This Labour Day we celebrate not only the great legacy of the labour movement in British Columbia, and across Canada, but today’s movement that continues to grow and evolve as we stand up for all working people.
Representing members across all sectors of the economy, we welcomed 3,000 workers into our union this past year, growing our membership to over 73,000! And in the last 12 months, we’ve accomplished so much together.
We convinced the previous B.C. Liberal government to ensure that skilled and experienced highways maintenance workers were retained in new contracts. We raised the profile of important issues like child care and seniors’ care in the provincial election. We shone a spotlight on the working conditions of workers on the front lines of our health care crises, and pushed government to invest in staffing to overcome staffing concerns. The union has also drawn attention to the safety risk of over-crowding in our prison system and the B.C. government responded by opening a new corrections centre in the Okanagan.
BCGEU members took to their communities and participated in numerous protests, rallies and events. In August, hundreds of us came out to support a massive anti-racism demonstration at Vancouver City Hall in response to the rise of hateful, intolerant rhetoric by far-right groups. And back in January, we joined 15,000 more for the Vancouver Women’s March, calling for civil rights and social justice for all.
Our union’s own campaign work focuses on the needs of workers, while seeking to improve social conditions for all of B.C. In December, the BCGEU launched an initiative to reach out and listen to members and understand what their biggest needs were in addressing the fentanyl crisis at work, and to ensure they had access to those resources.
In the coming weeks, our union will continue the fight for a more equitable B.C. by working on two new initiatives: affordable housing and electoral reform. By securing affordable housing, we can ensure that incomes from family-supporting jobs go even further. And with electoral reform through proportional representation, our provincial elections will more accurately reflect the people of B.C. and we will have more of a say in the opportunities and challenges facing our province. I hope you will join us in working for these changes!
So, this Labour Day we reflect on both the past and the future of the labour movement. Looking back, let’s celebrate achievements like the 8-hour workday, pensions and health and safety standards. But looking forward, with much more work to be done, let’s celebrate the strength, creativity and commitment of our movement to create an even more prosperous and inclusive society.
I want to thank each BCGEU member for the work they do every day to keep our union movement strong and hope that you have a chance to spend time with friends or family on this last long weekend of summer. Special thanks as well to those who will be working on Labour Day, such as the men and women on the front lines of the wildfires and all those working behind the scenes to keep people safe, and to transition back into their communities. In the true spirit of solidarity, we commend your courage and dedication in helping so many British Columbians through this difficult time.
- Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president