Labour activists prepare to celebrate and march

By Andrea Bennett

Labour Day is so much more than a day off.

It marks a day where community members come together, give back and celebrate local workers.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, said on The Sam Laprade Show, union and community members will march from Ottawa City Hall on Monday, Sept. 4 to McNabb Park where there’ll be a picnic and other festivities, geared towards families and children.

“We need to poke occasionally and remind officials there’s a lot of work to do here in respect to ensuring that we have communities that are built around our working people,” he said.

While there are numerous strike actions currently taking place, including IBEW Local 636 standing for Hydro Ottawa workers, Labour Day ties right in, Mckenny added,

According to the council, in 1872, it was illegal for workers to join unions and laws actually prevented unions from forming at all.

“That’s a big message of ours that unions are lifting everyone up,” he explained. “They work to ensure you’re paid a fair wage, have benefits, and that workers feel ok going to work because, at the end of the day, they have to put food on the table.”

In response Hydro Ottawa worker’s strike passing day 65, McKenny said he’s shocked it’s continued for this long and it shows workers still have a lot more to do in the fight for fair pay and better working conditions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers recognized the value of their employees and referred to them as ‘heroes’ – as we saw with nurses – but this eventually evaporated as the pandemic lifted, he stated.

In recent times, there’s been a rising number of allegations of toxicity and bullying in the workplace, as well as workers sounding the alarm on cases of misogyny and racism.

“Those things are happening all the time,” said McKenny. “In many instances, lots of things happening are not coming to public light. but this has started to change.”

But, he added, there are better protections for workers in professions represented by unions, that provide better supports for workers and listen to their needs.

McKenny goes on to say, poor behavior towards workers grew over the pandemic, and it’s continuing to rise, now at a higher rate than prior to the pandemic.

“We have to recognize that and not put it on the workers,” he pointed out. “It does happen and it shouldn’t happen today, it’s 2023 and we should have learned a lot by now.”

Labour Day celebrations in McNabb Park will include a free BBQ, face painting, a bouncy castle, live music, balloon twisting, and the wading pool will be open for use.

“Everyone is invited, it’s going to be a good time for the community,” said McKenny. “Labour Day is a day to celebrate and to encourage everyone to come out and have fun.”

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