Labour Day is a holiday that seems to be shrouded in a bit of a fog these days.
Labour Day came about as a way to remember and recognize all of the admirable folk who fought for workers’ rights and benefits around a century ago.
That’s definitely ancient history now, but it’s worth reminding people that workers’ rights still need to be protected in this day and age.
Look no further than the recent eight-month long logging strike that decimated Vancouver Island.
Approximately 1,500 of Western Forest Products (WFP) hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C. went on strike July 1, 2019 after 98.8 per cent voted in favour of strike action when the two sides couldn’t negotiate an agreement to replace the five-year one that had expired mid-June.
The United Steelworkers union (USW) said its members started the job action because the company had not seriously addressed union proposals and continued to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides tried to negotiate a new collective agreement.
Over the next eight months, the union stood firm on the line and refused to budge against WFP. The union plain and simple didn’t want to back down and concede to a company that had been reeling in massive profits off the backs of their workers.
It was very admirable members managed to hold out as long as they did. The union really believed in what they were fighting for, with USW President Brian Butler stating firmly there were “no concessions” made by the union once an agreement was finally reached.
WFP also seemed pleased that the agreement had been struck. And while it was definitely a tough eight months for the families who were caught in the middle, in the end, both sides made amends and got back to work.
With that said, please go ahead and enjoy the extra day off. While labour resumes the following day, it’s still very important to remember the history behind why the long weekend exists.
I know I’ll be thinking about it.
Tyson Whitney is the editor of the North Island Gazette. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.