Paying tribute to the history of labour

Labour Day has been celebrated in Canada as a national holiday since 1894 on the first Monday in September. Prior to then, workers were taken for granted. The first Labour action actually took place almost two decades earlier when 2000 members of the Toronto Printers Union marched together demanding a shorter work week, reducing their time to a nine-hour workday.
As the parade moved through the Streets in Toronto, the parade grew to 10,000 people – one tenth the population of Toronto. At that time unions were illegal in Canada.
Once the day was created by parliament, parades, games, fireworks and family gatherings flourished across Canada celebrating Unions and their work.
In Fort Frances the Labour Day parade was a major community event. All the members of all the unions in the paper mill marched with floats. They were joined by the firemen, nurses, civic union members, forestry workers and more. It was traditionally the longest parade of the year.
As a boy, I remember watching the parade and then being disappointed that I could not join in the celebrations at the arena or the park. There was one consolation. On the Labour Day weekend, the biggest Liniment League tournament was held, attracting ball teams from across Northern Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. They played for three consecutive days from eight in the morning until dusk. The stands were full.
Today, Labour Day is celebrated as the last long weekend of the summer and is focused on family activities.
But perhaps we should pause this year on the day and say thank you to all the essential workers who have helped make our lives better through the pandemic. In our everyday lives, the postal workers are continuing to deliver our mail. Newspaper carriers are delivering papers to the households of Fort Frances. Grocery retail workers are stocking shelves across the district. Police and firemen remain on call protecting us.
Municipal workers are maintaining our safe water supply and sewage systems. Hydro workers are making sure that power is delivered to our homes.
And lest we forget, our health care workers are looking after us as never before, risking their lives to keep us safe. And they are being supported by house keeping staff, admission clerks, and many more. We can’t forget the staffs of restaurants and cafes who continued to work providing take out meals for hundreds across the district.
All these workers have gone the extra mile and are continuing to do so in this crisis. I recognize all of them this labour day. Over the next week take time to say thank you to each and everyone, since they have made our lives a little bit better through the past six months and will continue to do so into the future.


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