We hope you enjoyed your Labour Day long weekend.

It’s good to have an extra day off work every once in a while, isn’t it? Yes, statutory holidays are a good time to rest, recharge or maybe reflect on things.

And perhaps you actually reflected on Labour Day itself.

More than likely you didn’t, but we did. (That’s because we work every long weekend, and needed a topic to write an editorial about.)

Plus, we recently heard something at a meeting that caught our attention. A man stated that he didn’t like unions, and that companies would treat workers well even if there were no unions at a particular workplace.

No doubt many people feel the same way, and we’re not going to try to change any opinions. People can think whatever they want in a free country.

However, we would observe that it is an undeniable fact that unions have been extremely positive for society.

Let’s consider the origins of Labour Day, which has been celebrated in Canada since the 1880s. The holiday’s actual beginnings date back to an 1872 parade in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work week.

Yes, you read that correctly – a 58-hour work week.

The parade – Canada’s first major demonstration for workers’ rights – also called for the release of 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union. They happened to have landed in jail for striking for a nine-hour workday.

Ah, the good ole days.

While many companies are honourable organizations and would be so with or without unions, others are not so much.

The workers’ rights that we now take for granted were not suddenly bestowed one day by employers and governments out of the goodness of their hearts. Unions struggled for each and every one of them.

Even if you are not a member of a union, you are benefitting from the labour movement.

Let’s just consider some of those improvements in the workplace over the years – rising wages (and the minimum wage), a shorter work week, vacation time, health and safety rules, maternity leave, severance pay, the right to strike, and numerous other improvements, some obvious and some not so obvious.

All those benefits were won through unionization and collective bargaining.

So people may not like unions for whatever reason, and that’s fine with us. We repeat that we’re not trying to convince anyone to like or support the labour movement.

But we believe that people should at least recognize that the labour movement has been positive for Canada, and a benefit for everyone who lives in this country whether a member of a union or not.

Unfortunately, unions occasionally have to resort to the ultimate weapon they have and go on strike. People affected by any withdrawal of service don’t like that, and hence the public relations problem that the labour movement has today.

Still, strikes or no strikes, unions are a good thing.

And one more thing, paid statutory holidays for workers – like Labour Day – were not the idea of employers or governments.

Once again, thank the labour movement.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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