It’s traditional for union leaders to use Labour Day to call for better labour laws, higher wages, and safer workplaces for everyone. While the need for that traditional cry remains, this year I feel the need to move beyond those annual demands.
It’s true; too many workers still don’t have the protection of a union. Some, like Alberta farm workers, have no legal right to form a union, while others have that right but face huge legal hurdles to get there. This means a lower standard of living for all workers, more injuries and fatalities in workplaces, and a weaker economy for the province and nation.
But there are other issues where the fights of labour have impacts far beyond the paycheques of our members. Tomorrow, Alberta children will go back to schools with at least 500 fewer support staff. That means dirtier schools, schools that are less safe, and schools with fewer supports for students and teachers (who will also be fewer in number).
This is an issue that goes far beyond the lives of the laid-off educational employees. The state of our education is crumbling, and we are all paying for it.
Nursing homes across the province are also facing short staffing, as are hospitals, universities, and a range of other public services. These are the very services we depend upon to keep our communities strong.
In a province as rich as Alberta, this neglect of our public services is irresponsible, bordering on criminal. If our government cared as much about working families as it did the interests of the wealthy, we could easily afford the public services we all count on.
As has always been the case, the labour movement cares not just for the prosperity of our members, but the happiness of all. That means strong communities with the public services they need.
Contact: Lou Arab