Sunday 29 August 2010
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(This is the lead article from the September 2010 issue of the SFL Labour Reporter)
What makes someone stand up for their rights?
For the unemployed men 75 years ago, it was relief camps that offered no ‘relief’. No work, no wages, and little hope of turning around their own situation, the On to Ottawa Trekkers made their way across the country. It was an act borne of destitution, riding on the coattails of courage.
The state resorted to using force to beat back the Trek’s progress, culminating in the Regina Riot. It is still aweinspiring 75 years later to recall the deep roots of workers’ uprising, right here in our province.
Because of workers’ struggles in the past, we can celebrate that we have decent work, and unionized jobs. But does the work pay the bills? Listen to the voices of the workers from Casino Regina, whose strike story reminds us all that an anti-worker government is determined to keep wages low in our entertainment industry and across the public service.
Indeed, public sector workers in healthcare and in all of our Crown corporations are facing substandard wage offers and concessions at the negotiating table. What lessons can we draw from the past about how to turn this around?
Let’s also pay close attention to the voices and experiences of our youth. Thanks to our government’s erosion of labour standards, children as young as 14 and 15 can now work. The teenagers at the SFL summer camp have concerns about getting proper training and working in a place where the employer plays by the rules. As parents, are we confident that our children’s health and safety rights are respected and enforced at work?
Can we count on employers to abide by labour standards, especially in the service industry where so many start out? The stories of our youth should renew our commitment to build the labour movement.
Past, present, future … the workers’ movement continues on. Let’s stand proudly on the shoulders of the workers who faced destitution and violence. Let’s build solidarity between all of us who are fighting a government who puts profit before people. Let’s empower our young workers to create safe workplaces and to advocate for fair and enforced labour standards and living wages for all.