Laird Cronk is the president for the BC Federation of Labour. (File photo)

Laird Cronk is the president for the BC Federation of Labour. (File photo)

OPINION: Let’s celebrate working people — and work together for a fairer B.C.

‘This year has reminded us all of just how utterly and completely our province relies on working people’

By Laird Cronk & Sussanne Skidmore

This Labour Day is a lot different from past years. You won’t see the big parades, rallies and parties we usually have. Instead it’s small, carefully distanced backyard get-togethers and on-screen virtual celebrations.

But there’s a deeper change that’s happening too. Something important has shifted in British Columbia.

This year has reminded us all of just how utterly and completely our province relies on working people: to keep our economy going, to provide the necessities of life, to deliver the services families need.

2020 has taught us that the front lines are much broader and deeper than many people assumed. Suddenly, many of the lowest-paid workers in the most precarious jobs in B.C. are finally getting some long-overdue recognition. And we’ve stopped seeing workplace safety as something that only affects individual workers, and recognizing it for what it is: a vital underpinning of public health.

What’s more, we’re discovering that there’s a lot more we can be doing to make life better for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments to come together with quick, dramatic action on a wide range of fronts: supporting the incomes of laid-off workers, protecting vulnerable British Columbians with increases to disability and income assistance rates, providing help for renters, subsidizing wages, investing in health care and education, improving employment standards and workplace safety, and even making the first moves toward paid sick leave.

Of course, a lot of this has happened because B.C. has the benefit of a provincial government that listens to working people. The contrast with other provinces — and south of the border — is often stark.

But we’ve also had something else on our side: a strong, determined labour movement backed by working people across B.C. And there’s every reason to believe that movement is gaining strength.

There’s a new momentum for organizing, and a big part of that comes as the pandemic shows working people that our lives are on the line. The stronger and more united we are, the better we’re able to press for safer workplaces, better working conditions and a fairer deal.

And that’s doubly important now, because we’ve learned something else in the past several months.

COVID-19 exposed how deep and wide the gaps in our province are, and how many people have been left out and sold short in B.C.’s economy. Those gaps and inequities weren’t just unfair in and of themselves. They were vulnerabilities the virus exploited, and left us all more exposed and at risk.

But the way we’ve responded, as communities and through our governments, shows us we don’t have to just accept those gaps. And we don’t have to recreate those inequities.

So as much as 2020 has been about shutting down, it’s also increasingly about opening up — that is, opening up possibilities for positive, lasting changes. And this year, that’s what’s really worth celebrating: this new sense of possibility and potential in the strength we have together.

The pandemic is far from over, but the rebuilding in B.C. has begun. And as we rebuild, we can regain what we had — but we can also rebuild something stronger and fairer.

We can build stronger, more resilient communities that are better able to grapple with big challenges, whether it’s ending this pandemic, fighting off the next one or addressing the threat of climate change. We can build a fairer, greener economy where everyone can benefit — and where we make every job a good job. We can make investments that improve crucial services everywhere from classrooms to hospitals to transit.

And thanks to the working people of British Columbia, we are going to emerge from this pandemic. So that we can hold out hope that next year, we’ll be able to truly celebrate together.

Happy Labour Day, everyone.

Laird Cronk is the president and Sussanne Skidmore is the secretary-treasurer for the BC Federation of Labour.

ColumnLabour

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cheryl Day, a member of the management team at the Cow Café West Coast Grill, celebrates the 200 Dine Cowichan Meals the restaurant sold in support of Island Savings’ Get a Meal, Give a Meal campaign. (Submitted)
Business notes: Dine & Sip Cowichan raises $10,000 for local food banks

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

(Courtesy photo)
Editorial: Rent bank for Cowichan a wise investment

It’s essentially the collective emergency fund

North Cowichan will kick in more funding for the new field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex as the estimates of construction costs have dramatically risen. (File photo)
North Cowichan to contribute $325,000 more towards field house project

Cowichan Sportsplex project’s costs jump significantly

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m.
Trickster author Eden Robinson will be reading from her new book during an online conversation hosted by the Vancouver Island Regional Library on April 23. (Red Works Photography)
A&E column: Music, art, fundraising and renowned author

What’s going on in Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read