For many Labour Day marks the end of summer. It has become wholly depoliticized attempting to make us forget that we are all workers. And we either stand together or hang separately. I am constantly surprised by the absence of thousands of teachers.
Many in the teaching profession are uncomfortable about being members of a union. Many, the sons and daughters of post war immigrants felt a need for an upgraded psychic evaluation of their work. They saw themselves as “professionals” and preferred to be an “association.” They were about upward mobility. Yet the Catholic story promoted “downward mobility” and “solidarity” with all workers.
Each year i walk in the Labour Day parade. The reason is simple. It protects me from amnesia. This annual pilgrimage from downtown Toronto to the Dufferin Gates is a gentle reminder of the Story which gives me meaning. It reminds me that I owe solidarity to workers struggling today for a decent life.This year we will not enter the Exhibition because there is a labour strike
This age old story reminds me that I am part of creation, that my labour is an essential part of building God’s reign. It reminds me that the work I did and do, that of teaching is holy work. It reminds me that much of labour today is exploited and devalued. It reminds me that labour unions which fought and are fighting still for worker dignity are in full retreat today and need our support.
Retired teachers still walking
The Catholic Church for over 100 years has staunchly defended labour. John Paul ll’s Laborem Exercens stands out as an outstanding commentary on the dignity of work and the worker. The central insight is the priority of labour over capital capital is meant to serve labour. The violation of this principle in both the east and west is the source of great misery in our societies.
The instrument for labour has been the union movement, at present under attack seemingly everywhere—except in the world’s most successful economy: Germany. Here labour is 97% unionized. No major decisions are made without Labour at the table.
Canada now is running at 17% of the labour force unionized.
Unions historically has elevated the dignity of workers everywhere. They have successfully struggled against income inequality, child labour, health and safety, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, public education, racism and sexism, pension reform and as the Tee shirt says, “For the people who gave you the weekend: unions.”
1n 2012 Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton. wrote As people of faith, we are called to stand with those left behind, offer our solidarity, and join forces with “the least of these” to help meet their basic needs. We seek national economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life.
In past Labour Days I would see the late Jack Layton marching with OPSEU, CAW, ACTRA (yes cultural workers have unions) machinists, librarians, city workers, hotel workers the most exploited of all—and most of them people of colour. Never have I seen any of the bishops of Ontario walking in solidarity with these good people who build our city and make life work.They apparently don’t know jack about the meaning of witness or solidarity. Look no further than every Labour Day for reasons why the Church is in decline.
And what about Catholic teachers’ unions? I search in vain for anything on OECTA’s website for the call to solidarity on Labour Day. The actors’ union ACTRA on the other hand is up front about promoting
Labour Day 2018
Labour Day is next MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2018It’s time for the biggest celebration of worker pride in Toronto – Labour Day! ACTRA Toronto, as always, is marching.
A few years ago i was invited by the Labour Council to speak about the need for a living wage not a minimum wage. Forces at City Hall were attempting to cut the wages of those largely female municipal cleaners from $19.00 an hour to $13,00.
“God love them, they’re nice people but they don’t deserve $19.00” said councillor Doug Ford, he born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Now he’s the premier of the province.
That’s why we need to walk out on Labour Day.