This Labour Day, Don’t Just Thank A Union – Join A Union

Like everything else in our world right now this Labour Day is different.  A global pandemic has made very real how connected people are.  At the same time across North America, the struggle against racism and inequality has become a rallying point for overdue systemic change.  Whether it’s the pandemic or the fight against racism our union understands that we’re all in this together.

Rightly so many are singing the praises of essential workers.  In fact, over the last few months, governments, and some employers, have provided pandemic bonuses to essential workers. The value of their work hasn’t changed, it’s just finally being recognized.  If we’re sincere about celebrating essential workers then those wage increases must be made permanent.   

Throughout this pandemic, most of our members have been working delivering the goods and services we all depend on.  Steelworkers know workers are essential every day, but essential doesn’t mean sacrificial.  Workers’ have a right to a healthy and safe workplace but today too many are being asked to take risks that bosses themselves would never take.

Health and safety are at the forefront of our union’s work, and we can say it doesn’t discriminate, but jobs today still do. The reality remains too many front-line workers, often a highly genderized and racialized workforce, are underpaid, under-protected and undervalued.  Without question race and gender play a role.   

Many workers have been reaching out to us as they do not feel safe on the job.  Others feel unsafe because of the outright racism or discrimination they experience, whether from the boss, customers or the community they serve.  One thing remains very clear – no employer will protect workers like a union collective agreement.  The good news is that courageous workers are seeing this and are taking the next step.  This Labour Day workers are not just thanking unions they are joining them, from coffee shops to credit unions, from mills to mines.

The labour movement has long known this truth, that workers only get ahead when we know we are in this together.  It’s our job as unions to ensure we are open and inclusive.  We have a proud history of doing that.  We haven’t always got it right, but we’ve never been afraid to get better.  We’re committed to ensuring our union looks like our members and that our union looks more like our society.

All of us whether as organizations or individuals, have a job to make space for diverse voices that need to be heard and lend our voices when the forces of division and disunity try to drown them out.  As Steelworkers that’s what we do for our members when dealing with bad bosses – we have to do the same when dealing with systemic injustice.  For us, that means reaching out to workers who because of their job, race or age, may not have considered joining a union.  

I know this Labour Day many will feel unsettled.  Have faith – we are in this together.  In our union, we don’t go looking for fights, but when we get in them we’re committed to outlasting the boss – one day longer.  In the fight to build a better world, we pledge the same.

Solidarity forever!

Stephen Hunt
USW District 3 Director

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