Day Message 2013
We live in a time when the power of multinational corporations and bankers is virtually limitless.
When social progress has been replaced with a relentless race-to-the-bottom.
When workers, their rights and their unions are under immense attack from governments like the one led by Stephen Harper.
We live in a time when the gains unions have made not just for their members, but for all workers, are more fragile than ever.
We live in a time when corporations like AB Inbev (the global brewing company that owns Labatt) pays its CEO and 39 executives stunning bonuses and salaries - over $1.3 billion in 2012 - while demanding concessions and cuts from local workers.
We live in a time when corporations pressure older workers to sell out the next generation.
The message to young workers is clear: expect less.
We live in a time when you are said to be entitled just because you expect a family-supporting job with decent benefits. Yet somehow we are to swallow that grossly overpaid CEOs deserve to earn 235 times more than the average worker in Canada.
We live in a time when inequality grows, threatening and weakening our democracy; a time when workers' rights and women's rights have never been under such attack.
We live in a time when unions have never been more needed.
It is in response to this that the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) unions have decided to come together and build a new union, Unifor. Unifor will be a powerful and progressive voice for working people, for women's equality, for social progress for all.
After Labour Day weekend, it will be the largest private sector union in the country, representing over 300,000 workers in 20 economic sectors.
Its creation is an act of hope; hope that we can once again collectively achieve economic and social justice; that we can push for social change and progress; that we can resist the race-to-the-bottom.
Its creation will be like a match to a blasty bough - a spark, a hope, a catalyst.
Unions are the single most important counterbalance to corporate power and greed and to ensuring the wealth from our economy gets shared, rather than hoarded by the richest 1% in society.
In recent years, inequality and corporate greed have dominated public discourse.
In our own province, a staggering amount of our GDP is siphoned off into corporate profits - 37% on average since 2007. This is a staggering statistic and is considerably more than any other jurisdiction in the country - more than double the national average.
The labour movement believes we can do a much better job of sharing our economic wealth, thus improving the lives and living standards of all citizens.
Emerging from the debate about inequality and the fact that the vast majority of income gains are going to the top 1% is the question of what this growing inequality will mean for the next generation of workers.
For the first time in our history as a province and a country, the very real question of whether our children will do better than their parents is a troubling reflection of the kind of legacy we could be leaving: a legacy of generational inequity. A generation that will have to work longer; who face a more precarious labour market; who will be more uncertain about retiring in dignity; who will carry more debt; and who will be told to lower their expectations.
This reality flies in the face of stunning corporate profits and an economy that is producing record wealth.
As a movement, we must continue to resist at every turn the demand by those who desire to crush our legacy of decent jobs for the next generation of workers, like Labatt Brewery is trying to do in St. John's.
This Labour Day, we celebrate the many gains unions have made in our world. We celebrate our social progress, but only in the context of how that social progress is more fragile than ever before. How it is being eroded. A reminder that we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to resist the forces that would see these gains turned back.
This Labour Day, we celebrate unions working together to make a difference. We celebrate fairness. We celebrate all we have done to help make our province a better place, all that we have done to build a better society - one based on economic and social justice and equality for all.
On behalf of our executive council, 26 affiliated unions, and more than 65,000 members, I wish you a safe and happy Labour Day!