On Labour Day weekend, ponder importance of unions, free press for our society


Operation Solidarity demonstration in downtown Victoria, B.C., in July 1983. (Photo: Victoria Times Colonist)

Labour Day Message from CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon

On this Labour Day weekend, please take a moment to think about how important the labour movement and a free press are for our society and what you can do to help defend these vital pillars of democracy.

For well over a century, the labour movement has led the struggle to make life better for common people. It is thanks to unions that we have so much we often take for granted, from decent wages to the five-day workweek, pensions, health coverage — on and on. These gains, which built the middle class, spurred the economy, and strengthened our democracy, took decades to achieve and, if we don’t keep up the struggle, we will lose them.

Sadly, in the age of Trump, both our union sisters and brothers and our media colleagues in the U.S. are under attack. In addition to gutting labour laws and social supports, Trump is stirring up anti-media sentiment with inflammatory and hateful rhetoric. It is not normal. It is dangerous. His language is that of a dictator, not of a democratic leader.

We are feeling the effects here in Canada as Trump emboldens not only right-wing radicals and others who despise unions and a free press, but even some politicians and their supporters. We have seen a clear disdain for the press from Ontario’s new premier and his supporters who recently drowned out reporters’ questions at a public event by clapping over them. We must make it clear that such behaviour is not acceptable.

Democracy and freedom are fragile and precious — and they are under attack around the globe. More and more governments are cracking down on freedom of expression. Even formerly progressive countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Turkey are now openly hostile to the media, and in the case of Turkey, hundreds of journalists are in jail.

At CWA Canada, we are standing on guard this Labour Day – and always – to defend quality jobs, quality journalism, a vibrant free press, and a strong, independent labour movement.

This weekend, please stand with us and take a moment to think about what you can do to help.

The Victoria-Vancouver Island Newspaper Guild (CWA Canada Local 30223) represents workers at the Victoria Times Colonist, which in May 2018 published a review of On the Line, A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement, by Rod Mickleburgh. The photograph at the top of this page appears in the book. Read the review by Richard Watts: B.C. is Canada’s Capital of Labour Activism

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